Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FIRST SECOND SATURDAY: Atlanta InterPlay invites the community to play once a month

FIRST SECOND SATURDAY. Atlanta InterPlay is offering a regular way to play using simple forms. Everyone is welcome to attend these monthly play dates. If you can't come one month, please come the next. Contact Jennifer Denning for more information. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
On Saturday, February 8, 2014, a group of 12 people from the Atlanta area met with Jennifer Denning at The Mask Center in the Little Five Points Community Center for 90 minutes of InterPlay.

InterPlay is open to anyone. Participants need no special training. Those who want a new and light way of being in a community with others might want to try InterPlay. 

SIMPLE SHAPES. Here InterPlay participants are making simple shapes, holding them for a while before moving on to a new shape that they want to make. (photos by Ruth Schowalter)
InterPlay, an art form that anyone can do, has been gaining momentum in Atlanta for the past six years. Participants are invited into movement, song, story, stillness and connection through easy incremental steps. InterPlay honors and celebrates the unique expression of each individual in an affirmative and welcoming environment.
MOVING WITH A PARTNER. Participants were invited to move with a partner, to stay close or move a part but to stay connected in some way. Fun! (photo by Tony Martin)
 As Atlanta InterPlay meets regularly throughout 2014, we hope to see you there! Friend Atlanta InterPlay on Facebook (HERE) as a way to stay connected between play dates.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Atlanta InterPlay is forming a performance group!

At The Mask Center in L5P, Atlanta, Georgia (photos by Ruth Schowalter)
ECSTATIC FOLLOWING: Atlanta InterPlayers are learning what it means to be part of an InterPlay performance group! 

Written from the perspective of Ruth Schowalter, InterPlayer participant and social media facilitator

I'm so grateful for Jennifer Denning being an anchor for InterPlay here in Atlanta and bringing Sheila K. Collins to our beautiful southern city to help us develop an InterPlay performance group. Sheila has already facilitated the development of 5 InterPlay performance groups form (4 in Texas and 1 in Pittsburgh). And Friday January 24, 2014, was monumental for those of us in the Atlanta InterPlay community (visit our Facebook page)!

We got our beginning performance workshop in the series of four that we will receive over the next 8 months.  First, Sheila gave us a brief history of InterPlay performance groups. The first one was “Wing It,” which InterPlay co-founders Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry started in San Francisco more than 2 decades ago and continues to be vibrantly alive today. Then after the brief history…drum roll…
A BRIEF HISTORY. Sheila K. Collins (second from left) gives us a quick history of how InterPlay developed performance groups in different cities (see a list of InterPlay performance groups HERE).
…Sheila introduced the concept of "ecstatic following."  What a curious phrase--ECSTATIC FOLLOWING!!!

In Cynthia and Phil's book, What the Body Wants, there is a section about being a FOLLOWER when you are doing InterPlay activities.  Yes, you can be a leader as well, but an important way of being is FOLLOWING! This is a “charged” word to a citizen of the United States! We are taught to be independent and to shed other people’s new ideas like yesterday’s old skin.

In InterPlay performance and activities, however, FOLLOWING is essential. I leaned in to listen to Sheila because I had read about this concept of being a FOLLOWER several months ago in Cynthia’s and Phil’s book. Now, to hear about "following" again in the context of our newly forming performance group, my understanding of this concept heightened, deepened, and became evermore curious!
Did Cynthia refer to FOLLOWING as an "ecstatic" activity, I asked myself. Maybe…I will have to check that out later.  But for now, I am leaning into the concept of "ecstatic following." What does it mean for us—the Atlanta InterPlay Performance Group? For me?

Well, to perform improvisation using the tools of InterPlay, one needs to follow his/her fellow InterPlayers--that's what creates the awesomeness for the audience. The actions look rehearsed.   That is...if players are fully committed to following movements of other players. That means surrendering your own ideas, being vulnerable and present to others, and taking risks.

WHY would we want to surrender our own ideas, be vulnerable and present to others and to take risks when performing?  

Because we want to build a community not only amongst our InterPlay performance group but also in our wider Atlanta community. InterPlay performance groups are a form of activism.

YES! Artful play is Activism—making positive change in our communities!  So, right now, we Atlanta InterPlayers are needing to ask ourselves this important question:

What are the needs of our community?  

For now, that is all the time I have to talk about the first workshop of Atlanta InterPlay performance group. Stay tuned if you are curious about us. Maybe you will want to join us!  


An Interview with Sheila K. Collins
By Ruth Schowalter, Atlanta InterPlay social media facilitator

In January 2014, some Atlantans took the opportunity to go deeper into the tools and philosophy of InterPlay. It is the first time that the four 3-day-weekend “Life Practice Program,” has been offered in the Metro-Atlanta area (see details below). Pittsburgh InterPlay’s Sheila K. Collins is facilitating this long-term program based in supportive community. Soon after meeting Sheila in October when she visited Atlanta with Cynthia Winton-Henry to facilitate the program “Secrets,” I asked her to answer a few questions about the “Life Practice Program.”

Ruth Schowalter: What is the “InterPlay Life Practice Program”?

Sheila K. Collins: In InterPlay, we have a system of art-based practices, and the “Life Practice Program” is the application of these practices to your life.  The playing of InterPlay practices into your life can be for amusement or purposefully--whatever your goals are, whatever you are hoping to accomplish in your life.

Ruth Schowalter: Why might people consider doing the “Life Practice Program”?

Sheila K. Collins: I know an awful lot of people who consider themselves to be working too hard and being too serious. They are just not having as much fun in their lives as they would like to be having. I think we all would like to have more ease in our lives, and  that’s what the InterPlay system offers.

In terms of myself, I was fascinated with InterPlay.  I would be at an InterPlay event, and it would be fun and enlivening and I would ask myself, “How can I bring InterPlay into my regular life—in my relationships with my husband, or children, or into my work space?”

Ruth Schowalter:  Who would benefit from participating in the “Life Practice Program”?

Sheila K. Collins: I think it would be a benefit to anybody.

Ruth Schowalter: When did you first become involved in InterPlay?

Sheila K. Collins:  In 1992, I met Cynthia Winton-Henry by telephone after seeing a poster advertising an event she was doing.  I lived in Texas at the time but was visiting Berkeley CA. to promote my first book, Stillpoint: The Dance of Selfcaring, Selfhealing. A former student had invited me, so I was visiting the Pacific School of Religion (PSR)  on “holy hill,” where there are all of the various seminaries—Baptist, Jewish, Catholic, —and PSR where Cynthia taught was non-denominational and focused on the arts. I saw one big wall with all these posters and Cynthia’s caught my eye.  I felt strongly that I needed to talk with her and called her up. In those days, because we didn’t have the Internet, we developed our relationship through snail mail, using letters with stamps.

Ruth Schowalter: What differences has InterPlay made in your life?

Sheila K. Collins: I would say it has given me the ability to fully own and embody, all that I am. I often felt I wore these different hats, playing roles that were separated from each other. Through the practices of InterPlay, all my parts came together in one container. Also, InterPlay allowed me to connect again to the arts, which provide such tools for transformation; it gave me that permission.

Ruth Schowalter: How does InterPlay manifest itself in your life today?

Sheila K. Collins: I think the biggest difference has been the communities that I am connected to all over the world. I have a sense of being in a very large tribe of people that wherever I go, I can connect with people who are InterPlayers. We can sing, dance, and tell our stories to one another, like tribal peoples always did.

In my book, Warrior Mother: A Memoir of Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, and Rituals, I write about the way the InterPlay community has supported me through personal challenges in my life. For example, when my daughter was being treated for breast cancer at a hospital in Houston, I contacted a woman I had met in California through InterPlay. She was a chaplain, serving a hospital directly across the street from where my daughter was receiving treatment. My daughter and I helped her do an in-service for her staff using InterPlay. 

The idea to perform passages from Warrior Mother came to me through the work I do with InterPlay. When I was writing the book I used InterPlay tools to help me generate memories and stories from my experiences with my children. Now using InterPlay to improvise on the book’s themes feels like turning a prism to highlight different aspects of my stories, inviting other people to connect their stories to mine.

Since my book is about the death of my two adult children, it could be a downer. However, I have been using the gift of play to get inside the story of our lives by highlighting important life themes. I think many of us have the belief that we have to be in the mood to play. That is not true. In fact, the spirit of play may be more necessary when things get heavy in our lives.

Ruth Schowalter: Do you like teaching the tools, forms, and philosophy of InterPlay? Why?

Sheila K. Collins: I think it is one of my most favorite things to do in the world. I have always worked with small groups, and experienced the magic that can happen. The “Life Practice Program” is a kind of seminar where you have a curriculum with theoretical material that you are learning, and, at the same time, you are bringing your own experiences to it.

Ruth Schowalter: You just came to Atlanta to facilitate “Secrets of InterPlay” with Cynthia Winton-Henry. How did you find Atlanta?

Sheila K. Collins: Atlanta surprised me because it is so beautiful. The trees and forests where I was staying were unexpected, as was the sunny, wonderful weather. The particular people I met were quite amazing. InterPlaying together offers the opportunity to get to know people in a special way. It was very magical.

Ruth Schowalter: Anything to add about coming back to Atlanta for the “Life Practice Program” in 2014?

Sheila K. Collins: There are a number of people in the Atlanta area who want to form an InterPlay performance group, and they have asked me to teach a class on InterPlay Performance Forms while I’m here (see details below). I am very excited about that because I know from my own InterPlay performance experiences in Pittsburgh that a performance company provides a fun way to serve important needs in the community.


WHEN: January (24, 25, 26); March (14, 15, 16); May (16, 17, 18); and July (11, 12, 13).

WHERE: Pine Lake Clubhouse, 462 Clubhouse Drive, Pine Lake, Georgia, 30072

COST: $1,950 plus a space user fee of $100. $100 reserves your place in the program.

 WHO: lead by Sheila K. Collins, PhD.

WHEN: Friday January 24th, 2014, March 14th, May 16th, July 11th 10 am–12:30 pm

COST: All four Sessions - $99. Single session - $30.

WHERE: To be announced.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BOTH PROGRAMS: Contact Atlanta InterPlay's Jennifer Denning (404-272-0848 or jdenning1@yahoo.com) or InterPlay (510-465-2797 or www.interplay.org)

Atlanta InterPlay September 2013: THE RACE DANCE

THE RACE DANCE. In September 2013, Atlanta InterPlay hosted Soyinka Rahim, an InterPlay leader from California, to facilitate "The Race Dance." The workshop took place in Little Five Points Community Center. (photo by Stell Simonton)
Soyinka Rahim and “The Race Dance: Exploring Connections and Actions”

Interview by Ruth Schowalter (Atlanta InterPlay social media facilitator)

On a cool breezy September day in Decatur, Georgia, I met with two InterPlay leaders, Soyinka Rahim, visiting from California, and Jennifer Denning, Atlanta resident, to discuss the “Race Dance: Exploring Connections and Actions,” the workshop Soyinka had facilitated the night before at the Little Five Points Community Center.
Jennifer Denning and Soyinka Rahim (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Ruth Schowalter: Who are you in relationship to InterPlay?

Soyinka Rahim: I’m a passionate InterPlay leader, performer, friend, and facilitator. I hold the space for people to explore their authentic expressions through play on any topic.

Jennifer Denning:  I’m an InterPlay leader who is passionate about the joy, freedom, and transformative power that can be found through the InterPlay forms.

Ruth Schowalter: How did the “Race Dance: Exploring Connections and Actions” workshop develop?

Soyinka Rahim:  Lots of different things happened to arrive at this discussion about race and racism. It began with the Oakland company, Wing It, using the InterPlay form to explore cultural diversity and race. One of the InterPlay co-founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry, and I decided to develop a way to have the “race dances.”

I thought what a great thing for me, an InterPlay leader, and the co-founder, Cynthia, two big spirited women, one Black and one White, to hold the space for the race dance.

Soyinka Rahim
In InterPlay, we have reached back to some ancient community building tools to support the discussion of race and racism so people can explore their own stories. Through InterPlay, we get “sneaky deep.”  Explorations of race and racism could be a really sticky and heavy place to play, but since we are using playful tools people are allowed some air space to view their own experience.

Ruth Schowalter: How did this particular InterPlay workshop on race get to Atlanta?

Soyinka Rahim: I’ve been living a nomadic life. I go where I am asked. I’ve asked to go wherever I am summoned. I will bring InterPlay to corporate development and to seniors’ wisdom conversations. I imagine an InterPlay workshop where there are seniors and children interacting.

Well as far as getting to Atlanta, I was doing InterPlay in Pittsburgh with friends of mine who were attending a Black Wellness Women’s Conference at Spelman College, and they invited me to co-facilitate with them.

I have been very interested in having people of color explore the InterPlay tools. What a joy it was for me and so powerful to share the InterPlay forms with the Black women at the conference. And I look forward to holding a space for Black boys and men to explore the InterPlay forms.

Jennifer Denning: Once I knew that Soyinka was coming to Atlanta, we discussed what she would like to bring to our community. I had heard of “The Race Dance” work she and Cynthia were facilitating and was curious about that. We quickly discerned that this was the right workshop for her to bring to Atlanta.
Promotion for The Race Dance in Atlanta
Ruth Schowalter: Can you discuss what you witnessed or experienced at last night’s workshop on race and racism?

Jennifer Denning: I witnessed the feeling that we barely scratched the surface. We have so much to say on this topic of race, and so much needs to be healed—myself included. We need some help having healthy interactions and making sure we are moving forward in the world.

I saw a hunger for more discussion. There were lots of questions emerging. I appreciated how the InterPlay structure kept the discussion and interactions “safe” and gave everyone the freedom to express themselves. I think the way InterPlay allows you to speak about a topic like racism and move it through your body in play, song, and movement is a really healthy way to engage in this difficult topic.

Oh, and one more thing! It was so interesting to see that photo (The group photo taken at the end of the workshop) and how everyone is so happy!  That photo is such an affirmation of the work. People are glowing even though we had just experienced a sticky and intense subject.

Soyinka Rahim: Bibo (Soyinka’s mantra which means “breathe in, breath out)! I experienced a hungriness and a willingness. People were open to exploring their own stories, willing to share their own experience, not knowing what racism is to them, and witnessing racism in a bigger picture.

I noticed a very incremental relaxation happen from the time people walked in the room not knowing what was going to happen to becoming totally transparent. I saw the fear, sadness, hurt, pain, and frustration in the room, all of which are valid. That is why it is necessary to hold spaces for the race dance.

I noticed how beautiful the dance was. It was magical. People surrendered to the shape and stillness and the movement, then a transparency appeared.

Jennifer Denning: I felt the “leaning” (an action in an InterPlay form where participants run, walk, stop, and lean on one or more people) was particularly rich for me. There was support in the leaning, and I felt very open through that with folks I knew and didn’t know.  

Soyinka Rahim:  I read some of the surveys (participants answered a survey at the end of the workshop). The time we had for the workshop wasn’t enough. People needed more time. There were so many more forms I wanted to explore. This particular race dance workshop is screaming for an “untensive” (InterPlay language for a two-three day InterPlay workshop).

Ruth Schowalter: Have you done InterPlay workshops in Atlanta before? Will you come back?

Soyinka Rahim: I haven’t done InterPlay in Atlanta before. I would love to be able to hold the space for people to explore whatever the topic may be. I am honored at this time in my life to hold the space for the race dance for others to explore. Now is the time for shifting the energy, with all of the killing and the stop-and-frisk laws. We need to start sharing our stories and seeing that these types of things don’t happen any more.  I look forward to returning to and collaborating with the Atlanta InterPlayers.

Ruth Schowalter: Jennifer, you and Debra Weir have been holding InterPlay workshops in Atlanta since 2008. Do you see Atlanta InterPlay doing future workshops exploring race and racism?

Jennifer Denning: Yes I do. There is a desire for more. I think Atlanta is ready for it. Possibly, we may offer something in the summer 2014 or next fall. Soyinka and I definitely see a one-day event or maybe an untensive (two-three days). We will see.

Ruth Schowalter: Why InterPlay?

Soyinka Rahim:  InterPlay has reached back to some ancient community building tools, and it is time for us to use these tools to reconnect the human heart and hold the consciousness for people to reawaken to the truth of humanity and choose to have our fundamental needs met. No longer can we remain silent and isolated.

Like “Sankofa” we must return to the past in order to move forward. So let us dance, sing, tell our stories, and celebrate the past, present, and the future.

Jennifer Denning:  When Soyinka talks about InterPlay being ancient, it calls to my mind one of the first forms I did with InterPlay. We held hands in a circle and sang a simple improvised chant. I felt I was reconnecting to a very old way of being that my spirit had sorely missed. Accessing my voice, my body, my story in community creates such joy and open-heartedness.

I think that we can all benefit from having that creative connection. I love that InterPlay is a common language, and that beyond Atlanta, we have a larger circle of InterPlay players and anyone of us can drop into these forms wherever there is a InterPlay group. As an InterPlay teacher, there is support I get from knowing that there other kindred spirits out there.

Ruth Schowalter: What does Atlanta need to know about InterPlay?

Jennifer Denning: I would like to see Atlanta grow InterPlay so that every night of the week there is a different teacher offering his/her “flavor” of InterPlay. There are so many communities that could be enlivened.

Soyinka Rahim
Soyinka Rahim: Atlanta needs to create its own InterPlay performance group.  For example, Pittsburgh has A Wing & a Prayer, Oakland has Wing It, Raleigh has Off the Deep End, and Minneapolis has Soul Play (see a list of the InterPlay performance groups HERE). What is the name of the InterPlay performance group for Atlanta?

Jennifer Denning: (Nodding enthusiastically) Yes, I would like to see Atlanta have its own InterPlay performance group! What should we call it?

 See another interview about "The Race Dance" with Soyinka Rahim in Atlanta, HERE.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Chat with Jennifer Denning about InterPlay and “Secrets”

Interview by Ruth Schowalter, social media facilitator for Atlanta InterPlay
For the first time, “Secrets of InterPlay” came to Atlanta in 2013!
Cynthia Winton-Henry and Sheila Collins facilitated this event from
October 24th through the 27th. Before they arrived in Atlanta, I got together with Jennifer Denning, Atlanta’s InterPlay leader to find out a little bit more about this workshop that InterPlay calls an “untensive.”

Ruth Schowalter: What is InterPlay?

Jennifer Denning: What IS InterPlay? InterPlay is a series of forms that invite movement, song, story telling and stillness.

Ruth Schowalter: What is Secrets?

Jennifer Denning: The Secrets of InterPlay is the long weekend
immersion into the InterPlay philosophy. During Secrets, participants will play with all of the basic forms key to InterPlay. They will also be experientially introduced to what wecall the body wisdom tools of InterPlay.

Ruth Schowlater: Can you elaborate?

Jennifer Denning: The tools consist of simple practices and shifts in awareness that aim to increase connection, joy, empowerment, and human sustainability. These tools are some of what InterPlay cofounders, Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter, have discovered create that within in human beings and communities. The tools of InterPlay inform the way InterPlay is taught. They can help to shift our awareness to an open space of possibility that honors our body wisdom.
Ruth Schowalter: As an InterPlay leader, you did Secrets as part of your training. Can you share some of your experiences?

Jennifer Denning: Secrets was the first InterPlay event I ever attended. I had been working with theater as a means for creating community. I was interested in the power of the expressive arts to facilitate this. So there was a bit of synchronicity when I
received an issue of the Utne Reader--although my subscription had long since ended--with an article about Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, the co-founders of InterPlay.

I read the article about InterPlay and had a immediate sense of connection. They were working with movement in the same way that I was working with it in theater. I went online and found out that Secrets was being offered the next month in Nashville. I signed up without hesitation.

Ruth Schowalter: What was the experience like for you?

Jennifer Denning: My experience of doing Secrets was this gradual opening up of who I am. I love to play creatively, that is just a part of who I am. But what really struck me was how it opened my heart so easily. By the end of Secrets, I had pretty much played with everyone. I was wide open through play. InterPlay really respects every “body”… to let a person do what they need when they need it, so there is nothing forceful about the play. It was so refreshing to approach health in this lighter way.

Ruth Schowalter: How is Secrets different from one of the InterPlay sessions that you and Debra Weir have offered in Atlanta?

Jennifer Denning: Well, of course, it’s longer (a playshop is typically two hours long), so it goes deeper, and you are playing with the same people throughout the weekend. I found that there is a creative “practice” to InterPlay. That is, you get to practice what you learn, and then you surprise yourself by working that creative muscle. As we discussed, Secrets also introduces all of the “body wisdom tools.”

Ruth Schowalter: Who might want to come to InterPlay?

Jennifer Denning: Anybody. There are so many different angles…anyone seeking more spontaneity in their lives, or folks wanting to learn how to be more connected in their communities. Some people might want to liberate their own body wisdom and develop their creativity. Every “body” is different, and you get to see what your body wants to express to feel whole.

Ruth Schowalter: Looking ahead after Secrets takes place in October, what else will InterPlay be offering in Atlanta?

Jennifer Denning: In January 2014, InterPlay’s Sheila Collins returns to Atlanta for the Life Practice Program. But before that in November, I will be offering an InterPlay event that will give participants pre-holiday intentional time to affirm and soak in the good stuff around the holidays, to savor the things we enjoy and to create space for the crazy making that can happen. I’m really excited because there are Atlanta folks showing up, as well as people from nearby cities. This is the first step to bringing InterPlay into their communities.



InterPlay, an art form that anyone can do, has been gaining momentum in Atlanta for the past six years. Participants are invited into movement, song, story, stillness and connection through easy incremental steps. InterPlay honors and celebrates the unique expression of each individual in an affirmative and welcoming environment.

The Atlanta community has had the opportunity to participate in “playshops” since 2008, led by Debra Weir and Jennifer Denning, both certified InterPlay leaders.

Then in the fall of 2013, for the first time in Atlanta, an in-depth weekend exploration of InterPlay philosophy was offered in the untensive, “Secrets of InterPlay” (October 24-27) taught by InterPlay co-founder Cynthia Winton Henry and Sheila K. Collins, a certified InterPlay leader from Pittsburgh. 

In 2014, Atlantans will continue to have the opportunity to participate in InterPlay “playshops” with Jennifer Denning on the second Saturday of every month (Visit the AtlantaInterPlay Facebook page to find out details).

Also in 2014, people living in the Atlanta area will have the opportunity to go deeper into the practices of InterPlay by attending 4-weekend workshops, “The Life Practice Program” (Jan. 17th-19th, March 14th-16th, May 16th-18th & July 11th-13th), led by Sheila K. Collins.

Stay tuned for additional InterPlay offerings.