Thursday, September 22, 2016

Celebrating Al Lingo - 2016 Spirit of InterPlay Award

Dear Friends,

Next Saturday we gather at the Alternate Roots office for our 2016 International Day of InterPlay.   In addition to celebrating with InterPlayers around the globe for this FUNdraiser we will be recognizing Al Lingo with the "Spirit of InterPlay Award" for the creative gifts of peace, play, connection, advocacy and heart that he brings to multiple communities in the Atlanta area. 

Al Lingo - 2016 Spirit of InterPlay Awardee

Al is a lay Dharma Teacher in the Buddhist tradition of Plum Village and a Protestant Minister.  He facilitates the Breathing Heart Sangha in Decatur, Georgia.  Al has presented retreats for mindfulness practice combined with the psychosynthesis program, "Unconditional Love and Forgiveness" in the United States, Europe and India during the 1990's and into the first years of the twenty-first century.  In the 1960's he joined Martin Luther King Jr. as field staff in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference civil rights campaigns in Florida and Alabama.  In the 1970's and 1980's he served as a faculty member of the Ecumenical Institute and the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Chicago, Bombay, Manial, and Nairobi.  

Al is a faithful participant in Atlanta InterPlay events and is also a terrific performer with the Soul Print Players.
Al at a recent "Protection not Protest"
finding ways to "Get in the Way" for Justice
I had a great conversation with Al this morning and wanted to share with you some of the things we talked about:

Why are you an InterPlayer?
It Liberates my creativity.
For me it gives confidence in doing something together with other people that's new.
I've Observed how it liberates individuals in a group who otherwise wouldn't have that benefit.

How did you come to InterPlay?
Gretchen Wegner, a friend, decided to do InterPlay out in Oakland and my daughter is one of her best friends.  Gretchen inspired us including my daughter, who at the time was a nun, doing work out in Oakland with people in prisons and other settings.   I met the Atlanta InterPlay group when my daughter was going through leader training and then I attended my first InterPlay session with the co-found, Phil Porter and I saw dignity and beauty that came quickly.

What inspires you?
Releasing wisdom with spontaneity out of myself and recognizing my joy when I see spontaneous beauty being released by and with other people.

What are your favorite activities?

Being quiet, Being engaged with nature in plant, animal and human forms.
Finding ways to communicate unconditional love.
Finding gratitude again and again for my friends and enemies.

J.T. Johnson & Al Lingo 

How did you become an activist?
I became an activist in my late teens when I realized that people in need required attention whether they were in a Polio hospital or dying of MS as a young person. or when I identified oppression of racial prejudice in me, in my society and at my University of Texas and when I discovered how naive my idea of activism was and that it required a greater discipline and community cohesion in order to be expressed in a better way.  All of it was a reflection as a reaction to growing up in a conformist society with all its lies about consciousness.  This catalyzed me and my life into an adversarial and advocacy for a few of the severely oppressed people in the world - especially American black folks who symbolized the possibility of me participating in not only their liberation but my own. What inspires me today is being a resister to a war on deep human consciousness that is being waged in our society by the very few to dominate the very many.

If you could sit down to dinner with 3 people who would they be?  
Jesus of Nazareth
Shakyamuni (Buddha)
Mother Theresa

What recent story do you have to share?

5 things I gave to a young black teenager going off to college for the first year that I'm also writing down and sending to my grandson:
Some guidelines from an elder:
May you always smile regardless of circumstance of happiness or sadness.
May you strengthen and relax your own being before you address another.
May you practice saying NO again and again- thus protect your integrity and preserve your power!
May you practice saying YES first of all to the good in yourself, secondly to the good in others and thirdly my you practice saying YES to situations in life where you have to struggle to see the good.
May you practice a time of quiet in your life on a regular basis and ask yourself the questions:
What have I learned? What I have left incomplete or undone?

What does the InterPlay Spirit Award mean to you?
It means that perhaps my friends will recognize in their lives the gifts that they are to others.

We hope to see you all at noon on October 1st to celebrate InterPlay and the Soul Print Player's performance:  "The Art of Play:  A Civil Right,"  Al Lingo and the power of play in making a difference in our world.  Please RSVP to or at the event page and let us know you are coming since lunch will be provided.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Reflection on InterPlay's Art & Social Change Program for Millennials

by Foluke Beveridge

Had I never experienced InterPlay before, I would not have known WHAT I was letting myself in for at this program and might never have been involved at all. God forbid! Since I’ve had a few interactions with InterPlay and InterPlayers, I knew that I sought more ideas of how the InterPlay philosophy translated to starting important dialogues. I found that and more at InterPlay’s Millennial Training in Arts and Social Change.

Millennial InterPlayers Neesha and Kelsey enjoying lunch (prepared by Kelsey) with InterPlay co-founder Phil Porter during Arts and Social Change

I got to go to California for the first time; I made friends/family; I found focus sessions; I was free to roll around on the floor and make noise, encouraged to breathe, pushed myself to experience new things and had an overwhelming feeling of being taken care of, mind, body and spirit. It was painful and wonderful, I cried and I laughed, I got better at listening to what my body told me. I listened to the point that I knew it was time for me to make a huge decision: I cut my hair. It was product of the burden of maintenance and the burden of beauty (or conquering the fear of somehow losing it) and after being around a group of spirits who really saw me, I realized that I could relinquish my hair.  At 26, I really cut it for the first time in my life and I love it. I love and thank my new family for being part of that transformative process.

Now that I’m back in Atlanta (sighhh), I look forward to finding ways to incorporate InterPlay into my personal life as well as in my professional life as a teaching artist at Moving in the Spirit and becoming more involved with the Atlanta InterPlay community.


My first week in Oakland, I had the pleasure of experiencing “Wing It,” InterPlay Oakland’s performance group. I was so inspired and my spirit so moved by the experience (especially on the heels of my first few days of Arts and Social Change) that I felt that the only way to release it would be to write. The following is what came out.

"I Am InterPlay"

Whirling whooshingness in my spirit,
That thing I've been seeking
That freewheeling, free feeling
I'm out but have never been more inside of my body
Something, some holy spirit rushing inside that leaves behind it
A wisdom, two wisdoms, three wisdoms. The wisdom where thought is merely the vehicle to get it out, not the means to lock it in
Oh, the slipping sliding and getting loose and more punch than a bowl of juice, of course
Eating delicious and being yummy
Taking care and being the care
Oversharing. But not because it's just enough sharing and no one can escape your (or my) willingness to share because you're (or I'm) open and upon entry into the space you (actually you) become fair game to be open with
And breathe when you can't afford to take breath for granted when life has carved a space in your chest and steals your breath when you need it most and hides it there. Away from you. Inside of you.
When I play, I can go in after it.
When I play, I can enter in.
I am InterPlay.

Saturday getaway at Montara State Beach in Pacifica with Millennial friends. Samaya (InterPlay Leader Soyinka Rahim's goddaughter) plays in the surf!

Saturday, July 30, 2016


written by Ruth Schowalter, MS Applied Linguistics and ESL, Certified InterPlay Leader
Greetings and welcome to a glimpse of my experience "Interplaying" around with teaching advanced-level American English fluency to international students entering a two-year MBA program at Emory University here in Atlanta, Georgia!

Our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us.  
Amy Cuddy, Harvard Social Psychologist

Physicality is basic
PhilPorter, co-founder InterPlay

“Shake one hand. Shake the other hand. Shake your foot. Shake your other foot. Shake what you have been sitting on….”

With these instructions from InterPlay’s warm up activity, I begin each Advanced Oral Communications class with business professionals from Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Colombia. As they shake out their bodies facing one another standing in a circle freed from the confines of their desks, I observe the stress disappearing from their faces and smiles appearing.
“I’m not used to moving,” one participant from Korea told me. “I’ve been sitting at a desk for seven years.” Ranging in age from their mid-twenties to forty-something, these newly arrived internationals experiment with “embodying English” using the improvisational activities from InterPlay to enhance their language skills before starting their two-year MBA.

To find out more about how Ruth Schowalter uses InterPlay to teach American English Fluency, go to her blog, Coffee with Hallelujah:

THE EMBODIMENT OF AMERICAN ENGLISH: Increasing Fluency Through Physical Activities

Saturday, April 16, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED AT EARTH WISDOM: Join Jennifer Denning and the Soulprint Players for an evening of InterPlay improvisational forms

JENNIFER DENNING AND THE SOULPRINT PLAYERS. Pictured here on a Saturday rehearsal Soulprint Players look on while Director Jennifer Denning tells the last 3-sentence story  in a performance structure called "The Pittsburgh Form."(photo by Ruth Schowalter)
On April 22, the Soulprint Players will give an improvisational performance on the theme "Earth Wisdom" at Moving in the Spirit. See details HERE. In preparation for this first spring performance, Soulprint Player founder and director Jennifer Denning was interviewed by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay Leader.

As the founder, director, and member of Soulprint Players, InterPlay Atlanta's performance troupe, can you tell us something about who you and your members are and what you do?

I am an actor and teaching artist. In my early 20's I improvised with Dad's Garage Theater. I loved having a platform to try on so many different characters and to make things up in the moment. I was great at committing to characters and being fully engaged, but not as great at having a quick wit or being up to date on current pop culture references. I am in awe of the talent of some of the improvisors at Dad's, but I wondered about what type of improvised performance might make the audience cry or connect or reveal the world in a different sort of way. 

When I discovered InterPlay and then the possibilities of InterPlay performance it clicked for me. InterPlay performance gives me a context to create and share the real stuff of my own life through story, movement and voice. I've found all three of these forms of artistic expression to be full and joyous for me.
Most of our ensemble members are performers of some sort- but not all. We have a man who is an 80-year-old dharma teacher who performs with us.  He creates some of the most honest and unexpected moments. Part of the magic of a Soulprint Player performance is the connection we create with each other and the audience. Training is less important than a willingness to show up with honesty and heart. That said, the InterPlay forms create an engaging format for what we create. That structure is important.

EARTH WISDOM PERFORMANCE. Soulprint Players give an improvisational performance on Friday, April 22, 2016, at Moving in the Spirit. Titled "Earth Wisdom," Jennifer will lead herself and her performers into the "unexpected" with inspirational input from audience members.
"Earth Wisdom" is the theme of your improvisational performance on Friday, April 22. What can the audience expect to happen and how do you engage them?

They can expect the unexpected! That is the joy and aliveness from creating out of who shows up and "what wants to happen." We are all connected to the earth, and I imagine everyone has a story to tell about a moment something in the natural world awed, inspired or changed them. We'll ask the audience to share a bit on that topic and use their offerings as inspiration for the dances and songs we create.  

In any InterPlay offering (performance related or not) we make space for the difficult stories as well. There is certainly plenty to grieve about when we think about losses in our natural world. There can be power and healing in a collective acknowledgement of what has been lost, and perhaps a greater awareness and commitment to action can emerge.

The funds that you collect from ticket donations will support scholarships for the InterPlay Atlanta sponsored June untensive, "Nda Ku Ona (I see you): From Fear to Promise," with national InterPlay leaders Coke Tani and Masankho Banda. Why?

Our connection to each other cannot be separated from our connection to the earth. If I am living my life primarily from a state of self preservation I am less likely to care about the earth or the needs of other people on the planet. Masankho and Coke are amazing leaders who will lead participants in an embodied exploration of the ways we cut our selves off from people who are different than us. 

The practice of releasing fear and stepping into promise in relationship with other people organically leads us into healthier relationship with the earth as well. We want to make this untensive available to those who might not have the funds to attend. Creating a scholarship fund through funds raised from this performance seemed like a perfect opportunity.

What are upcoming SoulPrint Player performances?
We will be performing on the theme of "The Art of Being Human" as a part of Breaking New Ground at the Decatur Arts Festival over Memorial Day Weekend.

Below is a slideshow of a previous Soulprint Players' performance with guest artist, Masankho Banda.


Monday, April 11, 2016

SHYNESS EVAPORATES: College Science Students Use InterPlay Storytelling Methods to Convey Their Nature Observations

BECOMING THE ANIMAL. Embodying the animals they study, observe, and track in their freshman seminar course, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See," gives the students a new way of thinking about science. Here in this InterPlay following and leading activity, Emory students are experiencing "flocking behavior." (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Written by Ruth Schowalter, Certified InterPlay Leader and InterPlay Art and Soul Creativity Coach

Bi-annually, my husband Tony Martin, an Emory University professor, teaches a freshman seminar titled “How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See.” Enrollment is restricted to eighteen students, who during the semester will learn the art of nature observation and then how to make hypotheses using the evidence they have collected.  In March near the end of spring semester, Tony invited me to this class as a guest instructor to offer InterPlay improvisation storytelling activities. My facilitation was to provide his students with the tools to breathe life into their nature reports. I was to offer them the avenue of becoming impassioned storytellers, inspiring wonder both in themselves and their listeners!
BIG BODY STORIES. Students took facts from their nature observation journals and had the experience of expanding their enthusiasm both vocally and physically by taking incremental steps with different partners, first in 30-second short "tellings," then a minute-long story, and finally a longer fuller bigger story. On the far right, standing, telling his "big body" story is Tony Martin, who paired up with a student. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Identifying tracks of deer, squirrel, raccoon, feral cat, coyotes, and other animals in the areas surrounding the Emory campus is just the beginning of what these first-year students learn. Tony teaches them how to look at gait patterns and determine if the animals were walking, trotting or galloping. In fact, he gets them out of their desks early on to “become” the animals and act out the gait patterns—a creative way to stimulate the students’ imaginations by getting them to think and move like the animals they are tracking in this Georgia Piedmont.

A regular part of this animal tracking class is venturing outdoors with Tony to nearby creeks and tree stands on campus so the students can examine tracks, discover other sign like scat, chew marks, and nests. They also listen to bird calls to discern together what these animals were or are doing. Traditionally, tracking animals has been a communal or shared endeavor by both women and men to hunt down their food source or to avoid predation—so its fitting that the elder—the professor—initiates the youth in ways of observing animal sign, its significance, and how to talk about it.

Apart from these class activities, students are given the assignment of choosing a semester-long “sit spot” on the Emory campus with its 154-acre nature preserve, Lullwater Park, and other creek-rich forested landscapes. On their own, they are to spend time in this designated spot twice a week for periods no shorter than 15 minutes, recording in journals what their senses reveal to them. In addition to verbal documentation, Tony encourages them to draw what they see, as well as writing down temperature, the direction the wind is blowing, and more. All great fodder for storytelling!
DESCRIBE YOUR "SIT SPOT." Students were directed to turn to the diagram in their journals that they had drawn of their designated "sit spot" on the Emory campus. Then with their partner "witnessing" or listening and not talking, they were to describe the diagram in detail speaking slowly, pausing, and then speaking normally again. Practicing playing with speed (regular, fast, stopping, and slow) provides students with new delivery skills. They can see for themselves what works to communicate the ideas they want to express. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Can you imagine what a treat it was for me to join this class mid-to-end of the semester and facilitate the sharing of their recorded journal experiences using InterPlay activities? Yippee! For those of you familiar with InterPlay, you know that one of the four components of this improvisational system is storytelling (the other three being movement, voice, and shape and stillness). InterPlay was a perfect fit with its improvisational toolkit for these students at this time in their animal-tracking curriculum and storytelling skills! The world becomes more alive when you share information through stories, especially when those stories can be stream of consciousness, free form, and impassioned.

Jon Young, one of two authors of Animal Tracking Basics, the textbook Tony uses for this course, says that we tell stories “to elucidate the edges of our experience.” We also use storytelling to propel us to perceive more deeply, discern what we are seeing, link disparate concepts, know our place, know ourselves, develop a passion for living, learn and laugh—to live more fully in the moment.

Both fifty-minute InterPlay classes included physical warm ups, introductions, playing around with expanding verbal range (volume, speed, and pitch) and physical range (face, hand gestures, moving off “the spot” and using available space), leading and following, and “embodying” the story.

During the first workshop, I asked the students to do short storytellings (in InterPlay we call these tellings “babbling”) at 30-second and 1-minute intervals about different native animals, weather observations, bird language and more. Students then had longer time periods to open their journals and describe their “sit spots” in detail playing around with speed by lengthening their words, pausing, and stopping. To shift students into using their imaginations even more, I asked them to pick something animate or inanimate from their sit spot and to tell a story from that perspective. Lots of energy erupted in the classroom for that activity.

In the second workshop, I built on the skills of expanding both verbal and physical range. After warming up with following and leading activities in pairs and groups of 7, I led them in the InterPlay form of the “big body” story, which has the storyteller move in ever increasing “body bubbles.” The workshop culminated in students “becoming” an animal they were curious about and had researched either folklore or scientific fact about. In groups of three, students spoke as the animal demonstrating its behavior and telling its story! I was so surprised when I said, “Begin!” and all of the storytelling students dropped to the floor on their hands and knees and crawled to their listeners. Wow! They were engaged, and so were their listeners.
BECOME THE ANIMAL. After investigating an animal they were curious about for homework, students were asked to be prepared to speak from that animal's perspective. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Tony and I left the classroom with one student participant who was dressed in a suit. He had informed me before the workshop started that he was giving a presentation in another class later in the afternoon. I asked him if he felt more prepared to present after my InterPlay workshops. He laughed and responded, “I’m ready for anything now.” Hurray for the empowering system of InterPlay!

Here’s some direct feedback from Tony about the effects of InterPlay on teaching storytelling skills to his students:

2016 Spring Semester Class, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See." Professor Tony Martin leads the way for expressiveness as he stretches out in front of his first year Emory students enrolled in his animal tracking class. Some of the students grasp their observation journals in their hands. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
“Storytelling is an important skill for my first-year students to learn in my animal-tracking class, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See." In fact, the author of the textbook for this class (Animal Tracking, by Jon Young) devotes an entire chapter to this skill. As a way to introduce my students to storytelling methods, I invited Ruth Schowalter (my wife), a certified leader in the improvisational system of InterPlay, to conduct two 50-minute workshops.  My goal was for the students to bring their journals in which they had been recording observations from their designated "sit spots" around the Emory campus, and to use that content to tell stories.

Most traditional education systems involve reading, sitting, listening to a lecture, and reciting back facts, with students and instructors alike staying mostly in their heads. InterPlay's activities emphasize using the "whole" person--body, mind, and emotions, engaging  the students’ kinesthetic imaginations. I saw my students transformed by this full-body approach to learning.

As they shared their records of tracks and sign and created "animal stories," their shyness evaporated and they became involved in communicating their nature observations meaningfully. The dynamic InterPlay storytelling exercises enlivened the students as they worked with one another in pairs, small groups, and the entire class.

Based on what I observed, the combination of student-generated content and interactive InterPlay exercises in these workshops will be memorable to my students. What a wonderful opportunity to enjoy making meaning out of scientific fact, and crafting that content in a way to engage listeners!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: First many thanks to Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, to co-founders of InterPlay. Special thanks to Phil who mentored me during my InterPlay leadership training and made suggestions I implemented the first time I facilitated InterPlay in Tony’s freshman seminar (read about that workshop HERE). I’m appreciative to Tony and his interest in encouraging his students to have fun learning and gain presentation skills at the same time. I am grateful to those freshman who were courageous in moving outside their comfort zones to embody their stories. And, as Tony always does, I want to thank the tracemakers who inhabit the Earth and make our world a fuller richer place.

Integrating InterPlay with Science Communication. Thank you to my husband Tony Martin (his photo of me), who continues to enlarge my life-experiences through travel, geology, paleontology, modern and ancient ichnology. It is such a joy collaborating with you. Here are links to two other blog posts about our collaborations of merging InterPlay with science communication: 

Friday, April 8, 2016

For Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay has alchemical properties

CREATIVE COMMUNICATION CLASS at Clarkston Global Academy 2016. Students take turns witnessing one another.
Interview with Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader, and M.S. in Applied Linguistics by Jennifer Denning, co-founder of InterPlay Atlanta

In the past few weeks, as InterPlay Atlanta prepared for the one-day fundraiser, "2016 Give InterPlay Day," on April 7th, the certified leaders were documenting their work with people in underserved communities through photographs, writing, getting endorsements, and interviewing one another. Here Jennifer Denning asks Ruth Schowalter questions about her work with teenage refugees in the Clarkston, Georgia, area and the role InterPlay plays in her life. 

Thank you for taking the organizational lead on this for Atlanta this year! Can you talk about your commitment to InterPlay Atlanta?

InterPlay has been life changing for me in the three short years since I “discovered” this gentle improvisational system! (I know InterPlay has been around for 26 years nationally and in Atlanta since 2008) But it was in 2013 that I came across InterPlay on the internet while I was researching the use of improvisation to teach English language fluency and knew it would be a useful tool for my instructional purposes.

From the time I met you (Jennifer), I was enthralled with the forms and principles of InterPlay and began integrating them immediately with my American English fluency lessons for short courses and workshops (i.e., instructing Brazilian educators) at Georgia Tech Language Institute, international graduate students at Emory University’s Goizueta’s Business School, and eventually with teenage refugees in Clarkston, Georgia (the Ellis Island of the south), at the Clarkston Global Academy.
INTERPLAY HAS CHANGED ME. Here I am (fourth from the right) with the participants in my "Creative Communication" class at the Clarkston Global Academy at the end of one of our classes. As I evolved from a "sage on the stage" kind of teacher to a "coach on the side," the forms and principles of InterPlay have assisted me in joining in with my students, being among them, supporting and not judging their efforts.
What I didn’t expect from InterPlay is that its alchemical properties would transform me! We’ve been so fortunate to have you (Jennifer) here in Atlanta providing the structure for us local InterPlayers to “play,” explore, and go as deep as we each desire to understand more about our own body wisdom.

I might proclaim that I am an InterPlay evangelist! That proclamation wouldn’t surprise any of my friends, colleagues, neighbors, or family members. InterPlay offers us all “choices” to the extent that we want to engage in this creative improvisational system that fosters authenticity, freedom, ease, and joy.

It's wonderful to see the pictures from InterPlay at Clarkston Community Center and also to read some of the reflections from your participants. What have been some of your favorite moments teaching InterPlay at Clarkston Community Center?

Unrestrained jubilance! While InterPlay forms are executed in a way that is recognizable no matter where you are in the world, unexpected executions of the forms can emerge because the people are different! The resettled teenage refugees are always exuberant during the InterPlay form, “Walk Stop Run.” As an educator who hasn’t worked with teenagers before, I wasn’t prepared for the boundless energy and chaos that ensues as they whir around the large auditorium with its raised ceiling and large windows emitting warm streams of sunlight on wooden floors. They chatter; they hook their arms and move together; and they mostly run with little stopping or walking. In addition to being wowed by their energy, I was also challenged by accepting their choices and wondering how I might tweak my directions to garner different results.
INCREMENTAL STEPS SUPPORT DEVELOPMENT OF CONFIDENCE. In this photo, you see students telling longer stories and "embodying" them.
Offering the students in this “Creative Communication” class the opportunity to play around with vocal and physical range has created punctuated moments of delight for me. More than one student has “popped” out of their comfort zone to speak louder or to create an imaginative body movement to accompany their name or tell a story. As I observe the classmates “witness” each other’s “creative communications,” I see them being both supportive and encouraged. These particular moments also encourage me because they reinforce my ideas about the role our community plays in our lives. Our actions can make one another stronger.

It has been such a delight to see a natural-born InterPlayer emerge from the group. One Nepalese young woman volunteers at every opportunity to tell a big body story, to do a DT3, to engage in the mystery of communicating something about herself even though she doesn’t know what the outcome will be! I am so appreciative of her courage to improvise and the fun that she experiences and demonstrates to our class.

How does InterPlay help the teen refugees at CCC become more confident communicators?

What is confidence? And how do we recognize it when we see it? I’ve been playing around with this concept for years as an instructor of English as a Second Language at the Georgia Tech Language Institute (I taught there for 20 years and now work there contractually).

I know that creating an environment in which students feel comfortable to take risks and make mistakes is key to developing an adventurous communication style. The improvisational structure of InterPlay offers the structure for creating this “safer” environment. Let me explain a few components here:

Incremental Steps—Confidence is built in the students one step at a time, beginning with “short tellings” and lengthening to longer storytelling moments engaging skills such as speaking slowly, speaking with enthusiasm, using a made up language, or describing something from a perspective of a child, expert, etc…. These incremental steps are sneaky and before they know it, students are engaged in telling their stories in ways they never thought possible.

Easy Focus—InterPlay participants are given clear directions but encouraged to soften their “gaze” or “focuser” and to discover how they want to execute the directions. In other words, the directions provide structure but the individual finds what they need to say or do within or outside of the structure. Giving students permission to be themselves and make choices is empowering.

Witness—Being seen and being heard without interruption is a powerful experience for anyone, especially if you are doing it in a language that is not your native language and in an adopted culture. InterPlay has us “witness” one another, creating a “sacred” place for these resettled refugees to tell their stories in English in a fully embodied way. To “embody” a second or third language is empowering. To have someone see you do that is positively re-enforcing.

Noticing and Affirming the Good—InterPlay is critique free! Instead of my writing down a list of things for students to improve in their pronunciation, organization of ideas, or nonverbal skills, I along with all of the paricipants applaud the accomplishments! Very good. Very good. Hurray! The students practice acknowledging what they are experiencing in their individual bodies, to ground the learning in their whole person—body, mind, heart, and spirit. This kind of affirmative noticing results in increased self-awareness..

Respecting an Individual’s Choice—Participants are asked to choose what is best for them as they “try” new behaviors “on.” That is, students are given freedom and authority as to how they want to execute the directions. Taking actions based on their own internal authority certainly helps develop confidence.

The practice of having these occur in the “Creative Communication” class is challenging and definitely a work in progress!
WORK IN PROGRESS. CPACS supervisors watch while I begin a typical "Creative Communication" class at the Clarkston Global Academy. We begin each class by saying our names, making short physical actions, playing with our voices, and sharing short snippets from our individual lives. We play around with expanding vocal range (volume, speed, and pitch) and physical range. The class is always a work in progress.
What are some of the greatest gifts you have personally received from your involvement with InterPlay?

Great question Jennifer! Although InterPlay has informed my life in many ways--too many to name, so I will speak about two here.

Before InterPlay, I had never heard of the phrase “kinesthetic imagination.” What I found out is that I am very much a kinesthetic person and that is the way I experience the world. InterPlay really helped get me out of my head and intellect and to connect with my body. For example, last year, I collaborated with fellow InterPlayer on art performance piece, “Embody the Mother,” during which I danced and painted on stage. To prepare for this performance, I danced every day before painting three “quick” paintings. Creatively I was able to lead with my body, to have the ideas, brush strokes and images be generated through movement. Movement continues to impact my visual art making.

Another gift I have received from InterPlay is the concept of “exformation” and a way to achieve it. This tool is a way of releasing excess information from our “bodyspirits.” Whether this information is deemed good or bad, we can let it go from our bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits. For those of us who are particularly kinesthetic, it is so much fun not to mention cathartic. Since 2013, I have been doing lots of exforming and my body loves it!

Why are you supporting InterPlay Atlanta on Give InterPlay Day?
I love InterPlay and have become a part of a warm local, regional, and national InterPlay communities. I know that InterPlay offers us all a sustainable way to be our authentic selves and still be present in our communities.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

For Christine Gautreaux InterPlay is a great tool in her toolbox for connection and healing

Thursday, April 7th is Give InterPlay Day, a 24-hour time period during which you are invited to give a financial gift to InterPlay Atlanta to support us as we bring the ease, grace, and joy of InterPlay to refugees, people who are living with chronical mental illness, and incarcerated women. (Click HERE to make your tax deductible donation)
InterPlay brings color into tough situations

Master Social Worker, certified InterPlay leader and Life Coach, Christine Gautreaux reflects on the role InterPlay plays in her life from the perspective of a social worker in response to questions asked by Ruth Schowalter.

From the perspective of a social worker what role does InterPlay serve in your work with incarcerated women and people living with chronic mental illness?

InterPlay is one of the best ways I have found to connect with people in a gentle and incremental way.  it allows people to tell their stories from a place of inner authority.  I have witnessed amazing transitions in people through the power of story telling, using their voices and play.
InterPlay is life giving nectar to underserved communities
You have been in the planning stages of bringing InterPlay to women and children who are survivors of sex trafficking. How can InterPlay serve this community?

When people experience trauma they tend to disconnect from their bodies and sometimes their spirits.  InterPlay is an incredibly gentle tool that helps people reconnect their mind, bodies and spirits. Last summer I worked with the children from Rainbow Village through the Duluth Summer Camp Programming.  These children responded delightfully to InterPlay - they danced, they sang and they told their stories and were witnessed.  It is so powerful especially for women and children who have been marginalized and tend not to have their voices heard.  InterPlay teaches incremental steps - it's a great connector for people and I am so grateful for the gentle way that it meets people where they are. 
“The earth laughs in flowers.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the past three years what are significant memories you have of the many interactions you've had with people in these underserved communities?

Last summer I had a group of ten year olds, mostly boys, that had been labeled, "bad" in the camp and in the community.   Most of these boys lived at the homeless shelter.  They responded exceptionally well to movement and  music.  During one session the boys self-organized a drum circle and drummed for over 20 minutes while the rest of the group did solo movement.  It was powerful and uplifting and it actually changed the groups behavior.  They were proud of themselves and they got a terrific response from camp counselors.  

Another time that comes immediately to mind is when I was doing a walk, stop, run with the members of Holy Comforter and one of the friends grabbed my hand as we walked together.   Never underestimate the body's need for reassurance - we had a powerful time of connection and he shared afterwards that he felt seen and love.

InterPlay is a powerful tool that makes a difference in people's lives.  I'm glad to have it in my toolbox as a Master Social Worker, certified InterPlay leader and Life Coach. 

(Click HERE to make your tax deductible donation to support Christine's work with underserved communities via InterPlay Atlanta)