Written by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader, MS in Applied Linguistics and ESL, InterPlay Art & Soul Creativity Coach
Hurray for CREATIVITY! Hurray for PLAY! Hurray for COMMUNITY--one in which we can CREATE and PLAY.
As a visual artist, lifelong educator and certified InterPlay leader, I have taken InterPlay, an
improvisational system that nurtures authenticity, to the Ellis Island of the South, Clarkston, Georgia (see
On Monday afternoons, I
arrive to facilitate an hour-long class "Creative Communications," with
resettled refugee teenagers from countries such as Nepal, Burma,
Ethiopia, and Somalia. Using InterPlay as the foundation for this after
school program in the Clarkston Global Academy, I engage these teens in
movement, storytelling, voice, and shape and stillness.
As a 3-decade-long
English as a Second Language instructor, a goal I integrate with play
and creativity is verbal and physical expansion. Inviting the teens to
experiment with volume, pitch, and speed as well as gestures, I
encourage them to use English (or their own language) to offer what is
unique to them. In this way, voicing their names become subtle or
exaggerated dances. Talking about an ordinary day at school becomes an
enthusiastically expressed story. The InterPlay forms offer adventures
in being oneself and connecting with others.
Yesterday, I decided to
add drawing and writing to our creative communications. "What is
possible for you to create and communicate," I asked them, "when you are
using easy focus?" Wheee... (Easy Focus is an InterPlay principle that
gives us permission to release expectations or "hard focus" and enjoy
the process of creating/being).
Students gathered around a
long narrow table, selected a colored marker and were asked to draw a
shape, then to repeat that shape again and again, changing direction and
size. Music from Eric Chappelle, swirled around them. Two InterPlay
volunteers, Carolyn Renee and Lynn Hesse, engaged in the activity too.
As facilitator, I had the honor to witness.
The teens relaxed into
their assignment and increased the speed with which they drew their
shapes. As they filled their 8" x 11" page, I encouraged them to find
another color and to use that as "spice." When everyone was slowing
down, I asked them to turn their papers over and write three words or
more that were coming into their minds. And then, if they wanted, to
write a sentence.
The energy was just
right. I observed a confidence in their actions, a certainty in what to
write, what to create. Ta dah! That is what is POSSIBLE IN PLAY in
Creative Communication Class at the Clarkston Global Academy.
comprised the concluding 15 minutes of class, supporting an embodied way
of sharing the newly generated "visual and word art."
One of the greatest gifts
I received from this hour of creative communicating was when I heard
one of the young women from Nepal read her sentence aloud: "I love
myself, and I am enough!"
thanks go to Jes Gordon, whose Intuitive Painting class taught me some
simple ways to engage people in drawing without judgment. As I explore
ways to use music with lyrics, I am grateful to Soyinka Rahim for her
album "BIBO LOVE." During this class, the teens happily took turns
leading and following to "BIBO Funk" with such joy and fun moves. I am
so appreciative to the CPACS facilitators and the Clarkston Global
Academy educational program director, Justine Okello for supporting this
Creative Communication Class. Recently being joined by volunteers from
the InterPlay Atlanta community has filled me with such a feeling of
bounty. As always, I want to acknowledge InterPlay co-founders Phil
Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry for this community building
improvisational system and all that they do to make it accessible to
That's InterPlay Atlanta from the perspective of Ruth Schowalter! Comment below. I invite you to answer these questions: What is possible in play for you?
What is your truth that you want to share in the world?