Saturday, July 30, 2016

INTERPLAY and PLAYING WITH THE EMBODIMENT OF ENGLISH

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.
SOULPRINT PLAYERS, GRATITUDE PERFORMANCE, November 2014 (photo by Dean Hesse)
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.

KINESTHETIC IMAGINATION.
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.

EXFORMATION.
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)

For Jennifer Denning, InterPlay Brings Connection and Spark of Aliveness for Self and Others

Interview with Jennifer Denning, co-founder of InterPlay Atlanta by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader
 
Jennifer and John. On Thursdays, when InterPlay Atlanta goes to the Friendship Center at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in east Atlanta to facilitate an hour of movement, voice, storytelling, and shaping and movement, John (right) has already arrived and is waiting for us. Jennifer reflects about her connection with John and her meaningful experiences at the Friendship Center HERE. (photo by R. Schowalter)

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)

As we approached the 2016 "Give InterPlay Day," I asked Jennifer Denning, the co-founder of InterPlay Atlanta to share her perspective on why people might consider supporting InterPlay. Below is her warm personal response to my questions.

Jennifer, why give on April 7th, Give InterPlay Day?
I was teaching InterPlay to women at Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center a few weeks ago and a participant said to me, "Jennifer, I don't know how many of these groups you do, but you should keep doing them. I didn't know how today was going to be, but now I feel good." This was after only fifteen minutes of InterPlay. Her words were such affirmation to me of the value of InterPlay. The simple and accessible forms of InterPlay create connection and joy so easily. Giving on Give InterPlay Day helps the InterPlay movement to grow in the world- bringing more connection, joy, peace and transformation!
The Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center. Once a week on Tuesday mornings InterPlay Atlanta visits this location to facilitate an hour of play to incarcerated women waiting trial. (photo from the web)
How will the funds raised on April 7th for InterPlay Atlanta be used?
In Atlanta, our InterPlay facilitators currently have two weekly groups that are unfunded--at the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center and Clarkston Community Center. We also have the possibility to expand our programming. There is interest from two additional prison programs as well as a shelter for homeless women and children. Funding will allow us to grow our programming, make the work sustainable for our certified leaders and bring new leaders on board. 

Who are you in relation to InterPlay and InterPlay Atlanta?
As co-founder of InterPlay Atlanta, in 2008 I began bringing InterPlay to the Atlanta community in collaboration with long-time InterPlayer, Debra Weir. Over the last several years, I have brought InterPlay to women in prison, girls in
photo by C. Gautreaux
juvenile detention, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Georgia, the refugee community and The Friendship Center. Wherever I bring InterPlay I experience a spark of connection and aliveness (in myself and others.) Currently I am leading the Atlanta Life Practice Program and am inspired by the new InterPlay leaders who will be continuing to bring the gifts of InterPlay to the world.
CLARKSTON COMMUNITY CENTER 2015. From June to November, InterPlay Atlanta offered a free taste of InterPlay at the CCC's farmer market one Saturday afternoon a month. Here, Jennifer is shown with refugee participants who InterPlayed with us while they were waiting for their free bicycle and helmet from Communicycle. (photo by Okello Justine)


Want more information? Here are other articles about the work InterPlay Atlanta is doing:
Incarcerated women 
 
 
 
 

Clarkston Refugees
 
 
 

People living with chronic mental illness and poverty
 


Thank you in advance for your financial gift to InterPlay Atlanta, which will help us continue empowering people who have been marginalized. Since InterPlay Atlanta is a non-profit, you can deduct your donation from your taxes. Donate here on April 7th: Give InterPlay Day (Atlanta InterPlay)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Interplay is a Bridge for Teenage Refugees: Playful group interaction develops self-confidence


CREATIVE COMMUNICATION through INTERPLAY. Every Monday since October 2015, InterPlay Atlanta has brought the improvisational system to the Clarkston Community Center at the request of Andrea Waterstone (back row, second from the right). --photo by CPACS staff member
Written by Andrea Waterstone, Director of Art and Education at the Clarkston Community Center (CCC)

Please support InterPlayAtlanta on InterPlay Give Day, April 7th (midnight to midnight). Your gift of money will allow us to keep Interplay in our curriculum as one of the most fun, diverse, meaningful and needed classes we can offer. Here is the link (Donate to InterPlay Atlanta). --Andrea Waterstone

WITNESSING. Half of the "Creative Communication" class witnesses or watches the other half in a shape and stillness exercise. --photo and caption by Ruth Schowalter
I was thrilled to have Ruth Schowalter, a certified InterPlay leader, join my afterschool program (Clarkston Global Academy) to teach teenage refugee students “Creative Communication,” using the improvisational tools of InterPlay. The result from the work Ruth does with the students at the Clarkston Community Center is nothing short of transformational. I have first hand noticed students who were shy, unable to make eye contact during conversation or incapable of speaking up for themselves in group interaction BLOOM into more confident, self assured, well-spoken individuals.

BLOOMING. InterPlay activities such as one hand group dances provide teens with opportunities to interact in ways that are fun and build confidence. --photo and caption by Ruth Schowalter
This Interplay class has filled a need that is often overlooked. We expect a refugee or immigrant to suddenly be able to acclimate to our world in every way once they are in the United States. However, even though a teenage refugee may be fully taking part in the day-to-day life expected of them in-and-out of the school system, the development of his/her self confidence, linguistic confidence and soft skill sets that employers require to be competitive in the American market place are often overlooked or, perhaps, never taught.  This is a disservice to these refugee students, and Interplay has become the class at the CCC to fill that need.
 
CREATING A ONE HAND DANCE AND SONG. Students were divided into groups so that each one would have an opportunity to do a one-hand dance while the others improvised a song using the form "foundation decoration." --photo and caption by Ruth Schowalter
The Interplay class, “Creative Communication,” which Ruth teaches on Mondays after the refugee students have spent a full day in high school has become the bridge that teaches the above mentioned skill sets in a safe, fun, and playful environment. Communication, movement, listening, eye contact and play all mix together in a beautiful orchestration led by Ruth’s years of effective teaching of ESL and how those concepts of appropriate communication can be transferred to the InterPlay work she is doing with teens in Clarkston Global Academy.

The Clarkston Community Center and The Center for Pan Asian Community Services together see such value in having Interplay among our diverse curriculum offered at our co-led afterschool program Clarkston Global Academy.
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES. The Clarkston Community City is an integral part of the city of Clarkston, Georgia. In November 2015, the CCC planned and facilitated "Clarkston Streets Alive." Here in this photo, Andrea Waterstone (third from the left) and Ruth Schowalter (left) met with some of the teenage refugees from the afterschool program who volunteered to assist at the event. --photo by Festival Go-er 
Many thanks to Andrea Waterstone for writing this for InterPlay Give Day 2016! Here are links to other blog posts about the Clarkston refugees and marginalized communities that we are serving in the Atlanta Metro Area:

Clarkston Refugees


People living with chronic mental illness and poverty

Incarcerated women 


Your financial gift will help us continue bringing the ease and grace and joy of InterPlay to people who have been marginalized. Since InterPlay Atlanta is a non-profit, you can deduct your donation from your taxes. Donate here on April 7th: Give InterPlay Day (Atlanta InterPlay)