Category Archives: Play

InterPlay is Coming to Oshawa

Want less stress in your life and more ease?

Want to excavate your buried creativity?

All while having fun in an affirming community?

 Try InterPlay!

Starting in January, I am offering two InterPlay classes a month. These are drop-in classes. No need to preregister. Newcomers and experienced players welcome.

InterPlay is a practice and philosophy rooted in the power of play. It’s an easy to learn, creative process that uses movement, storytelling, and voice —but does it in ways that don’t require particular skill or even nerve. The forms of InterPlay help create a life of greater ease, connection, and health. InterPlay celebrates and creates connection and community. Through this simple form of play, we learn more about ourselves and each other. It is incremental, affirming, and anyone can do it!

The Details

TGIF InterPlay: 2nd Fridays 7:15pm – 9:00pm

Friday Morning InterPlay: 4th Fridays 10:15am – 12:00pm

Location: Both Playgroups will meet at Durham Improv’s Oshawa location: 1115 Wentworth Street West, Oshawa. The space is on the 2nd Floor (above “Medigas”) and is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible

Cost: $15 per class or $50 for a 4 class pass (save $10)

For more information, contact Kate Arms-Roberts at 647-408-6133.

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part III

This is Part III in a series of tools for dealing with the busy times in life. Read the first post in the series here.

Create a Form or Game

One of InterPlay’s greatest strengths is the simplicity of the physical practices. In InterPlay, we call them “forms” because they are guidelines that shape the practice and give it structure. In practice, these forms are similar to what improvisers in the tradition of Second CityTheatreSportsWhose Line Is It Anyway?, and other comedy improv groups call “games.” The forms offer a structure that allows freedom within limits. In InterPlay, the forms range from what can be accomplished with one hand or one breath to forms that require groups of people using their full bodies and voices in operatic storytelling. In comedy improv, the games often have rules like each player can only say three words at a time. From simple to complex and sometimes off into the bizarre, these rules provide a structure.

I rebel against structure all the time, but the truth is, I need it. And I never need it more than when many projects are demanding attention. But, it doesn’t have to be rigid or forced. Today, for instance is a writing day. I am only working on writing. I have several projects that require writing, so I may bounce back and forth among them or put in a few hours on each project or devote all day to one project. But, I am not working on website design, room scheduling, arranging insurance, or making phone calls. Yesterday was a day for my creativity coaching projects. Tomorrow I will focus on making Christmas gifts. It’s not a lot of structure, but it works for me. Within the day, I improvise exactly how the day will go, but within the container I have set for the day.

There is a resource that I keep meaning to investigate about form and schedule. Jeffrey Davis over at Tracking Wonder describes his new eHandbook, The Mind Rooms Guide as a method for shaping time. He asked me to review the book as part of its launch, but it arrived on my desk at a very bad time and I have done nothing more than glance at – sorry, Jeffrey.  But, I know Jeffrey’s work on helping creatives from his blog and I am looking forward to digging into it eventually. If you have already read it, please let me know what you thought of it in the comments.

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part II

 This is Part II in a series of tools for dealing with the busy times in life. Read the first post in the series here.

Move Unnecessary Stuff Out of Your Body

We all get information constantly.

Unless we have a way of releasing it, we carry it around in our physical bodies. We truly carry the world on our shoulders if we aren’t careful. A physical practice for getting rid of the stuff you don’t need to carry is very useful. Teachers of young children who have embraced the song “Shake My Sillies” out as a tool for getting kids to focus in class know this. Getting the breath moving with a deep inhale followed by a sigh and shaking muscle tension out is a very simple form of Exformation. Repetitive physical activities that you can do without mental wrangling can all be exformational: washing dishes, house-cleaning, knitting, exercising, walking, running. It is a physical form of meditation – letting what you don’t need pass through you.

When we have lots of projects going on, knowing what we need can be challenging, so we tend to hold on to everything and then we burn out, suffering information overload. Using a physical practice to release, we can trust that our bodies know at some subconscious level what we can release.

One of my favourite release techniques is one I learned in acting classes. Hold your upper arms parallel to the floor. Raise your hands and clasp your hands in front of you. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, let out a big, open vowel sound while shaking your arms. The goal is to relax your jaw enough that your lower jaw shakes with your arms. It is hard. Most of us carry huge amounts of tension in our jaws. It is impossible to do this exercise without looking and sounding ridiculous, and if you do it right, your whole body vibrates and all your muscles relax.

Do you have an active practice that helps you release tension or let go of unnecessary concerns?

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part I

When Things Get Busy

Have you ever found that all the projects you have on the back burner came to a boil at the same time?

It is exciting when projects move from potential to production. But, the transition can require some adjustments. When more than one project makes the switch, your routines may need more than a little tweaking. Changing habits is hard, and especially so with the pressure of imminent deadlines. How do you do manage the transition without tearing your hair out?

Everything in my life has been in overdrive in November except this blog. I have been working behind the scenes to set up several projects.

Coming in 2013, in addition to my writing and theatrical activities, I will be:

  • Training as a writing circle facilitator and setting up a new circle
  • Teaching InterPlay workshops at a new facility
  • Setting up a new business as a creativity coach

All of this started coming together at once. And although it has been an adrenaline-filled rush, it has had me drawing on all of my tools for managing a multivalent life.

If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that my favourite life-management tools come from InterPlay, improv, and theatre.

Coming up over the next few posts, I will share some of the tools I have been relying on heavily over the last month. But first, a quick look at getting started.

Show Up and Start Anywhere

It doesn’t really matter where you start, but you must start. When there are too many things that need doing, just pick something and do it. Activity builds activity. And it doesn’t matter if you could have made a better choice. Getting started will often reveal what needs to be done better than any list-making preparation.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, pick one small task you know will move a project in the right direction. Now go and do it.

Notice the Good Stuff

I have a new post on working with Emotional Intensity over at An Intense Life. Although I never say so in the post, it draws heavily on an InterPlay technique. Like all InterPlay techniques, it seems simple but has profound effects.

Notice the Good Stuff and Choose More of It

Notice the Good Stuff. It sound so simple, but for many of us it requires a huge shift of focus. Notice the good stuff. Not the peeling wallpaper, the nasty thing someone said in passing, the cleaning that didn’t happen, the new wrinkle around your eyes. Not those.

Pay attention to the beauty of a dew drop on a leaf, the smile from a stranger, getting up from the sofa without the twinge in your back you have come to expect. Pay attention to the part of your writing that works, the warmth of a cosy sweater, the email from your spouse asking if they can pick you up something as they stop at the store after work, the relaxation that follows a deep exhalation.

In almost any moment, you can find something to smile about and something to frown about. Choosing to focus on the smile doesn’t make the frown go away, but it does make the frown easier to take.

Creatives are creative because we notice lack, lack of beauty, lack of meaning, lack of clarity, lack of external things that expresses our lived reality. Our creativity springs from an impulse to improve – even when we create playfully, we are making something from nothing, which means some part of us noticed the nothing.

That part of us will always be there: the critic, the worrywart, the internal editor.

But, we can choose to see also the beauty, the love, the joy, the peace. Even if it is only for a moment.

We need those moments.

Noticing the good stuff gives us the ground from which we can create more good stuff – more stuff to fill the void we cannot help but see.

What is the good stuff you see around you right now?

Me, I hear children at the nearby school laughing as they play at recess and the soft purr of the warm cat curled up next to me. I hear my breath as I exhale through my nose – still somewhat stuffy, but clearer than this morning when I had to breathe through my mouth due to the congestion caused by my fall cold.

It is a rough day in a rough week for me. I have too much to do and I am sick and saddened by bad news in my family. But, even in my illness and my emotional pain, when I look, I can see the good stuff too.

How about you? Can you notice any good things about this moment?

When Tribes Fall Apart

Saying Goodbye

Mixel by Ankica Dragicevic

What Happens When A Community Crumbles?

In June, I wrote about how I was using the digital collage app Mixel for iPad. Unfortunately, Mixel stopped being available for download in early August. The service has remained available to current users until now, but as of this weekend, Mixel for iPad will be gone. Lascaux has released a new app, Mixel for iPhone, but that app has no appeal to me.

One of the last collages I made using Mixel.

The original Mixel featured simple community building tools. Any user could Like, Love, comment on, or remix another user’s Mixel. Because there were no limits on how many pictures one could like, users handed out Likes generously, which helped the users build a supportive community. Each user could only give out 5 Loves per week, which gave each Love increased value. Some users pushed themselves to improve, tempted by the reward of precious Love hearts under their collages; threads of collages made by different people using the same images demonstrated the unique, creative vision in each user; and many folks pulled apart collages to figure out how the creator had put them together. It was a vibrant, creative world for the people who chose to hang out there.

For many people who have been using this software, the community of Mixellers has been their tribe. Some of the most loyal users have not used their creativity in years and had found a community that celebrated their creative recovery. Several people claimed “artist” as part of their identity because they were treated as artists by the community.

The imminent disappearance of the program has prompted a range of responses.

  • Making art that expresses their sense of loss and the need to let go of this community, like the collage above by Ankica Dragicevic.
  • Celebrating the world of Mixel that was, like this video, Farewell to Mixel, by Timothy Paul Brown.
  • Attempting to recreate the community aspect in other venues: Facebook, a web-based Fan page; deviantART, etc.
  • Taking resources available within Mixel and saving them in other locations.
  • Exploring other iPad apps to discover what other tools allow similar creative processes.
  • Obsessive use of Mixel to eek the most out of it before it is gone.
  • Stopping using the software before it shut down, not looking for alternatives, grieving and moving on.

None of these options will replace the complete package of community and tools that were available through Mixel for iPad. Each former user is finding their own path away from this community. Some will stay in touch in other venues. For how long, though? Time will tell.

Communities collapse for many reasons.

Have you been part of a community that collapsed? How have you moved forward?

Giftedness, Creativity, and Storytelling – and Imposter Syndrome

It is the International Week of the Gifted 2012. Around the blogosphere, advocates for gifted adults and gifted children are writing about giftedness with a particular enthusiasm and energy. The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children is encouraging the use of International Week of the Gifted to pave the way for the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013 with the theme “Stories and Story Sharing”.

Giftedness, creativity, and the power of sharing our stories are three of my passions. I feel compelled to do something, organize something, create something.

If I had my druthers, I would organize a series of workshops, offered to gifted children and their parents, using the storytelling tools of InterPlay to help them tell their own stories, hear each other’s stories, and share them through a public performance. I have the training to do this, but I am not sure I have the time, and I definitely worry about whether I have the gumption.

You see, I suffer from the great gifted woman’s disorder: Imposter Syndrome. Essentially, Imposter Syndrome involves constantly feeling like a fraud, like you are not as competent as people around you, and as they think you are. There is an accompanying fear of being “found out” and a lack of willingness to put oneself forth as a resource.

In my case, it manifests as a reluctance to set up workshops because I fear no one will come and that if they do come, they will feel like they have wasted their money. But, I know from past experience that I am a good teacher and a good director. When I lead InterPlay workshops, people enjoy them and many folks want to know how they can experience more.

Lisa Rivero’s article Who Do You Think You Are? Re-Thinking the Imposter Syndrome introduced me to the idea that the feelings of being an imposter may be a sign that one is heading in the right direction and that one should lean into the fear and work through it rather than letting it stop you. That idea resonates with me.

If you had asked me when I was 14, what work I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said I wanted to run a theatre and associated theatre school. A few years later, I saw a performance by teenagers of monologues they had written about their own lives and was struck by the immense power of people telling their own stories in performance. I spent the next 15 years working in theatre, remembering the power of the autobiographical performances, yearning to be part of such things, and yet not doing any work in that area. Until I found InterPlay.

When I discovered InterPlay, I was teaching a class called Sacred Bodies, Sacred Play at Starr King School for the Ministry. I had developed a collection of tools for triggering spiritual experiences through physical play and creativity and was sharing them in the class I was teaching. The overlap between the forms I had discovered myself and was teaching in that class and the forms of InterPlay were uncanny.

But, I had not been formulating my system into a teachable tool for very long and Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter had been working on InterPlay for decades. InterPlay was in many ways simply further along the path than I was. More than that, InterPlay had developed the tools for combining the physical body, the spirit of play, and improvised performance into truth-telling performances sharing deep stories, thereby joining my play-based work with the power of performance autobiography that I had witnessed so many years before. It is no wonder that I started the InterPlay Teacher Training Program immediately after finishing my first class.

After completing the training, I didn’t dive right into teaching. For good reason. I was moving internationally while pregnant with triplets. I was otherwise occupied.

It is now time for me to start offering classes and workshops.

And, I feel the fear of the Imposter Syndrome surrounding me, telling me I am heading in an important direction, considering a meaningful path, and must take action.

I am not an Imposter. I am well trained for this work. But, sometimes, I have to remind myself of these facts.

  • I have been leading rehearsals and teaching performance as a director for 25 years.
  • I have been organizing rehearsals as a stage manager for longer.
  • I have organized events with substantial budgets.
  • I have produced theatrical productions and special performances for half-a-dozen theatre companies.
  • My InterPlay training was with the founders of InterPlay, including performance classes.
  • I have performed in several InterPlay performances as a dancer/storyteller.
  • When I participate in InterPlay Leaders Events, I am recognized as a peer by leaders with all levels of experience.
  • My understanding of the power of InterPlay as a storytelling tool has deepened through my writing about InterPlay.

I am hopeful that I will have time in 2013 to lead workshops for gifted children and their parents to share their stories. My family is going through some changes that will take some months to settle out, and until they do, I will not know what 2013 is going to look like.

But, I am committed to being a part of the world-wide community of people telling the stories of gifted people, sharing what our experience is. If the performance project looks too big, I will focus on telling more of my story through my writing.

Gifted people are identifiable because we are outside the norm. Sharing our stories helps us connect in a world where we too often feel isolated. I can be part of enriching that connection by sharing my own stories. One way or another, I will be creating work supporting the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013 on the theme of Stories and Story-Sharing.

I hope you will join me in 2013 by either telling your own stories or finding other people’s stories to witness.

For a list of other posts related to International Week of the Gifted, click here

The Things We Are Afraid to Write About

The last of a series on truth-telling in life and art. See the first post, Dare to Be Yourself, here.

Did you notice how my writing got analytical and vague last week?

For the past year, I have been easing my way toward dealing with the most defining moment of my life – the nadir from which the rest of my life has been an ascension. I thought I was ready, but I was wrong. I pushed and my chief defense mechanism, my intellect, jumped into the fray.

I believe that as I learn to retell my story with myself as the protagonist, as I turn my knowledge of storytelling on myself and claim the moment I chose to walk out of darkness towards my own power, I am changing my life. But, I also believe that this is a deep-body process, not one I can think my way through. As soon as I jump to analyzing emotional events intellectually, I know that I am reacting from fear and it is time for me to turn back to play.

I came up against my hard edges last week and hit a wall. I’m closer to my deepest material than I have ever been, but I need to be gentler with myself. Time for me to go back to some sneaky deep play.

Which is why I decided that I will leave my improvised poems about play up at A More Playful Life. Leaving them up is scary, but it is a fear I am willing to face. And, by approaching the poetry InterPlayfully, I connect to a deeply supportive community.

I hope you’ll drop by and check them out.

You Are What Catches Your Attention

A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.

Oscar Wilde

What catches your eye is not the same as what catches my eye. We may walk the same paths, but we will not see the same things. Especially when it comes to the details upon which an artist builds a work, we miss what others see and see what others miss.

What I choose to take picture of reveals my viewpoint. Here is some of what I have noticed in March.

This image seemed to capture the transitions I am walking through.

These bricks struck me as related to the work of Mark Rothko.

"The Awakening" by J. Seward Johnson JR at National Harbor, MD shows several segments of a buried giant rising from the sand. This perspective doesn't capture Johnson's vision. But it grabbed my attention.

The shadows have been striking in the Summer-hot days of this early Spring.

More shadows.

What catches your attention?

Improv v. First Draft

For the A to Z Blogging challenge over at A More Playful Life, I have a plan and a decision to make.

Within two days of signing up for the challenge, I had titles for all 26 posts: all related to InterPlay practices and principles or concepts that I connected to through InterPlay. But, I ended up moving instead of writing the actual posts, so now I have a long list of titles and a head full of ideas.

I don’t have time to write thoughtful posts for all 26 days. My novel is too important.

On the other hand, I have been wanting to articulate InterPlay in my own words for years. I have started doing that on this blog and in other places, but I still feel there is a lot to do.

So, I have decided to write poetry about the topics: short pieces of the “A is for Affirm, B is for Body Wisdom…” variety in the style of an ABC primer.

In order to get them up rapidly, and in the spirit of InterPlay, my thought is to write them improvisationally and not revise.

But, the idea of having written words in a public forum that I have not revised freaks me out a bit. One of the beauties of improvised spoken words is that they disappear on speaking.

So, I am debating whether I should let the improvised texts sit out on the website unrevised or plan on revising them.

What do you think?

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