Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Performing Warrior Mother: Atlanta InterPlay Goes to Darnell Senior Multipurpose Center with Sheila K. Collins

CONNECTING AFTER THE PERFORMANCE. How wonderful to share experiences about life after Sheila K. Collins' performance of her book, Warrior Mother. Sister Jewel, an international InterPlayer, looks on while Sheila talks to members of the audience. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
By Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Social Media Facilitator

Imagine finishing 3-days of InterPlay with Sheila K. Collins, the dancing social worker and author, and then joining her to perform her book, Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss,  and Rituals that Heal,  at a very large senior center! The Darnell Senior Multipurpose Center has programming to fully engage its seniors at physical, social, and emotional levels. What a perfect place for Atlanta InterPlay to visit with Sheila and her one of-a-kind-book performances!

Even better? We Atlanta InterPlayers had seen this group of seniors from Atlanta’s southwest side before we visited them at their center! Recently, one of their theatre troupe rehearsals followed our Second Saturday InterPlay at the Mask Center in the Little Five Points Community Center! Now, we are on the way to becoming more than acquaintances! Who knows what collaborations and play may ensue!

Here are some photos documenting this Atlanta InterPlay event with Sheila. 

ARRIVAL.  On a cool Monday morning in May, six of us Atlanta InterPlayers accompanied Sheila to the Darnell Senior Center to assist in the book performance of Warrior Mother. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

GREETINGS. We were delighted to be engulfed by the energy filling this multipurpose center for seniors. In addition to swimming, working out, art and calligraphy classes, we found that our InterPlay performance was scheduled in a room between the theatre troupe's rehearsal and the bridge club. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

THEATRE TROUPE REHEARSAL. Pre-book performance with Sheila, something fun and intriguing was going on! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

BOOKS FOR SALE. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

THE BOOK PERFORMANCE. Sheila reads from her book and sets up the InterPlay performance. Our clarinet player, Debra Hiers, was late and one of the audience members volunteered to accompany us with his saxophone! The wonderful surprises that life brings us. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

THE PITTSBURGH FORM. We began the performance with a group InterPlay form that uses both movement and story. Each member introduces herself and tells a short three-sentence story on a theme (Sheila had given us the theme of "laughter and tears") and then creates a movement that is repeated by everyone.  (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

A LARGE BODY STORY. Instead of reading a particular passage from her book, Sheila decided to tell it as a "large body story," moving and talking at the same time. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
IMPROVISATIONAL MUSIC. Atlanta InterPlay is so thrilled to welcome Debra Hiers to its performance group. Her improvisational clarinet music is just amazing to move to! We performers did the form, "Walk, Run, Stop," while Sheila read from her book and Debra played her clarinet. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
FINISHING UP. Jennifer Denning proposes future possibilities of play with our audience. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
TALKING ABOUT THE BOOK. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

GROUP PERFORMANCE PHOTO. We were drawn to pose with this glorious sculpture directly outside the front door of the Darnell Senior Center as we left. (photo by a volunteer)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Help Atlanta InterPlay Support Survivors of Sex Trafficking: GIVE INTERPLAY DAY (MAY 7, 2014 midnight-to-midnight)

By Ruth Schowalter, Atlanta InterPlay Social Media Facilitator

May 7th, 2014 is “Give to InterPlay Day.” Donators’ gifts will be doubled to support InterPlay make positive changes in the world (see here for in-depth information)!  Donors are invited to choose one of the various InterPlay projects they would like to support (see projects here).


Atlanta InterPlay has chosen to support survivors of sex trafficking (see here to donate for Atlanta’s cause) because Atlanta has one of the largest sex-trafficking businesses in the United States (see article here).

Below are interviews with Atlanta InterPlay Director Jennifer Denning, Atlanta InterPlayer and Social Worker Christine Gautreaux, and InterPlay Board President Sheila K. Collins.

Jennifer Denning (center)

Ruth Schowalter: Why did Atlanta choose supporting survivors of sex trafficking?

Jennifer Denning: We are developing a partnership with an organization here in Atlanta that has a program for women who have been involved in sex trafficking or are vulnerable to it. This particular program supports these young and adult women by providing services like education and job placement and personal and interpersonal skills. During this assistance, InterPlay can be a useful tool to these survivors which honors and, in some cases, help them reclaim the wisdom of their bodies.

RS: How will the donated money to Atlanta InterPlay be used to support this partnership?

JD: The donations will provide a stipend for the InterPlay facilitators’ time, travel, and gas. InterPlay is a non-profit organization.

RS: Could you tell me about ways that you are currently using InterPlay in assisting people in marginalized communities?

JD: Last year, through “Give InterPlay Day” Atlanta partnered with Reforming Arts. It is a non-profit organization that brings education and the performing arts (acting, playwriting, and performance) to incarcerated women.

Reforming Arts is offered in a prison located in North Georgia, an hour’s drive from Atlanta. The funds from “Give InterPlay Day 2013” made it possible for me to bring InterPlay a dozen times to these women. The experience was great! The women were responsive and there was a lot of laughter and new insights. They talked about how before InterPlay they hadn’t known their “dorm-mates” in such meaningful ways. It was wonderful to see how InterPlay exercises helped them create grace for one another. A real rich sense of support and connection was generated through our InterPlay work.

I also integrate InterPlay into the theatre work I do with Synchronicity Theatre’s “Playmaking For Girls” program—a program that serves incarcerated girls and girls living in group homes. The “I Could Talk About” exercise has consistently proven to be an accessible and playful way to begin to break down boundaries between the girls and the teachers and to have participants begin to recognize that the details of their lives have value.

RS: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JD: Yes! I love InterPlay for creating connections between people and also for accessing that authentic creative place within us all. It is really important to create these opportunities for girls, women, and people who don’t get these opportunities that often. It is particularly important to make the power of the expressive arts—telling our stories, having our voices and delighting in the movement of our bodies—accessible to people who haven’t had that opportunity. I believe the health of the greater community depends on the embodied health of us all.

Sheila K. Collins

Ruth Schowalter: As a social worker, former social work professor, and now president of the board of InterPlay, could you explain how InterPlay has evolved to being used as a tool for social change.

Sheila Collins:  We have a term called “Applied InterPlay.”  In the beginning, InterPlay was an art-based system created by two dancing ministers and those of us who collected around them were using the tools for our own growth and amusement. Then we started taking the InterPlay creativity tools into different communities, organizations, and agencies.

Those of us in the Body Wisdom Office (headquarters of InterPlay) have some concept of what InterPlay can add to an agency, and the agency knows what their people need. When you bring these entities together, it is very exciting. Something occurs that neither the agency nor InterPlay could do by themselves.

In Atlanta, these girls and women who have survived being trafficked are trying to get GEDs and job interviews. These goals are tough, especially when you are a felon (Many sex-trafficked women have been charged with prostitution and may have committed other crimes as a result of their situations). These survivors need more confidence, and some of that comes from “re-storying” their stories. Through InterPlay, what we’ve done is find a playful way to explore our own history and our own stories. And one of the Atlanta agencies working with women who have been sex-trafficked identified “re-storying” as something that would helpful to these women.

The idea of having a “Daughter-Mother Retreat” for program graduates came up in our conversation, and intergenerational work is a part of what we do in InterPlay. In a broad way, bringing InterPlay into any agency is a coming together, a partnership. You have creativity on both sides—the agency and the creative collaborators with the tools. Everybody wins. InterPlay brings new energy into what are often, pretty tough assignments.

RS: What do you have to say about Atlanta InterPlay choosing to support agencies assisting survivors of sex trafficking for “Give InterPlay Day”?

SC: Trauma is in the body, and it stays in the body longer than we would want it to. That is a scientific fact. For example, if you have been involved in a car accident, afterwards when you get into a car, your body may relive whatever happened to you. That’s why just figuring out trauma in your head with a therapist isn’t the whole solution. InterPlay is an indirect way to release that trauma from the body by using the tools of movement, dance, and voice, which wouldn’t happen if you were just talking.

RS: Why should people donate to Atlanta InterPlay for “Give InterPlay Day”?

SC: It seems to me that as a culture we have a debt to pay to our children that were not protected. That’s who these people are. There is awareness about this atrocity, so here is a creative innovative collaborative possibility that could make a huge difference for a small amount of money. IntePlay is efficient and effective.


Ruth Schowalter: Christine, you are a licensed master’s social worker (LMSW) with more than 16 years of experience, as well as an Atlanta InterPlayer. You will be one of the people going into the agencies working with survivors of sex trafficking using InterPlay. How do the tools of InterPlay support healing for these girls and women?

Christine Nichols Gautreaux (top center)
Christine Nichols Gautreaux: I think InterPlay is an incredible tool and a holistic way for people to heal, especially for people who have been through trauma.  Let’s explain that a little. As people go through trauma they disassociate from their bodies in order to survive. InterPlay is very effective for getting people to listen and connect with themselves and others. The healing process provided through InterPlay can be fun and gentle.

RS: What will you bring to these women as a social worker that does InterPlay?

CNG: In addition to a multitude of experience and tools, I also bring the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of InterPlay and to show that it is a proven method to increase people’s communication skills, wellbeing, and overall feeling of hope.

RS: What would you like to see happen in the future combining the tools of InterPlay and other social agencies?

CNG: I’d like to see the spread of InterPlay—does that sound like a plague? It would be a positive plague! InterPlay is a fun and proven way to increase hope in people’s lives. That’s huge! I can say from a professional and personal level that every time I participate in InterPlay, I feel great!