Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE POWER OF STORY: Notes of a performance workshop with Tom Henderson and Ginny Going

GESTURE CHOIR. Ginny Going leads a gesture choir at the InterPlay Atlanta performance workshop, "The Power of Story." In this particular form, members of the gesture choir, each took a turn leading and telling a story on the same theme. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
written by Ruth Schowalter, Leader-in-Training

On Friday, December 5, 2014, InterPlay Atlanta received a special treat--a performance workshop, "The Power of Story," with Ginny Going and Tom Henderson, national InterPlayers visiting from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Here's the description that Ginny and Tom gave InterPlay Atlanta to advertise the performance workshop:  

What makes a story interesting? 

Answer: Almost anything. The details of our lives are interesting because they connect to the universal themes of our human condition. We know this from the experience of babbling (performing for each other). What about a story in performance? Same answer, and the techniques are not so different. The most important thing is this -- be excited about telling your story! Even seemingly mundane stories can be entertaining if you're excited about telling it. If you're not excited, your audience won't be either. We'll play with ideas and tools for bringing fullness to your story telling thus generating engagement with your audience.

InterPlay performance is about stepping into our fullness said Ginny Going in her introduction at the beginning of the workshop. It's all about intensity. We step into our big body out of our ordinary body. We make shifts and create contrasts. She referenced our workshop, "Give Performance a Hug" with Phil Porter and how we worked with expanding our range from fast to slow, loud to soft, and big and small. Ask yourself, "How can I build contrast in dynamics?"

After warming up InterPlay fashion, Tom Henderson led us in a series of story telling exercises using 3 different techniques:

First, we got practice discarding chronological order. We were given instructions to start our stories some where else other than the beginning. I stated my story in the middle of a July morning in the badlands of Montana out fossil hunting just when the 40 mile winds started blowing us down the hillside and across the rock encrusted terrain. What liberation to forgo details and jump into where the action starts! I could have started at the end when all the fossil hunters sat cloistered in a trailer huddling over their computers waiting for the hostile winds to settle down.

TEACHING BY DOING. Here Tom Henderson teaches the power story telling by telling his own story. Tom and Ginny brought 20 years of InterPlay experience to the InterPlay Atlanta performance workshop. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Then we had a chance to find a point in our stories where we could become inarticulate and speak in gibberish or a made up language. Tom demonstrated with a story of his own about the presence of a dangerous chemical in his work environment. The gibberish can express frustation, confusion, or anything that just fails to be expressed adequately using words.

This story telling technique allows story tellers to digress from the main plot of the narrative, to follow a topic that comes up in the story but is not central to it. The story teller can return to the main storyline or continue to follow the "left turn." 

Whenever telling these stories, we have been given permission by Tom and Ginny to leave the audience "hanging." In a performance, we do not have to complete the whole story. Often, InterPlay performers want to tell a bigger story than is necessary, they told us. Finding the end to a performance is a skill and finishing a story sooner is better than finishing it later. Leaving the audience wanting more from your performance is preferred to the reverse.

UNIVERSAL THEMES. We were asked, "How do our stories connect with universal themes?" Tom records our theme words as Ginny supervises and supports. What a team! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Next, was identifying universal themes. Unfurling a roll of brown paper across the performance floor, Tom and Ginny asked InterPlay Atlanta workshop participants to name the first universal themes that came to our minds. We wrote down themes such as danger, love, adventure, change, chaos, loss, beginnings and endings.

Then they asked us, "How do our stories connect with these universal themes?"

What ensued was fun, stimulating, and just plain interesting. In pairs, we told one of our own stories connecting it to a universal theme. We had three minutes  to tell a full-body story playing around with contrasts using any of the previous techniques we had just practiced. I spoke on the universal theme of adventure and talked about my time in Australia, when I was searching for dinosaur tracks on the Victoria coast and had to scale down a cliff to Knowledge Creek fitting my feet into a wallaby trackway and holding on to shrubs!

Then half of us workshop participants were asked to stand up and to share our stories with all of the participants but condensing our three-minute stories into one minute!

After that, if we had had enough time, we would have completed this universally themed story telling exercise by reducing its telling to 3 sentences! Only!

As the workshop hours dwindled, we played with three more InterPlay forms: DT3's (dance talk, dance talk, dance talk), Side by Side Stories, and Gesture Choir.
SIDE BY SIDE STORY TELLING. Al, Jennifer, and Christine told Side by Side stories about high school. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Key teaching points from these InterPlay forms included:

We can move our bodies to tell our stories.

A story exists in more than just a box in our heads.

When moving, a storyteller gets a fuller sense of the story at a cellular level.
GESTURE CHOIR. Getting a fuller sense of the story at a cellular level and so much more. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Timing is important in a performance.

When working together with other performers, "sacrifice" for the good ending.

Let movement be movement.

Let the story emerge from the body.

Part of letting go is releasing the need to tell a continuous, linear story.

When telling a Side by Side Story, move around, do not stay in the same lane; interrupting is good, picking up words or phrases from other story tellers is good; keeping your visual focus on the audience and not other players is desirable.
THE POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP HAS CONCLUDED.  Participants thoroughly enjoyed Ginny and Tom's workshop and were sorry to see it come to an end. There was so much more fun to be had. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Our two-and-half hours with Tom and Ginny was rich! We felt the fullness of our own stories and each others. Wahoo! Thank you! 

Blogs about other Performance Workshops InterPlay Atlanta has received:

Ecstatic Following with Sheila Collins 

Saying Yes and Finding the Thing with Sheila Collins

Creating a Container and Creating the Thing with Sheila Collins

Foundation and Decoration with Sheila Collins

Give Performance a Hug with Phil Porter

The Power of Story with Ginny Going and Tom Henderson
NOTE TAKING.  That's me, Ruth Schowalter, center, taking notes about what Ginny Going is saying in "The Power of Story" workshop. (photo by Callahan Pope McDonough)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Channeling lots of InterPlay energy!

Dear Atlanta InterPlay friends, 


I'm participating in Reverb14 and today's prompt produced the following blog that I wanted to share with you all: 


Reverb14 Day 4: conduits (with thanks to Noël Rozny)

Today's prompt comes from l Noël Rozny (photo credit David Mark).
Noël writes:

We are all lightning rods, conduits for that which the Universe wants born into this world. What energies did you channel this year?

For those of you who have been following my blog this year the answer to this question is not going to be a big surprise.

This year has been all about InterPlay leadership training.

I channeled the energies of play, creativity, leadership, connection, incremental steps and so much more!

Secret's group photo by +Ruth Schowalter 
October 2013 I began the path to leadership training with a "Secrets" weekend that I wrote about here (I was very new to blogging at this time too): Creating Body Wisdom & some pictures here: Sunday Snippets.  It was so exciting to start our journey with one of the co-founders of InterPlay, Cynthia Winton-Henry!

Ruth - Here we are at the Secrets Weekend at the start of our journey!

Since that time with my good friend +Hallelujah Truth we have completed:

The InterPlay Life Practice Program - 3 weekends of fabulous InterPlay facilitated by my dear friend Sheila Collins and her 3 performance workshops too!

Sheila and Jennifer

Helped Sheila perform her book (5 times) - Warrior Mother

Which led to us being on Cable TV - Creating Quite a Day.

Race Dance Participants after our workshop

Participated in a Race Dance workshop lead by Soyinka Rahim, an InterPlay leader from Oakland, Ca.

In June myself and 3 other Atlanta Interplayers performed at a conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 & the Voting Rights Act of 1965 - you can read all about it here: I See You Free Performance.

In the midst of all of it we bought a house and moved in Creating the month of July.

We also had the chance to do a Secrets Of Leading Workshop/Weekend with Phil Porter, co-founder of InterPlay! Before the weekend started we participated in the Give Performance a Hug workshop.

We helped Celebrate Interplay's 25th Anniversary by hosting a FUNdraiser/luncheon that I coordinated and wrote about here: Celebrating #interplay25.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOULPRINT PLAYERS! Sunday, November 16th, 2014, is a significant date in InterPlay Atlanta's history! Its performance group, Soulprint Players, had their premier performance! (photo by Dean Hesse) (blurb by +Ruth Schowalter)

 I also was part of a group that helped envision and launch the Atlanta performance troupe: SoulPrint Players under the direction of Jennifer Denning, InterPlay Atlanta Regional Director.  You can read about our first performance here: Ta-da Soulprint Players Premier or here: On Being Seen 

Throughout this year, Ruth and I have been meeting at least weekly and lots of times bi-weekly to complete our self home study material as part of our training process.  This has been a tremendously important incremental step and I am so grateful for her support!

In September, Jennifer and I, in collaboration with Reforming Arts, started traveling to Lee Arendale, the largest women's state prison here in GA to do InterPlay with a group of 14-16 women once a week which culminates in a performance next Friday!  I wrote a little about the experience here: InterPlay and Grace Making.

I also traveled to Texas in Sept. to teach a Saturday class to foster and adoptive parents and  Incorporated InterPlay into my Social Work.

Whew - I have channeled a lot of creative InterPlay energy this year!!! 

Tomorrow begins the final weekend of Leader training with our Practicum weekend.  Atlanta InterPlay has been super lucky to year to have so many visiting InterPlay superstars facilitating our leadership training!  You are welcome to join us tomorrow at noon for The Power of Story.

If you're still wondering what the heck InterPlay is one of the founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry, wrote this: An Open Letter about InterPlay 

It's hard to believe anyone will have made it to the very end of this surprisingly long blog, so if you did - Thank you - from my heart to yours.

I'd love to hear - what energy have you been channeling in 2014?

Wrapping you around with infinite love and connection,


Saturday, November 22, 2014

TA DA! Soulprint Players' Premier Performance

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOULPRINT PLAYERS! Sunday, November 16th, 2014, is a significant date in InterPlay Atlanta's history! Its performance group, Soulprint Players, had their premier performance! (photo by Dean Hesse)
by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Leader-in-Training

Ta da! The Soulprint Players have launched themselves in Atlanta! On Sunday, November 16th, 2014, InterPlay Atlanta's director, Jennifer Denning, introduced the performance group to its Atlanta community with a fundraiser for the Atlanta Foodbank on the theme of "gratitude."

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, after little more than nine months, five performance workshops with Sheila K. Collins and Phil Porter, and a number of rehearsals, the Soulprint Players danced, sang, and told stories for an hour.
ARRIVING AN HOUR BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE! Soulprint Player Christine Gautreaux came early to prep for the performance, arriving with drums, an easel and notepad, and her supportive husband and InterPlayer Joe! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
This performance was significant in several ways. In addition to being the Soulprint Players' premier, it also represented a logical outcome and a fulfillment of a dream for InterPlay Atlanta's director, Jennifer Denning (read her blog on this topic, "On Being Seen"). This first performance also served in giving our InterPlay Atlanta community a center or a heart--a way of being together, going deeper, and serving the community.
ELICITING TOPICS ON GRATITUDE FROM THE AUDIENCE! InterPlayer Christine Gautreaux writes down the topics Jennifer Denning elicits from the audience. We used these topics for our performances! (photo by Dean Hesse)
Our one-hour performance evaporated quickly and magically. Ta da! After playing around with audience-given topics related to gratitude such as laughter, babies, health, growing old, and turkeys, we took our final bows. We had told side-by-side stories, participated in two gesture choirs, witnessed a big body story, done the Pittsburgh form, sung with the audience, and much more.

Please enjoy this slide show of our evening. The photos were taken by Dean Hesse, the music is Karen Drucker's, and the slide show was created by me, Ruth Schowalter.

Those of us who could went to a local watering hole after our performance to toast our achievement! Congratulations Soulprint Players! Congratulations Jennifer Denning!

Monday, November 17, 2014

On Being Seen

By Jennifer Denning

The greater purpose is that we're communing together and we want this moment to be really special for all of us. Because otherwise, why bother to have come at all? It's not about proving anything. It's about sharing something.

- Yo-Yo Ma

When I was a child I delighted in putting on puppet shows and plays for my family. My family tells stories about me entertaining guests around the campfire with my comedic impersonations. What is it about this need to be seen? To entertain? To perform?

Three sentence stories during "A Gratitude Evening" with the Soulprint Players
-photo by Dean Hesse
I studied acting in college and moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in theatre in my early 20’s. It was enlivening and difficult. Beautiful to play parts I connected with. Challenging to be cast in a role I couldn’t quite grasp, painful to lose a part I knew I could play, and underlying it all the need to be seen.

In my mid 20’s I explored a spiritual path that led me to ministry. I never wanted to stand up in front of a congregation every Sunday, but I did want to explore how the expressive arts and spirituality intersect. I delved into the path of releasing the need to be seen. I sat in meditation and touched glimpses of surrendering into that something more that doesn’t need outside validation. I danced and let the dance dance me. And this was beautiful, and challenging and painful. Beautiful to touch those moment of surrender. Challenging to face those needy parts of myself and painful to hold myself up to some idealized picture of what a “spiritual” person should be.

The Soulprint Players embracing our complicated humanity
-photo by Dean Hesse

Nearly fifteen years later I direct the Atlanta InterPlay performance group, the Soulprint Players. We had our first performance last night. The performance had moments of beauty, moments of laughter and moments of awkward humanity too. And here I sit this morning in complete happiness about it all. There is something about embracing the full soup of myself that frees me, makes me kinder, renders me more whole. Yes, I am a part of the great “I am!," And yes, I am a complicated human being too! What a gift to share the full range of our bodyspirited humanness with each other.

There is still a part of me that wants to be seen, that part of me doesn't need to go away,  but alongside it rests this larger impulse- this shift of perspective that simply allows myself to be seen, This expansive self also delights in seeing you. InterPlay performance is not a demand to be looked at; it is a willingness to be seen- it is a gift, a joy, a communion.

So grateful.

Monday, November 10, 2014

SOULPRINT PLAYERS: A week before InterPlay Atlanta's performance troupe premier

by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Leader-in-Training

The Soulprint Players gathered together a week before their premier performance in the InterPlay Atlanta community to "rehearse." The parentheses around "rehearse" is so you know that InterPlayer performers come together to play with one another and to become familiar with the InterPlay forms. However, at its heart, InterPlay is all about improvisation--making things up in the moment. 
Jennifer Denning

Jennifer Denning has waved her magic wand and created the Soulprint Players in less than a year. Beginning on Friday, January 24th, 2014, we had our first performance workshop with Sheila Collins (see this blog, Atlanta InterPlay is Forming a Performance Group). Now, on Sunday, November 16, 2015, Soulprint Players are giving their first performance on the theme of "gratitude." 

On the Sunday before our premier performance, the Soulprint Players ran through a practice of what it is like to work with a theme and topics given from the audience. Our rehearsal theme was "freedom." 

Here are a few photos from our two-hour play with the the theme of freedom:
WARMING UP WITH WALK, RUN, STOP. (all photos by Ruth Schowalter)
Although each InterPlay form is beautiful and compelling in its own way, some times one form might happen to take your breath away. Its improv. And in improv, depending on the theme, the players, and the ephemeral moment, something breathtaking happens! On this Sunday "rehearsal," it was the contact duet that captured my fascination.


At intervals, we took moments from movement to notice what we were experiencing while playing with one another and the forms. I was feeling particularly awkward in the practices with contact InterPlay. The rubber on my tennis shoes was not allowing me to move smoothly on the wooden floor and resulted in my feeling like I was stumbling--thus, making a mistake. In our noticings, much discussion ensued my concern around stumbling.

Perhaps if I were to release judgment, the "clumsy" movement I made could be experienced as a change in intention. Since our dance is not choreographed, it is my choice how I want to accommodate an unexpected glitch. One of the players said to me, "It's how you decide to present yourself--that's what's beautiful. Viewers can even have 'movement empathy' identifying with you." 

InterPlay is a journey of self discovery taken through choices made as you play. Come see how InterPlay Atlanta's Soulprint Players make choices in response to the words or ideas you offer us.

Once again our event is Sunday, November 16th, 2014, at 8:00 at the Mask Center in the Little Five Points Community Center. We are accepting donations of $10, which will go towards supporting both Soulprint Players and the Atlanta Foodbank.

Monday, November 3, 2014

25 Plus Ways to Play All Year: Celebrating InterPlay's 25th birthday from now to October 25th 2015

#6 of 25+ Ways to Play. "Put up your hand. Bless and connect with somebody through space." (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Leader-in-Training

Happy Birthday InterPlay! What a wonderful celebration we InterPlayers had nation wide across the United States marking 25 years of InterPlay! Here in Atlanta, we enjoyed a warm sunny green space in Grant Park at InterPlayer Sharon Leverning's home (read about it here in a post Christine Gautreaux wrote).

Let's celebrate InterPlay all year, from now until October 25th, 2015 and see what happens! What way will you play to celebrate 25 years of InterPlay? No worries mate! Here's a beautiful fun list, "25 Plus Ways to Play for InterPlay's 25th Anniversary," created by InterPlay's very own co-founder, Cynthia Winton-Henry:
25 Ways to Play to Celebrate #interplay25! Guests who attended InterPlay Atlanta's 25 Years of InterPlay FUNdraiser received their very own copy on how to play and celebrate. (photo by Christine Gautreaux)

1.      Video 30 seconds of following and leading in your school or workplace!
2.      Hashtag all things InterPlay with #interplay25 to find other celebrations.
3.      Start a story chain to honor playful leading in your area.
4.       Dance on behalf of anything that’s hard to talk about. Consider it prayer.
5.      Walk stop and run as a meditation on the street.
6.      Put up your hand: bless and connect with someone through space.
7.      Take part in an IP stunt video in an iconic place. Send to Agnotti@gmail.com to share on the 25th of any month.
8.      Speak in a made-up language on a conference call if asked how your day is.
9.      Post a pic with your flaps up on the InterPlay FB page.
10.   InterPlay with another species. Post on Facebook! (Interspecies InterPlay!)
11.   Attend a Wing It! Performance or plan your own performance celebration!
12.   Lead InterPlay at your favoritest place on Earth.
13.   Join the wing project. Make paper feathers and write how IP gave you wings. Mail to InterPlayce 2273 Telegraph, Oakland, Ca 94612.
14.   Collage or Paint on behalf of InterPlay. Post on the anniversary FB page.
15.   Love your body. Use the InterPlay warm-up before meditating.
16.   Post the weirdest places to InterPlay.
17.   Nominate celebrities who need InterPlay or may do it naturally.
18.   Shake out what you're sitting on– sitting is the new smoking!
19.   Walk backwards and say thank you in a crowded room.
21.   Sing fake opera to protest something that needs to change.
22.   Get 2+ people to do a Wheeee in a stressful moment!
23.   Blog about InterPlay. Link to the Facebook Page.
25.   Use your power of attraction. Say, "InterPlay rocks my world. Alas, since there’s no way to describe it, come play if you want to know me."
26.   Affirm someone magical, graceful, expressive, kind, or true.
27.   Add comments and photos to InterPlay’s FB page.
28.   Add your own ideas...and share with #interplay25
PLAYFULLY CELEBRATING #INTERPLAY25. Christine Gautreaux and I joyfully InterPlayed together the Thursday morning before Halloween in the Atlanta Botanical Garden. We walked, breathed, played, studied InterPlay (we are IntePlay leaders-in-training), and took these photographs to post. (photo by Atlanta Botanical Garden volunteer)
Christine Gautreaux and I have created our first playful celebration commemorating #interplay25 combining several of these: 3) dancing on behalf of (see my blog about this on Coffee with Hallelujah); 6) put up your hand and connect through space; 7)making a slideshow in an iconic place.

Here is our play photographed in the Atlanta Botanical Garden:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrating #InterPlay25

Dear friends,

Young InterPlayers who colored our welcome sign! (Photo by Ruth Schowalter)
At this time last week our Atlanta InterPlay community was in the midst of a great celebration!     

We gathered together in Sharon's beautiful backyard for the 25th Anniversary of InterPlay FUNdraiser.

The beautiful outdoor luncheon space. (Photo by Christine Gautreaux)
Over 25 people came together to connect, to play and to celebrate InterPlay in their lives.

Guests were greeted with over 25 ways to celebrate InterPlay (framed by +Hallelujah Truth ) and were able to take a copy home as a thank you gift.

Supplies to give us "wings!" (Photo by Christine Gautreaux)
We were all invited to play with the prompt, "InterPlay (or art) has given me wings too...." as part of a nationwide art project.

One of the feathers a guest created! (Photo by Christine Gautreaux)

We had a lovely and delicious lunch of fresh salad, homemade butternut squash soup, bread, olives, cheese and yummy chocolate and brownies for dessert!

Soyinka Rahim, a visiting InterPlay leader from Oakland, led us in the chant, "Thank you Love!" as we transitioned from lunch to the program.

Singing along with InterPlayers across the nation via the internet. (Photo byRuth Schowalter)
We were able to connect briefly with Oakland, CA where InterPlay was started by Phil Porter & Cynthia Winton-Henry!  We sang along as a bridge was built between the home office and regional InterPlay groups across the nation!

Circling up for some outdoor play time! (Photo by Tony Martin)

When we started having technical challenges we gathered outside to play in the beautiful sunshine!  Jennifer Denning, our Regional Interplay director, led us in some babbling and a hand to hand dance.
Jennifer being backed up by Lynn, Christine & Ruth! (Photo by Tony Martin)

The program concluded with a Gesture Choir and Jennifer told a story of all the ways InterPlay is being used in our Atlanta Community!

The weather was beautiful, the company delightful and we are declaring the day a success!

Thank you to all who attended and special thanks to all of those who were able to donate to continue to support InterPlay and the important "work" they do in the world! 

Check out more pictures from this fun event at InterPlay Atlanta FB page.

In Peace and Play,

Christine Gautreaux, InterPlay Leader-In-Training