Friday, February 7, 2014


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 or InterPlay (510-465-2797 or

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