Thursday, March 31, 2016

InterPlay at The Friendship Center: Playing in the Pews

By Jennifer Denning, founder of InterPlay Atlanta

"I  could talk about 'Hi-Ho Silver!'" is often how John, one of the participants in the InterPlay class at The Friendship Center at Holy Comforter church checks into the group. The Friendship Center is an inclusive community that promotes the mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing of adults marginalized by mental health challenges and by poverty.  John loves the Lone Ranger. While warming up our voices John often says the vocal expression reminds him of the Lone Ranger, and he makes sounds the Lone Ranger might make. John is free with his voice and happy to share. His movements are sometimes limited, but he sits when he needs to and always lends a hand to the dance.
Warming up our bodies at Holy Comforter Church
-photo by Ruth Schowalter
Derrick is often shy, but he reaches for the drum when we bring instruments for our singing. Slightly built and often tentative, he watched us from the pews for many weeks before joining in our play. Now he is a regular, and I often see a small smile emerge on his face during our time together.

Donald, an older gentleman, is a minister who likes to bring prayer to the end of our InterPlay sessions. While InterPlay is a secular program, we make space for this time of closure which is meaningful to our participants at The Friendship Center. We hold our InterPlay class in the church sanctuary where the Vicar of the church, Alexis Chase, has welcomed us to dance between the pews and play behind the pulpit. Our bodies, voices, stories and hearts fill the space with Spirit.

Thank you to Alexis Chase for envisioning the value of InterPlay at The Friendship Center and inviting us into this amazing program!

Friday, March 25, 2016

For Resettled Refugees InterPlay is about Making Connections with Parts that have been Stifled

INTERPLAY ATLANTA. Helping resettled refugee students test their own self-imposed barriers (March 2016).
Written by Shamsun Nahar, Site Manager Clarkston Global Academy, Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc (CPACS)

On a day-to-day basis, people put up so many walls, barriers, and limitations on themselves when it comes to expression and human interaction. There are many socio-normative rules that dictate what sounds to make, and what the body should look like, and what it should do.

Recently, resettled refugee students have used InterPlay at the Clarkston Global Academy to find a creative outlet in which to communicate with each other, and with themselves. As a participant, I enjoyed exploring my vocals, my body movements, and watching language manifest itself into the human body’s movement.
NEVER A DULL MOMENT. Participants in InterPlay Atlanta's "Creative Communication" class make connections through movement and story telling activities. Here participants were invited to celebrate the spring by embodying alternately flowers and pollinators like bees and butterflies. The flowers used shape and stillness but changed shapes when "pollinated."
I loved watching the same sort of fascination mirror itself on the students participating. The best part is hearing so distinctly and loudly the voices of students who are normally shy. There has never been a dull moment within this group. Each moment, we are encouraging participation, and encouraging others to test their own self-imposed barriers.
Ultimately, the greatest take-away from this is not just the connection made with others who participate with you, but the connection you make with parts of yourself that has always been suppressed and stifled. I can wholeheartedly say I adore this InterPlay workshop series. 

GIVE INTERPLAY DAY 2016 (April 7th--one day only)

You can help us continue bringing InterPlay to these resettled refugee teenagers by supporting us on Give InterPlay Day 2016 (click here: Give InterPlay Day for Atlanta's Underserved Communities).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: In October 2015, as a result of funding raised in April 2015 for Atlanta's underserved communities on the national “Give InterPlay Day,” (Thank you everyone!) and the developing relationship with the Clarkston Community Center (CCC), InterPlay Atlanta was able to accept Andrea Waterstone’s invitation to participate in the Clarkston Youth Initiative (renamed Clarkston Global Academy) by beginning a Creative Communications class taught by Ruth Schowalter. Although funding ran out in December, classes have continued once-a-week since January because of the positive impact that InterPlay is having as described by CPACS site manager Shamsun Nahar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Crossing the Street to the Pre-Trial Detention Center

Most Tuesday mornings you will find two InterPlayers crossing Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta to get to the pre-trial detention center.  There we meet up with a representative of the Public Defender's office sign in and then get an officer escort up to the fourth floor through numerous locked and monitored doors.  We make a quick stop at the third floor office to pick up our bongo drums and cd player.  

As a Licensed Master Social Worker and Certified InterPlay Leader, I am called to work with people who are oppressed and under-served.  The women in the pre-trial detention center gather with us in a small program room to tell their stories, move their bodies and find their voices.  These are women who have suffered trauma, extreme poverty, sometime homelessness and more.  InterPlay is way for them to regain a sense of their inner authority and body wisdom.  It is a way for people who have experienced trauma to re-integrate their mind, body, spirit.  

Thank you for supporting this meaningful and important work.  We appreciate you and hope you will check out this year's GIVE INTERPLAY DAY on April 7th - Support InterPlay Atlanta.

Improvising Trilobite Eyes: InterPlaying with Evolutionary Concepts at the Atlanta Science Festival

TRILOBITES GONE MAD! Improvising trilobites in an InterPlay "Walk Stop Run," participants make eye contact before going into a "lean" or making contact with another trilobite. This photo was taken at the end of the activity after participants had been invited to create a "Trilobite Party." (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Written by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader and InterPlay Art and Soul Creativity Coach

“Trilobite Eyes” was a comment one participant left on Facebook beneath the group photo of the InterPlay workshop my scientist husband and I facilitated on Sunday, March 20 for the 2016 Atlanta Science Festival. After all, we had done the activity, “Walk Stop Run,” adding “the lean” using “Trilobite Eyes,” to ask another person’s permission through eye contact before engaging in some physical contact to support each others' weight, and then using eye contact again before disengaging from one another.

Titled “Improv-ing Evolution,” our two-hour collaboration where evolutionary concepts met the improvisational system of InterPlay was a resounding success! Participants reported having so much fun, laughing, and patting their chests as they proclaimed it a Sunday afternoon well spent. Other responses expressed surprise, such as “I learned something!” And it was wonderful to discover that often the acquisition of knowledge came from a partner, not the workshop facilitator and authority on the evolution content—Tony Martin, paleontologist, author, and Emory professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, nor me, the certified InterPlay leader.
INTERGENERATIONAL BABBLE.  The goal of this InterPlay/Science workshop was to have all ages play together with the topic of evolution. We began with some children participating in short "tellings" but since the event was geared for all ages and not just children, the children opted to leave--sadly. We learn from each other, no matter the age. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
How to play with scientific topics? How to engage the “whole” person—in addition to the mind—the body, heart, and spirit? Although we are in the beginning stages of teasing together science content with InterPlay’s respectful improvisational forms and principles, Tony and I find it deeply satisfying to share moments of discovery and insights with participants that feel joyful. 
During this workshop that took place at Core Dance Studios in Decatur Square, I noticed slowly dawning smiles, sudden gasps expressing epiphanies, and a physical expansiveness as they connected with each other through stories and movement.  And these were emotional and physical responses while discussing abstract concepts like deep time and co-evolution through pollination! Yes!

Before we had danced “Trilobite Eyes,” we did a typical InterPlay warm-up series, which included saying our names twice (even though there were more than 25 participants) and choosing a motion and having everyone repeat it. In our case, we had everyone choose a plant or animal and create an action his/her body wanted to make to express it. The workshop “fun” was ignited in the circle as everyone rapidly generated a surprisingly different movement to accompany sloth, rosemary, dinosaur, tree, or dog, or whatever…. It was clear that individual creativity was present in the room!

EMBODIED LEARNING IN COMMUNITY. “Judith and I thoroughly enjoyed the “Improv-ing Evolution” workshop and found it to be a wonderful learning experience," wrote Robert Vogt, Ph.D. and Research Chemist (far right in this photo).  "The diversity of participants was a big plus, with everyone contributing in their own ways during the different interplays.  Tony’s presentations included fascinating perspectives of our geologic and biologic history, and  I personally picked up many insights about a topic I thought I knew pretty well. Promoting science outreach and communication is critical for progress and pluralism in our society, and I am glad to endorse your efforts." 

Playing with the context of “deep time,” we stretched, hugged ourselves, swung our legs, and made big hip circles to the song, “Ages of Rock” on Ray Troll’s album, “Cruisin’ theFossil Freeway.” We embodied the idea that evolution takes time, and that the billions of years comprising the Earth’s history are divided into periods on the geologic time scale. Scientists divide these periods with names like Cambrian, Mississippian, and Jurassic by significant earth events, like the separation of the continents, or mass extinctions, or life explosions. We found that participants, after moving to “Ages of Rock” and asked to describe the periods or stages of their lives to a partner, also defined their life stages by important events, such as graduation, jobs, marriages, children, and illness.

Once again, just as we did in our workshop at the 2016 Southeastern Evolutionary Perspectives Society conference at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa in February, Tony and I introduced two explanations of how change occurs, Phyletic Gradualism and Punctuated Equilibrium, using “Incremental Steps” and “Walk Stop Run” (see this blog post).
PHYLETIC GRADUALISM. Here paleontologist Tony Martin introduces the concept of change that occurs slowly over time in a "micro-lecture" using a simple illustration that he drew. Participants had a chance to embody this concept using incremental steps, placing one foot after another to get to another place in the room. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
As my husband and I explore how to combine scientific concepts with InterPlay forms, we are developing an organizational structure of play with "micro-lectures." The scientist (Tony) intermittently offers content and answers questions as they occur. Then participants are invited to embody or create with that content in a personal way either through babbling, longer forms of story telling, and solo or group movement.
WAITING TO BE POLLINATED. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Perhaps, the most loved activity during our workshop was the one that introduced the concept of co-evolution and genetic variation. Beginning about 130 million years ago, pollinating insects show up in the fossil record at about the same time as flowering plants. After Tony explained how flowering plants and insects must have co-evolved, and still are today, everyone had the opportunity to become both a pollinator and a flowering plant. Taking turns, half the group watched or “witnessed” while the other half pollinated or were pollinated through movement to songs such as “The Flight of the Bumblebee” or “The Four Seasons.” The idea was that the flowering plants used shape and stillness. When they were pollinated they changed shapes. Pollinators were given the permission to explore their own modes of movement to express engaging with a flower.
FLOWERING PLANTS CHANGED SHAPES ECSTATICALLY. "My favorite Improv-ing activities during this workshop included Pollinators and Flowering Plants," wrote participant Joyce Kinnard, J.D., M.S., Licensed Professional Counselor. "We could improvise the delight of a flying insect going from one plant to another on a beautiful spring day, or a flower which is enjoying the visits of bees helping to spread its pollen. This fun activity illustrates the importance of organism and species interdependence in the evolutionary process." (Photo by Tony Martin)
Energy flooded the room during this pollinating frenzy. Witnesses, flowering plants, and pollinators were enlivened. Magic happened. Laughter punctuated individualized choices of movement and connection. “I will never see pollen the same again,” said participant Carol Glickman, M.S. Applied Linguistics and educator. She waved her hand out beyond the dance studio windows from where we were "playshopping." The Decatur, Georgia, skies were darkly yellowed with spring pollen. “I will hear these soundtracks and imagine all kinds of behavior going on that was invisible to me before,” she finished.
NOTICING. At intervals "Improv-ing Evolution" participants were asked to check-in with what they were experiencing and to share what they noticed with a partner or the whole group. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
The two hours we had together for this Atlanta Science Festival workshop were too short. Tony and I had planned enough activities for a day! We didn’t get a chance to explore movement from dinosaurs to birds (which are modern day dinosaurs), nor did we get to do the hand-to-hand contact to embody our evolution from fish to humans using Ray Troll’s song, “Fish Face.”
FOLLOWING AND LEADING IN ANIMAL GROUPS. To play around with co-evolution within a species, Tony and I divided the big group into four smaller ones and asked the members to decide what animal group they wanted to be. Here in the photo, the nearest group chose to be eagles and the group behind them dogs or wolves. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
But before concluding our time together with these enthusiastic particpants, we had the opportunity to “flock,” “school,” or “herd”—that is to play around with evolution within a species and cooperative group behavior. After dividing the participants into four groups, each chose an animal to embody together. Wolves, geese, eagles, and lemmings then warmed up by taking turns being leaders and followers within their groups before “flocking” (moving together as a group) for the rest of the participants to watch. 
Surprised laughter erupted again. The movements were so different based on the chosen animal! Also there was committed cooperative leading and following. As the last group finished “herding” moving to Shakira’s song, “Eyes Like Yours,” I invited everyone to join in. There was a riotous uproar as everyone leapt up to dance and move with the lemmings. Oh my goodness! I joined them too!
PERSONAL EVOLUTION STORY. As our workshop came to an end, we invited participants to share their own evolution stories, using movement, a made-up language, or English. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Tony Martin and I will continue this journey of playing with science to experience it kinesthetically and emotionally in addition to understanding it intellectually. I hope you will join us!
Improv-ing Evolution GROUP PHOTO! (photo by Atlanta Science Festival volunteer, Michelle Schmitz)
Acknowledgments: Meisa Salaita and Jordan Rose of the Atlanta Science Festival. The volunteers Amanda, Michelle and Michelle, my husband and collaborator, Tony Martin, the InterPlay Atlanta family who attended, Jay and Yumi from CPACS and the Clarkston Community Center, and all the new participants that showed up and dedicated themselves to playing and learning. Thanks to scientists Bill Witherspoon and Pamela Gore, authors of Roadside Geology of Georgia. And as always thanks to InterPlay co-founders, Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry.
EVALUATIONS. Wonderful to see everyone stay after and fill out the Atlanta Science Festival evaluations. (photo by Ruth Schowalter--you can see me in the mirror)
INTERPLAY and the ATLANTA SCIENCE FESTIVAL. InterPlay Atlanta was a partner with the 2016 Atlanta Science Festival. We were in good company with local universities, schools, businesses, and organizations.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Claiming a New Name at Lee Arrendale State Prison

By Jennifer Denning

"To see and to be seen cannot be underestimated; when seeing and being seen take place, it is like a blessing; or we could say, it is a healing."
                                                                           -Robert Sardello, The Power of Soul

Photo credit Christine Gautreaux
“Don’t call me by my old name. That name meant nothing.” So proclaimed a woman in the InterPlay performance class at Lee Arrendale State Prison during this winter’s InterPlay performance for one hundred fellow inmates.

The performer took the stage and everyone listened. It was an important moment. The woman who had changed her name has been joining in InterPlay for over two years. She is a natural performer, but has been hesitant to claim the stage, preferring instead to be our talented drummer.  During this winter’s performance she took the stage fully as she shared a “big body story” about the significance of her new name. She interacted with the audience and had them call out her old name to which she didn’t respond. She then had them call out her new name to which she enthusiastically answered.  I got it. I think everyone witnessing did. The new name matters. It symbolizes a woman who is transformed and transforming. It has power. In some ways the offering of this story became a rite of passage- a cementing of a new self. The context of the InterPlay performance- one that affirms and honors the path of each individual’s wisdom and expression created a space for this expression.

In any InterPlay class we assume each participant's bodywisdom creates pathways to wholeness and connection. That pathway is different for each person. We offer forms and tools for creative expression, but each individual is free to participate (or not) as they listen to what feels right in their own body. What a relief it is to be free from the feeling of needing to transform, fix or heal. Really all that is necessary is to see and let oneself be seen. Robert Sardello writes in The Power of Soul,  "To see and to be seen cannot be underestimated; when seeing and being seen take place, it is like a blessing; or we could say, it is a healing." My body needs to see and be seen without analyzing or being analyzed. That neutral space creates an opening for magic to happen. It happens in dance studios, theatres and churches, and it happens in prisons.

With much gratitude to my teaching partner, Christine Gautreaux and to Wende Ballew, Director of Reforming Arts for seeing the value of InterPlay at Lee Arrendale and inviting us into her rich programming. Much gratitude also to Alternate Roots for awarding us an artistic Assistance Grant for this fall/winter programming (The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon, The Kresge Foundation).  

Monday, March 14, 2016

InterPlay at the Pre-Trial Detention Center

Picture take by C. Gautreaux

Through metal detectors, security, sign in and officer escorts through numerous locked gates we make our way onto the women's unit Tuesday mornings at the Pre-trial detention center in Downtown Atlanta.  At the officer's station we announce who we are and what we are doing:  "We're here with the Public Defender's Office S.E.E.D.S. program to do InterPlay."  

Women who were in jail last week join us and the newly incarcerated sometimes hang back to see what is happening and what we are up too - until the music starts.   We start the music in the warm up and it draws them in.  You see it's the only music some of them have heard since they were locked up.  On this unit they are not allowed personal devices or music to be played out loud.  The women are here because they cannot afford bail and they have been detained for traffic violations, public intoxication or other offenses.  The music draws them in and they stay for the connection and fun.  We've heard noticings of feelings including, "felt like freedom," "joy for the first time since I've been here," and "Peace,"   Space is created for these women to be their authentic whole selves - sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry and we always connect with the dignity and worth of every human being.

InterPlay and your support of InterPlay helps make this work possible in our community and we are grateful as leaders and community members.

Give InterPlay Day is April 7th & you can click here to help us continue this work:  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

SAVORING SPRING: Our bodies, our voices, the light and the seed that rises from within

SONGBIRD EGGS. "You are given the questions of others to hold in the emptiness of your hands, songbird eggs that can still hatch if you keep them warm...." What questions are you holding in your hands today I asked the participants Saturday morning.  (photos by Ruth Schowalter)
Written by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader and InterPlay Art & Soul Coach

and expressive...

...were the words we InterPlayers strung together at the conclusion of our 90 minutes together playing around with dancing our questions and telling our stories to celebrate the approaching spring and daylight savings time. Using the InterPlay forms, we savored our bodies, voices, the light and the seed that rises within us.
HANDFUL OF INTERPLAYERS. When one or more gather to play, the time together is invariably rich and full. We missed others in our InterPlay Atlanta family in Jennifer Denning's absence but found connection and joy in the quietness of our small group.
In Jennifer Denning's absence, the Second Saturday gathering was small; however, among the five of us we were given the mysterious of gift of a kind of STILLNESS. We moved at a gentle pace, almost like molasses, especially considering one of the regular InterPlay participants' foot injury. As I facilitated this March InterPlay session at the Mask Theatre in the Little Five Points Community Center, I found myself transported away from "chronos" or linear time into something called "kairos," a kind of indeterminate time which can be restorative to both body and spirit. 

I found myself  leaning into storytelling pairs curious to discover something of their savorings. Yet I could not hear the exchanges taking place in whispers....
What had caused these fairly raucous group of InterPlayers to speak so softly and such lilting rhythms their voices blended with the air conditioner on this warm March day?
Playing with BIBO (breathing in and breathing out), we visualized seeds planted at the base of our stomachs unfolding. As the seeds grew, so did our breaths. They became audible tones. Then personal songs, accompanied by one hand dances.... We savored our voices and bodies in this blended song dance.
Since Saturday night, we were moving our clocks forward, I asked everyone to think about the increasing light and longer days. "What might you be," I asked, "as the light expands and the seed(s) within you rises up?" After participants had popcorned back-and-forth numerous times "what they might be" and acquired a list of possibilities, they were invited to embody one or more of their imaginings.
We finished up our time together playing around with this question:

As the days grow longer, and the light increases, what do you want more of? 

Partcipants told their stories in a made-up language, danced them, led and ecstatically followed partners. They told their stories a second time savoring them while using only their body and voice (tones). Then it seemed appropriated to conclude with the InterPlay form, "Dance on Behalf of," open to whatever idea, person, event, etc, they wanted or were called to move on behalf of....

From the poem, How the Light Comes, by Mane Richardson:

 "...And so may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow th the arc it makes.
May we open 
and open more 
and open still 
to the blessed light
that comes." 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Using InterPlay for Science Communication: Improv-ing Evolution

written by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader and InterPlay Art & Soul Creativity Coach

“Everyone spread out and find a space in the room. Now, find another space in the room that you want to travel to. Put one foot in front of the other and take your time getting to that spot. Once you arrive at your destination, you may decide to go to somewhere else in the room.”

I delivered these seemingly mysterious directions to a group of university students and professors who attended the collaborative workshop that my scientist husband, Tony Martin, and I gave at the 1st annual Southeastern Evolutionary Perspectives Society (SEEPS) meeting, which was held at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, during Valentine’s weekend 2016. Titled “Improv-ing Your Teaching and Learning of Evolution,” we teased together evolutionary concepts with improvisational forms from InterPlay so that scientists and scientists-in-training might experience “embodying” nuggets of intellectual concepts.
Introducing InterPlay with my collaborator, Tony Martin, Professor of Practice in Environmental Sciences at Emory University (left), and SEEPS organizer, Christopher Lynn, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Evolutionary Studies. Facilitating this workshop with me has temporarily shifted Tony's position in relation to teaching students. "I'm no longer a sage on the stage, but a guide," he described his experience to me. "It's rewarding to see students learning in another way other than just using their minds."
Once the participants had taken incremental steps across the room to various chosen spots and were standing still, I stopped the languid music of “La Vie en Rose,” and asked, “What evolutionary concept might this activity represent?” Tony and I were surprised at the rapid and numerous responses that flew around the room--beak shapes in finches and neck length in tortoises--for instance. Yes! Bingo! Those are examples of the evolutionary concept, Phyletic Gradualism, which explains slow change that happens with species over time.

Incremental Steps help participants embody the evolutionary concept of Phyletic Gradualism.
INCREMENTAL STEPPING. This workshop was so much cooler than I ever expected it to be!," anthropology major Kelly Likos (left) wrote me. "Usually workshops are just a new way to get boring information, but not this one! It was early Sunday morning and we had had very little caffeine but that didn't matter after a few minutes! The workshop quickly turned into a type of team building exercise, and I am so thankful for that! Since the workshop I have been thinking of the ways we learned to listen to each other, the value of range, and using our bodies to learn! I am so thankful to Ruth and Tony for sharing their talents with us!” 
Following the InterPlay activity of taking incremental steps to "embody" Phyletic Gradualism, we engaged the participants in "Walk Stop Run," an InterPlay form that invites everyone to make choices about what their individual bodies want to do: be still (stop), move at a leisurely pace (walk), or accelerate speed (run). Once we stopped the activity, everyone was ready to offer up evolutionary related ideas this InterPlay form might represent, especially after we added "the lean," which allows people to physically lean against one or more other participants. The response "mate selection" was my favorite answer!

Gesturing to the Powerpoint slide (below), Tony connected the "Walk Run Stop" activity with another mode of evolution, "Punctuated Equilibrium," which is when species experience stasis (no change--stop) for long periods of time followed by rapid change (walk/run). For example, this might happen when sea animals like mollusks live, breed, and die for thousands of years, and then are dramatically impacted by sea level change and must adapt or die out.
Walk Stop Run illustrates the evolutionary concept of Punctuated Equilibrium.
In addition to these InterPlay forms, we played around with "Babbling" or short tellings, and a version of "Following and Leading" that offered the participants an opportunity to have a physical experience of flocking, herding, or schooling behavior in animals. 

BABBLING ACTIVITY. In addition to telling their "personal" evolutionary stories, participants were invited to explain a "boring" evolutionary idea with enthusiasm. "I thought the workshop was really fascinating, and a great learning experience that was totally out of the box," commented sophomore anthropology major, Jensen Brown. "Even when I was talking about the most boring evolutionary idea I could think of, I found myself feeling enthusiastic about it because of how the activity was structured. It was a really great idea, and I would be glad to do something like it again!"
REFLECTIONS ON FLOCKING (Following and Leading): "I realized that you (Tony and Ruth) were adapting InterPlay exercises not just to illustrate evolutionary concepts, but to let people live them," wrote Andrew Rindsberg, associate professor of environmental geology and paleontology at the University of West Alabama. "After all, not all evolution is competitive; some aspects are cooperative. The flocking exercise effectively demonstrated humans' natural instinct to work together.

"By placing us close together (but only after getting us to loosen up with bonding experiences first), and encouraging us to follow the leader of the flock, you got us all moving in tandem. The leader of the flock could do anything from raising a hand to rolling over on the floor in the spirit of play. You got us to play together, and that's bonding.

"Since the leader of the flock could change at a moment's notice, everyone had the feeling that they could do anything for the group as leader or follower, and no one was left out. What a fine bonding experience for the attendees of a new-formed society having its first annual conference. I think that those who did not attend the workshop really missed something, and it should be included in subsequent conferences."
CONCLUSION: I would like to conclude this blog post about our first "Improv-ing Evolution" workshop with some NOTICING. In InterPlay, we do stuff and then "notice." First of all, it felt fantastic to see the willingness of these college students, many of them University of Alabama students, to play with such high energy. Next, this was a Sunday morning (Valentine's Day 2016) at 8:30 AM, and other "older" conference participants hovered on the edges of our classroom with coffee in hand, hesitating to enter. There appeared to be interest in our activity, but also some resistance. Yes, fifty minutes was too short a time for our high ambitions. We knew this going into the workshop. Some refining needs to take place.

So for our next "Improv-ing Evolution" workshop, we will have two full hours. We are so excited to be a part of the Atlanta Science Festival! Join Tony Martin and me on Sunday, March 20th, 3:30-5:30 in our town of Decatur, Georgia, at Core Studios. Our workshop is FREE but requires you to register with me at or 404-580-2392.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks as always to Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, co-founders of InterPlay. Many thanks to my beloved husband and collaborator, Tony Martin, and his colleague, Andrew Rindsberg. Great appreciation to the student organizers of SEEPS--your enthusiasm and participation in all of the conference was inspirational. And finally, a big shout out and applause to Christopher Lynn and his boundless energy to make this conference happen, as well as his documentation of the entire event. Here is his reflection of our workshop:

"I thought it was wonderful and, like Tyler's presentation using drawing and animation, epitomized our vision for multi-modal integration of science and 'ways of knowing.' Or, in English, I fully appreciate the importance of the epiphanies or clarity that can be achieved in our brains by involving our body. We tend to embody mind/body dualism by simply sitting and to people talk AT us, despite our rhetoric about the body/mind as integrated. It is challenging to get folks to actually explore 'knowing' from an unfamiliar or uncomfortable perspective. I would be curious to see those how those who stood outside the room and waited for the workshop to be over or got up late to avoid rank on Openness to Experience. 
Christopher Lynn
On the other hand, I know many of the students were unsure about it at first but cited it after as one of their favorite events of the meeting and the one that lent them the most insight. It was not as theoretically over their heads as some of the presentations were. I also noticed that, despite my disappointment that attendance was on the low side (as it ultimately was across Sunday), the number was a perfect fit, given the space. If chairs were moved, we certainly could have worked with a larger group, but I know some of the students defer to academic seniority and would have stepped back if there were too many PhDs in the room."