Cultural Quarterly
Summer 2008
Volume XXI, Number 3
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Darby Hayes
Innovator, Teacher, Life-long Learner

By Susan F. Davis
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Darby Hayes
Power of Playback: Mask Making and Playback
Theatre Fort Lauderdale High Community School

Yes, it’s true that two of Darby Hayes’s specialties are kinesthetic body theater and teaching.  It is in her voice that her enthusiasm for and dedication to her innovative theatrical projects shine through.  It is clearly obvious, upon speaking to Hayes, that her commitment to the arts is strong, and that her love affair with learning and teaching is endless!

Currently, Darby Hayes is the director of the Innovations in Community Theatre and the Arts project.  She is an arts integration specialist and a Broward County Public Schools Advisory Forum member.  But, that is just now – in the present.  Her journey from her undergraduate studies at the Southern Connecticut State University, to her graduate work at Suffolk University in Boston, was a simple one with majors in both education and psychology.  As a teacher, Hayes rejoiced in those moments when her students “got it!”  “I guess I just always appreciated that wonderment that children show as they learn.  The discovery of the learning process is invaluable,” Hayes shares.

Since she is from a family of educators, she is quick to credit them with her dedication to students

Power of Playback: Mask Making and Playback Theatre
Fort Lauderdale High Community School

and their learning processes. She notes, “My mom, who was also a teacher, gave me that love for teaching, for children, for learning!”

Darby Hayes left teaching when she realized that she loved the sciences.  She went on to become a research technician in the medical field, then a director of professional development in the non-profit arena, and on to becoming a corporate trainer.  The list went on until she simply “fell back to her love for theater and focused on the arts,” she explains.  She attended The School for Mime Theatre in Ohio, studying in the classical mime traditions of Marcel Marceau and Ettienne Decroux, and went on to become a certified practitioner of internationally practiced Playback Theatre..  With these tools, she reached out to youth and adults in school and community, prison, detention and rehabilitation environments and is now directing the Power of Playback, a community theater training program for youth and adults. 

Through her Innovations in Community Theatre and the Arts project, Hayes presents three different programs: Power of Playback, Power of Masks and Mandalas of Poetry.  According to Hayes, Playback Theatre is a 40-year-old form of spontaneous enactment that portrays personal stories from audience members.  Students learn how to use different forms of improvisation to playback these audience stories.   “As students work together, they also discover how to present their own stories and views of the world.  Playback Theatre becomes a natural and creative way of bridging cultural barriers,” Hayes says.

Playback Theatre
Class Exercise

Mask-making and performance are the two major components of the Power of Mask.  Masks enhance expressive communication, self-awareness and self acceptance.  This workshop engages students in both construction of either paper (poster board) or plaster gauze masks, as well as performance skills.  Coupled with drama and mime, participants learn how to present the story of their mask character and its inner voice.  A blend of visual arts, theater, story-telling and movement, this workshop targets youth, adults and elders. “In every case  they are completely thrilled with their finished products,” states Hayes.  “At first they seem to think they cannot do it, but when they complete making the mask and writing its story, they are surprised at the result.  There is just no greater reward!”

The techniques of the Mandalas of Poetry incorporate geometric designs of circle drawings and poetry.  Participants study mandalas as symbols of wholeness and become aware of how they exist in nature.  Design, color and patterns are introduced as the learn-by-doing process continues.  Poetry or short stories are then written to give literary expression to the art piece. This workshop appeals to students of all ages, from second graders to senior citizens.

As a recipient of a Broward County Education and Community Development Grant, Hayes is able to bring her innovative programs to all levels of learners throughout the county, including the Community Schools North of Broward County Public Schools, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County and the Hollywood Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Division. 

Her arts training program with ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) students has shown

Power of Playback: Mask Making and
Playback Theatre Fort Lauderdale
High Community School

exceptional promise. Her various theatrical, poetical, arts and ,communication programs give these learners “a strong sense of community,” Hayes says.  “They are challenged with learning a new language.  Learning theater performance skills allows them to experience the English language by working and performing together in a group effort.  This greatly enhances their communication skills and their self-esteem.”

No matter what she does, Darby Hayes’ voice comes through with clarity and enthusiasm.  She is an energetic presenter who allows her audience to thrive within their own senses of creativity.  She values the entire learning process as her students of all ages celebrate their own gifts.  Their accomplishments truly become hers as she guides with a gentle hand and a loving heart. 

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