Monday, September 15, 2014

GIVE PERFORMANCE A HUG: An Atlanta InterPlayer's Notes from Phil Porter's performance workshop

Written by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Leader-In-Training

It’s an exciting time to be an InterPlayer! This October, InterPlay, a social global movement dedicated to ease, connection, human sustainability, and play, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. On the eve of such an auspicious time, InterPlay Atlanta had the good fortune to host InterPlay co-founder, Phil Porter for multiple events—a performance workshop, Second Saturday, The Secrets of Leading InterPlay training, and a Leading and Following workshop.

Here on this blog entry, I would like to share from my notes a few of the key ideas that Phil Porter presented in his workshop entitled, “Giving Performance a Hug,” to us InterPlay Atlanta performers who have just named our group, “Soulprint Players.”

Here goes...wheee...!

We are surrounded by performance of high caliber and have immediate access to it, explained Phil Porter. Exposure to that excellence can be scary for us in some ways.

In InterPlay, he explained, we are creating endlessly every time we do something. He referred to the “nob of intention” which we can turn up or down depending on what we want to do when we are creating—and this IS performance!

Therefore, we can begin to smooth out the “scary” part in performance by thinking of everything we do as a constant process of creating.

When we acknowledge the aspects of our humanness, InterPlay performers can push or play with what they or “doing” or “creating.” We can pay attention to what part of our “performance” is consistent and expand our range from there.

For example, what might I learn about myself, my partners, my world when I talk loudly or softly, quickly and slowly, or in a high-or-low-pitched voice? Walking in an “unusual” way or path is another activity, which allows us to experience a wider range of possibilities when creating. “Ideas for walking are endless,” Phil said, “A pot full of ideas, living things, trying to crawl out.” He assured us that something--the “fullness”-- is there, inside of us.

InterPlay asks us what we are capable of doing.  And by expanding the range of our possibilities, we have more access to information about ourselves, thus enhancing our lives and performances! Hurray!

As performers, we must be IN our bodies so we have access to it to perform. Phil describes the people in his InterPlay performance group, “WING IT! Performance Ensemble,” as “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

In InterPlay, we have a wide range of forms available to us such as “side-by-side stories,” “following and leading,” or “shape and stillness.” We play with them regularly so that they become a part of us and our repertoire as humans and performers opening us fully to our voice, movement, and story telling abilities.

Ask yourself, “What am I doing? How can I do the opposite?” Performing allows us to make aesthetic choices. In the same way a painter who has used a lot of green on her canvas might add a splash of red for contrast, so might an InterPlay performer slow down or speed up his movement or speech. Opposites enhance!

“We tend to go back to the middle,” Phil Porter said. He encouraged us to play around with the range of what we think is possible.  In one vocal exercise, he asked us to play around with volume at either end of the spectrum of loud and soft. When we finished, he asked us to measure our “loud” and “soft” on a scale of 1-to-10. Then he had us do the speaking exercise again to try to increase our existing range on either sides of the spectrum. To support this change in behavior, we were asked to step farther apart from our partner and not be too concerned about what our partner could or could not understand. Oh, was that fun playing around with speaking REALLY LOUD and REALLY SOFT!

Other forms of dance like ballet might provide simplicity or structure by having the dancers look and dress alike. In InterPlay, which fosters multiplicity of voices, performers are all different sizes, shapes, ages, and races. Therefore, it is the structure of the InterPlay forms that provide the SIMPLICITY for a performance.

And the COMPLEXITY comes from individual choices that InterPlayers make. For example with the form, “Walking, Stopping & Running,” individuals can choose when to walk, run, or stop, to enter and when to leave. They can choose to move alone or with others, to go with or against them. The possibilities are infinite!

By exploring the concepts of opposites, simplicity and complexity, and expansion, we can move into new territories of BEING. As we create, we expand, we connect with others, and the change becomes a part of ourselves. We discover that our willingness to expand has allowed us to grow.

Ta da! Expanding our humanness, expands our creativity, which enhances our performance!
MULTIPLICITY OF VOICES. Here are some of the participants at the conclusion of Phil Porter's performance workshop, "Give Performance a Hug."--photo by Ruth Schowalter
The beautiful aspect of using the improvisational tools of InterPlay is that it results in a multiplicity of voices being heard and affirmed. InterPlay performers are individuals making choices about how they want to BE in the moment either as a solo performer or an ensemble one—indeed a creative act!

Summarizing my experience from Phil Porter’s workshop, “Give Performance a Hug,” I have these thoughts:

I love InterPlay! I love Phil Porter and my fellow InterPlayers.

I appreciate being “given permission” to BE more myself through play.

I find it exciting to think of the actions that I take in my life as an endless process of creating.

Being invited to expand what I know about myself through playfulness alone and along with my community excites me.

Finally, it just takes my breath away to think that BEING MYSELF and playing with others through voice, movement, and story telling can go to the stage and become performance!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thank you to Jennifer Denning, InterPlay Atlanta director and founder of “Soulprint Players,” for holding the space for InterPlay to grow in Atlanta and nurturing it in numerous ways. Jennifer has lovingly cultivating a group of InterPlay performers in the past year, ensuring that we Atlanta InterPlayers get training from the best (see this blog, this one, and this one for performance workshops with Sheila Collins).

PHIL PORTER with Ruth Schowalter--photo by Christine Nichols Gautreaux
Thank you to Phil Porter from coming to Atlanta and giving us such an enriching weekend. Thanks also to Cynthia Winton-Henry, co-founder with Phil for developing such a rewarding way to live our lives playfully. Sheila Collins you have given us a wonderful foundation for “Soulprint Players” here in Atlanta!


  1. The Weekend was extraordinary and what a great blog to summarize and record it! Thanks Ruth :)

    1. Christine! I am so glad we are taking this journey together with so many wonderful people in the Atlanta area!

  2. Great capturing of some of the wisdom Phil shared! I love expanding my range in the company of fellow affirmative players like you.

    1. Jennifer thank you! What you have set into motion here in Atlanta with InterPlay and our InterPlay performance group, Soulprint Players is so expansive for me.