Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Glimpse of InterPlay at Lee Arrendale State Prison

By Jennifer Denning

"I look forward to this class every week. I always feel better after being here."

"For the two minutes of that (solo witnessed) dance I felt like I wasn't in prison."

Yesterday, after a sixteen week session of InterPlay in collaboration with Reforming Arts, women at Lee Arrendale State Prison shared an InterPlay performance with other women at the prison for the first time. The theme they choose to perform on was “Creative Self-Expression.”

As often goes at the prison, our day did not start as planned. We had planned 45 minutes of warming up with our ensemble. Instead there was coming and going, news of some women being sick or in “lock down,” and, most significantly, awareness in the group that just that day the date of execution for a woman in their midst had been set.

A blue sky day at Lee Arrendale State Prison

The moment called for stillness and listening. The words of Body Wisdom board president, Sheila Collins, came to mind: “We have to make art out of what happens to us.” I shared these words with the women, took a deep breath and trusted the forms of InterPlay and the time we had spent together to do the work.

It did.

There are many stories I could share with you from my time sharing InterPlay at LASP. Here is one: a woman who joined our group for the first time a few weeks ago jumped in to perform with us. She shared a bit of her personal story with us. She was married young and went from “sleeping with my sister to sleeping with my husband.” Her husband was an abuser, and she ended up in prison for injuring him in self defense. At age 70+ she told us, “I am learning how to be autonomous.” Yesterday she surprised us all when she jumped up to do a side-by-side solo dance on the theme of “passion.” She danced with an infectious freedom and joy. After the performance she said, “I didn’t think I was creative at all. InterPlay allows me to access that part of myself.”

Our work that began with playshops in 2013, expanded this year to include this performance work; soon-to-be certified InterPlay leader and Licensed Master Social Worker, Christine Gautreux, has become a teaching partner, and we are awaiting approval for a new series of workshops in the spring.

Yesterday our performance ended with performers and audience members joining together in a hand-to-hand dance in celebration of creative self-expression while one of our ensemble members played the drum. There was joy there. There was freedom there. There was something present that transcended those four walls.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A New Playshop Series: InterPlay Alchemy: The Creative Magic of the Embodied Soul

REACHING IN THE WARM UP STRETCH. On Sunday, January 25th, 2015, I completed my final requirement to become a certified InterPlay leader by getting filmed leading InterPlay so that my mentor, Phil Porter, co-founder of InterPlay, can observe me teaching. That's me, Ruth Schowalter, second from the left. (photo by my husband, Tony Martin)
written by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay-Leader-in-Training

Hurray for mile markers--those events in life that "mark" a significant change in one's life. Yesterday, was one of those moments for me. For almost two years I have been living and breathing InterPlay ever since I discovered it while doing research on using improvisation as tool in the English as a Second Language classroom. At Soulprint Players, our Atlanta InterPlay performance troupe's rehearsal, I completed my last requirement for becoming a certified InterPlay leader by having 30 minutes of my teaching recorded! Yay!

Of course, there are a few more formalities before I can hang my shingle as a certified InterPlay leader. For instance, Phil Porter, co-founder of InterPlay, needs to see the recording of my teaching and have a discussion with me. He is currently in Australia with InterPlayers there and then returns to California, and the Body Wisdom office only to begin a workshop with the other co-founder of InterPlay, Cynthia Winton-Henry, at the beginning of February. So we are not having the celebratory party yet!

Meanwhile, at the encouragement and support of InterPlay Atlanta regional director, Jennifer Denning, I have created my first InterPlay class! I am so excited to be offering it in my community of Decatur within walking distance of where I live! I am "reaching" out with my flaps up ready for discovery!
REACHING FOR THE HIGHER SELF. As I offer a new playshop series in the Metro-Atlanta area, I am practicing keeping my "flaps up."  "Flaps Up" is a phrase used in InterPlay to express reaching up to the "big self" as opposed to the "little self." Both big and small selves are equally valid and treasured but different. Perhaps it is our ability to navigate between these selves that is the challenge. At this mile marker for me as I step into being an InterPlay Leader, I am practicing loving and holding space for both my smaller, finite self that dwells in the specifics of every day life and the higher self that mingles in the great infinite mystery. (Image by me, Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter, titled "Baptism at Sweetwater Creek")

Here is the flyer I created to announce my playshop series, "InterPlay Alchemy: The Creative Magic of the Embodied Soul":

InterPlay Alchemy: The Creative Magic of the Embodied Soul

Facilitated by Ruth Schowalter

“Learn how to walk in the sweetness of the possession of your own soul.”  -D.H. Lawrence

What is it you alone know and want to express? Are you being called to speak from your soul? Each one of us has a private way of speaking that yearns for support and to be heard in community.

InterPlay allows us to speak to one another in the marvelous flexible languages of movement, voice, story telling, and stillness. But what is InterPlay and how is it alchemical?

InterPlay is an improvisational system that is an active creative way to unlock the wisdom of the body. Devoted to fun, InterPlay integrates body, mind, heart, and spirit in a “sneaky deep” way. It also teaches the language and ethic of play in a powerful way. If you would like to be a “recovering serious person,” InterPlay might be for you. For more information about InterPlay, visit
In this eight-week series of Tuesday playshops, “InterPlay Alchemy: The Creative Magic of the Embodied Soul,” we will play around with themes related to the meaning of life--thresholds, “flyingtime,” the little self and higher self, grace, joy, wholeness, health, and more.

InterPlay invites us to create from where we are, and not where we think we should be. At the same time, creating from our embodied souls can transform us in ways that feel magical!

This course is open to both experienced and new InterPlay participants.
Tuesdays 10am to noon
February 3rd-24th and
March 3rd  to 31st.  
*(March 10th, no class)
Fee 8 classes:  $120.00
Decatur First Christian Church, 601 West Ponce De Leon Ave., Decatur, Georgia, 30030

Contact Ruth Schowalter for further information and for signing up at:  or   404-580-2392
For more about InterPlay in Atlanta see:
Ruth Schowalter. photo by Lisa Alexander Streib
For more about me, see my blog,

Ahhhh...I am experiencing the sense of wonder at taking my ideas--ones that I have been dancing, singing, drawing, painting, and speaking into the world. My love of celebrating each and every individual's uniquities including my own has manifested into InterPlay Alchemy!

I believe in living vibrant meaningful lives shared in community! How awesome to be able to celebrate this vibrancy through the marvelous languages of movement, voice, story telling and stillness in InterPlay playshops! 

This is a "flaps up" moment for me! Hallelujah!

FLAPS UP ON FACEBOOK! Experiencing my higher self, expanding into the world of friends and new possible friends using the social media of Facebook. This image accompanied my announcement of InterPlay Alchemy on the Facebook page of InterPlay Atlanta.
That's Coffee With Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and share your moments of transition with me! What do you know about your big and little self?

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks to InterPlay co-founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter for giving us what the body wants and ways to access having it all by reuniting the body, mind, heart and soul--at last! Thanks to our ever expanding InterPlay Atlanta community, especially InterPlay Atlanta director Jennifer Denning and soon to be certified InterPlay leader Christine Gautreaux. I am also so grateful to the members of the InterPlay Atlanta performance troupe, whose soulful playing so inspires me. And gratitude to the Reverend James L. Brewer-Calvert, the senior pastor at Decatur First Christian Church, who opened the doors of his church for me to teach my first series of InterPlay play sessions. What an awesome community to be a part of! I also want to acknowledge Callahan Pope McDonough, Lesly Fredman, and Lynn Hesse for helping me shape this new class in words and place.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sneaky Deep Transitioning into 2015: January Second Saturday

HELLO 2015! InterPlay Atlanta gathered together for Second Saturday. (photo by Callahan Pope McDonough)
written by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Leader-in-Training

InterPlay Atlanta members began 2015 meaningfully and playfully! Nineteen of us gathered on January 10 for our first Second Saturday of the New Year. Our numbers of InterPlayers are growing!

I'm so thankful for the structure that Jennifer Denning provides for our InterPlay Atlanta community. 2014 was rich with opportunities. In addition to our Second Saturdays, we had deep play gatherings, performance workshops, the Life Practice Program, Leader Training, and the formation of Soulprint Players, an InterPlay performance group.

For our first Second Saturday of 2015, we spent our 90-minute play period together moving, vocalizing, telling stories, witnessing, and noticing using TRANSITION as the theme thanks to the facilitation by Jennifer Denning.
WARMING UP. (photos by Ruth Schowalter)
What a great word, TRANSITION, is! And InterPlay provides so many different ways to "dance" with this word, going deeper into its meaning. Babbling, moving, and vocalizing about times of change in our lives in our InterPlay community illuminated our own lives and that of other InterPlayers!
Telling my own stories about times of change--the recent death of a friend; the year 1976 when I went to California for my freshman year of college; and the moment when I "discovered" InterPlay while doing research on improvisation--created a foundation for me to stand upon for 2015. Recognizing and honoring the changes in my life seems similar to preparing the winter soil for planting a spring garden.

Listening to other InterPlayers' stories of TRANSITIONS in either pairs or small groups added layers and dimensionality to my stories of change. In some magical way, it is as if other people's TRANSITION stories become my experience too. My life feels enlarged, and I feel connected to these story tellers in an unexpected warm way. InterPlay is indeed what some describe as "sneaky deep."
FIND A SHAPE. I love the invitation to become aware of another person's shape in the room and to take on that shape. And to do it again. And again. How affirming to see myself mirrored in another person's body. How warming it is to reflect another person's shape. Oh yes, this simple form gives the opportunity to connect and experience empathy. Sneaky deep! 
What TRANSITIONS are you going through as we begin 2015? Come join us on Second Saturdays and share your stories. Find out for yourself what "sneaky deep" means!

Monday, January 5, 2015

NC InterPlay Untensive: Bringing in 2015 by Walking in the Darkness and the Light

Written by Ruth Schowalter, InterPlay Leader-in-Training

Happy New Year everyone! How are you? How did you begin 2015?

As one who loves InterPlay, I had the good fortune to travel from Atlanta to Browns Summit, North Carolina, to bring in the new year with about 40 other InterPlayers at an Untensive Retreat!

Yes! You are asking what an “untensive retreat” is! Here is the brief definition:

GATHERING AND SHARING. NC Untensive Retreat, 2014-2015 (photos by Ruth Schowalter)

At an “Untensive” retreat, you get to relax, connect, play, laugh, be moved and you get to learn helpful ideas and tools that can create more ease, fullness, purpose and satisfaction in your life. (For an expanded definition, go here.)

Ginny Going and Tom Henderson
Facilitated by deeply loved and seasoned InterPlay leaders Tom Henderson and Ginny Going, the Untensive summoned people from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Virginia, many who have made this InterPlay retreat an annual pilgrimage.

And I can see why! Our time together was rich with play, connection, relaxation, and meaningfulness. 

“Walking in the darkness and the light,” was the theme that Ginny and Tom gave us to contemplate during our four days together.  Then they provided us the opportunity to “ritualize” our walk in darkness together in community.
On Wednesday night, New Year’s Eve, we did a “Bless and Release” ritual, taking a stone to hold our thoughts and switching on a “candle” to carry us through our meditation. On Friday night, we were invited to walk in the darkness in a labyrinth made of candles (Thank you Roger Adkins and Brian Herring), remembering what we had released earlier in the week and contemplating what it is we would like to invite into our lives in 2015.

Of course, the “Walking in the light” part of our time together seemed so very well fulfilled! We began January 1st with play and an afternoon hike, joining others around the United States in an annual hike in a state park. Oh we had a glorious walk in the North Carolina piedmont at Haw River State Park, the location of our Untensive Retreat!  The winter sun shone brightly, causing the lake to sparkle and illuminating to gold, the brown leaves on our path.

Other daylight hours included, playing communally with InterPlay forms, resting in our rooms, sitting in the lobby by the fire, attending a vocal workshop with Kenneth Miller and a following-leading one with Kerstin Haug.
Yes! We walked the walk in both the light and the dark. What a “deep” metaphor to take into 2015.

Oh we did so much more during our time at Haw River State Park! But you may want to find out for yourself by attending one of Tom and Ginny’s Untensive Retreats there!
So for now, I will leave you with a wish for a meaningful and playful 2015. What will you “bless and release” as you enter this new year? What would you like more or less of? 
COLLECTING GEMS FROM INTERPLAYERS. I have so much fun asking questions of other InterPlayers about their InterPlay origins, experience, and wisdom. Here I am collecting some information from Brian Herring, an InterPlay leader from the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina region. Robin Poer, another NC InterPlayer rests nearby. (photo by my amazing husband, Tony Martin)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Gratitude to Tom Henderson and Ginny Going for their outstanding leadership and BIG LOVE. What a blessing you are to the InterPlay community. Thanks to Ken Miller and Kerstin Haug for their incrementally planned workshops. Appreciation to Park Ranger Kelly for her supportive presence and meeting our needs related to food and shelter! And finally, I want to applaud my amazing husband, Tony Martin, who supported my simultaneous love of him and InterPlay by accompanying me on this Untensive Retreat. I had such a grand time with you at my side. Thank you!

Here is a slide show of our NC Untensive: