Seacoast SCORE Mentors Develop their Listening Skills with a Little Improv!

Seacoast SCORE Mentors and guests who attended my recent workshop, Applied Improv – A Surprising Way to Promote Listening Skills took the plunge into improv with enthusiasm!

They jumped into “Yes and…” and “Same Time Story” activities with an openness to learning that isn’t always easy for folks who’ve never tried improv before.

Listening is one of those human interactive skills that is easier to talk about than it is to practice! AND you have to be willing to try something out-of-the-box in order to develop your skills with improv.

SCORE Volunteer, Brenda Richards provided assistance in the workshop. She has also been a very helpful Mentor to me over the last year in developing my own business; Boynton Improv Education, LLC!

And just so you know, Seacoast SCORE has some great and FREE resources to offer new and emerging business people. AND if you have business skills to share, you might want to explore options to become a SCORE Volunteer!

Brenda Richards, SCORE Mentor

Seacoast SCORE is continually recruiting new clients and new mentors. Because more than half of our clients are female, we’re making a concerted effort to recruit additional female mentors in 2019.” –Brenda Richards

Beth teaching improv with health risk managers

February Improv for Business Visionaries – “Radical Acceptance”!

Improv of the Month Series

As discussed in the introduction to this series, integrating improv activities into your day to day work can be part of an organizational development effort to boost to morale, improve communication skills, build positive relationships and cultures. This month we’ll explore an incredibly simple activity called “Radical Acceptance” which is also called “3 Things” (Not to be confused with “5 Things” which was January’s Improv of the Month).  Please take a few minutes to review the introduction to learn more about setting up your process.

“Radical Acceptance” or “3 Things”

You’ll see, the more you get into Medical Improv or  Applied Improv that instructors often tweak activities and names while trying our best to cite originators.  

I often teach “Radical Acceptance” as a first improv activity in my workshops as a way to create emotional safety and demonstrate how affirming and easy improv can be. As you read through the teaching steps, resist the urge to dismiss it because it is so simple.  I’ve had seen huge grins on people who don’t normally speak up and one young man shared that he brought it back to his bachelor’s party and his friends all loved it!  So if you want to engage staff, build a spirit of collaboration, and promote assertiveness, this activity will help.

How to teach”Radical Acceptance”

  1. Have up to 12 people get in a circle.
  2. Choose a category that all people can relate to. (Comfort foods, fruit, anything to do with weather, or something your business team might be familiar with.)
  3. Explain that each person will have a turn naming 3 things in the category and the group’s job is to shout “Yes” with more and more enthusiasm after each one.

It will look something like this!

Person A:  “Chocolate pudding!”

The Group: (shouts with some enthusiasm) “Yes!”

Person A: “Cheesecake”

The Group: (shouts with more enthusiasm) “Yes!”

Person A: “Blueberries”

The Group: (shouts with even more enthusiasm as if it is the most exciting thing anyone has ever said) “YES!”

Chocolate pudding, "Yes!"
Cheesecake, "Yes!!"
Blueberries, "YES!!!"

      4.  Go around the circle so everyone has a chance to name desserts and be accepted by the group.

      5.  Invite feedback about the experience!

Facilitation Tips

  • Explain to the group that their job is to be supportive.  If someone says says the same thing twice, something that has already been said, or something that others would not consider a dessert, it is still the job of the group to say “YES!”
  • Encourage building enthusiasm with verbal and nonverbal language.
  • Allow for people to hesitate a little as some people will.  In that moment of hesitation lies the  hidden reality of how hard speaking up can be! Try to be comfortable and get the group to be patient with the waiting. This too, can be hard.
  • Eventually people will come up with ideas and if they don’t you can encourage them to name things that have already been named, or help with a clue like asking for kinds of ice-cream, or give the option to ‘pass’ and circle back, or even eventually letting others help them.  (When people struggle with naming something like 3 desserts, imagine how hard speaking up might be as a new staff member to manager or manager to senior leader. Assertiveness is complicated and “Radical Acceptance” helps build it at the very roots. AND true collaboration and optimal creativity come from a place where all voices are spoken and heard.)
  • If you suspect that assertiveness  will be hard for some people in the group, have them do one category in pairs and then one in the full circle.  Pairs are safer and this will help build confidence and trust.
  • As you invite feedback it is always possible that someone will share that it isn’t good for a group to always agree with everything someone says.  This is true so validate their point and add that the activity can help to build confidence and allows for practicing speaking up.  As people learn to trust that they’ll be heard and honored in this activity, they will be more likely to share an idea, concern, or constructive feedback in the clinical environment. Strangely enough, the “Yes and…” principle of improv is quite helpful in developing the confidence to say “No”!
  • Assuming you are starting a rippling effect with your team and other leaders will try it with theirs, use it as a conversation starter to see kinds of categories others have come up with and/or what others think of the experience.   If nothing else, it is a shared, positive social experience.

Share your experience

Keep your eyes and ears open to how the experience is impacting the energy and morale in your workplace.

If you want, take a picture and write a short story about it. Maybe we’ll publish on the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab (PILL) Blog. 🙂 Contact me for more info at!

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv in healthcare or other businesses. And check out the exciting new methodology combining improv with mindfulness offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created by Liz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton!

Cartoon of actor running with script pages flying out

Players’ Ring bursts with life – “Opening Night Mutiny”

One of the most exciting things about Opening Night Mutiny that plays through 2/10 was the high energy of the entire cast AND the audience. So much local talent!

The audience was so engaged, whole theater came to life. Live theater on the seacoast is very alive and very well. Reviews (Fosters -Seacoast Online and Caught in the Act -NH Theater Critics) are strong too so check them out and get the show on your calendar.


“It was truly humbling. At every turn we had people on the team elevating the script, throwing in ad libs or physical comedy, and I feel immensely grateful to the 14 people that worked every day for half a year on making our show the best it could be.” Alex Bikerstaff, Co-author, Opening Night Mutiny

Tickets and more info here!

“I just love how both reviews lauded the performances, because we assembled such a talented group of actors, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Add to that mix brilliant direction, an indefatigable crew, and a dash of prop wizardry, and the end result has been truly magical to witness. Seeing it all come together is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.” -Michael Freitag, Co-author, Opening Night Mutiny

Furloughed workers playing improv at Washington Improv Theater during government shutdown

Applied improv promotes joyful connections!

Free food and improv during the shutdown!

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen heartening evidence of Americans from coast to coast, step forward to help others during the government shutdown.

Locally, on the ME/NH seacoast, Gather, an organization dedicated to ending hunger distributed food to furloughed personnel with the United States Coast Guard.

Some might be surprised to think that offering improv sessions would be a way to support others during tough times. Which is just what the Washington Improv Theater did! And if you are willing to take a closer look you will see many layers of richness.

Improv activities are connecting!

Many improv activities, when expertly facilitated, help people to be present and playful, to share themselves a bit and to open up to others, to play together. From a communications standpoint, improv helps us practice speaking up and listening. And from a relationship standpoint it helps us find a safe fun way to celebrate our connections.

Watch this Washington Improv Theatre video from the 33-43 second mark. You’ll see how one person does a simple gesture and sound and then everyone else comes in and repeats it. Can you see, feel, and hear how the group supports the individual and how imagine how transformative this might be?

Local mindfulness & improv class!

If you are in the vicinity of Portsmouth, NH during February of 2019, please check out our class Stronger Together. Liz Korabek-Emerson and I will guide a small group in playful and meditative activities that will leave you, as this testimonial suggests, feeling uplifted!

Cartoon of actor running with script pages flying out

Psyched for “Opening Night Mutiny” – Players’ Ring

I’m really looking forward to seeing this new show and just got my ticket for opening night! Care to join me?

January 25 – February 10, 2019
An original play by Alex Bickerstaff & Michael Freitag
Presented by Outcast Productions

I didn’t say it was a GOOD plan, I said it was THE plan.

Welcome to the South Shore Playhouse! Where an exhausted cast and crew are trying to premiere their new season despite a few, small, tiny, miniscule setbacks, including but not limited to firing the lead actor in the middle of their dress rehearsal and replacing him with an understudy who’s been studying the wrong script; working with an inflexible, Beckettesque playwright; rewriting that script behind the playwright’s back, and being caught in the act mere hours before the show opens.

A series of escalating hi-jinks results in the outraged author pulling the rights to the show… right as the curtain rises. What follows next is the most daring attempt at “The show must go on” in theatrical history, as the group tries to fall back on a half-written script with the same name. Just one problem: nobody’s rehearsed it, it’s set in space, and the idiot who wrote it is in the front row…

Break some legs! ALL of them.

January 25 – February 10, 2019
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m.


Beth teaching improv with health risk managers

Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries! January – “5 Things”

Improv of the Month Series

As discussed in the introduction to this series, integrating improv activities into your day to day work can be part of an organizational development effort to boost to morale, improve communication skills, build positive relationships and cultures. Please take a few minutes to review the introduction to learn more about setting up your process.

January Improv Activity – “5 Things”

How to Play

This activity can be played in a circle or in pairs.

Person A asks Person B to “Give me 5 things…” Person A completes this phrase with some sort of category like:

  • Give me 5 things that are green.
  • Give me 5 things that use gas.
  • Give me 5 things you keep in your attic.
  • Give me 5 things that you like about snow storms.
  • Give me 5 reasons for whistling while you work.

Person B responds e.g. to 5 things that are green:

  • Traffic lights.
  • Money.
  • String beans.
  • Sally’s eyes.
  • A green car.

Shana Merlin, improviser, teacher, and performer of Merlin Works demonstrates in this brief video!

Facilitation Tips

  • Starting out in pairs can feel safer to some people. Over the month, you might do it once in pairs and then graduate to a circle involving the whole team. From an organizational development perspective the experience with pairs will build those relationships while doing the activity in a circle will do so within the whole team.
  • Encourage starting out with simple requests and let the creative thinking gradually increase. Do this by instructing people to come up with categories that others will be successful with. Some people will be instantly comfortable with wacky categories, but could create anxiety in others. This kind of anxiety can lead to some people not sharing ideas with the group and may be part of what you fundamentally are seeking to change. Keep in mind, the idea isn’t to force everyone to have the same kind of creative thinking, rather to help people feel safe to connect with their own.
  • Invite responders to try not to think too much in answering and suggest that if they get stuck, they can make things up. (A green house, a green car, a green hat, a green martian, a green airplane would all be fine!)
  • Encourage the group or partners to be supportive of responses even if they are silly or even wrong. For instance, if Sally’s eyes are blue allow for the correction while keeping the game going. “How fun to learn about Sally’s eyes’, encourage brief applause, ‘nice job! Who’s next?” The idea is to have fun, be creative, get to know each other, not to be right!
  • Feel free to modify this to 3 Things. This will save a little time and be a little safer.
  • Consider doing this at the beginning of one meeting and closing another meeting.
  • Once you sense that people are more comfortable with the activity encourage or challenge the group to try more unusual categories. As practice with the activity and exposure to other people’s ideas, people will become more comfortable in thinking outside the box. This adds a whole new dimension of value to spending time with this activity.
  • Over the next few weeks consider initiating conversations at lunch or in the hall about what kinds of categories your team and their staff are coming up with.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open to how this shared experience is impacting the energy and morale in your workplace.
  • If you want, take a picture and write a short story about it. Maybe we’ll publish on the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab Blog. 🙂 Contact me for more info at!
Beth facilitating improv

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv in healthcare or other businesses. And check out the exciting new methodology offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created by Liz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton!

Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab PILL classes

Improv sessions to give nurses & kids a boost!

What benefits does facilitated improv offer?

Facilitated improv sessions provide safe opportunities for participants to play together and build trust. The combination of trust and play is like magic for nurturing relationships, encouraging teamwork, decreasing stress, and developing social skills. And contrary to popular opinion, you do not need any improv or acting experience to enjoy the activities!

PILL – Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab is offering single session classes at PPMTV this month. One is for kids and their adults (Jan 19th) and the other for nurses  and nursing students (Jan 26th).

What to expect at a PILL Improv Session!

A safe environment for playful activities. 

Confidence and trust-building experiences.

Lots of support!

Positive social experiences.

Shared memories that are joyful and unique.

To learn more please check the above links, read testimonial, or contact Beth: 603-205-3509 – Happy to answer questions! And if you know of a nurse or kid who might be interested, please share. Thanks a lot.

Liz Korabek-Emerson & Beth Boynton putting up PILL Posters in Portsmouth, NH

Improv for Kids with Adults – Build Trust & Confidence!

We were Pill Postering in Portsmouth

My friend and colleague, Liz Korabek-Emerson and I were walking around Portsmouth, NH yesterday putting up PILL posters. We were catching up after the holidays, brainstorming ideas, and promoting our classes – Korabek Training and PILL!

We talk a LOT about how to explain the value of the improv and mindfulness activities we teach. We see and feel how nurturing experiences can be. We get moving testimonials from people who have never taken classes like ours. And we delight in creating safe and fun environments that encourage trust and divine play! BUT, how do we explain it?

Enriching to experience – hard to describe

As we walked along, Liz challenged me to think of language that would explain the benefits this pilot PILL class for kids and their adults would offer – (Saturday afternoon Jan 19th, 2019 – 2:30-4:30 at PPMTV)


Shortly after we were in Water Monkey where we always exchange hugs with Roger, one of the owners and wicked nice man. Soooo, while handing him a poster, I told him about the new class! He listened and seemed to get it!

Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab PILL classes

It will be an afternoon of playful bonding for kids and their adults – with other kids and their adults.

There will be positive social experiences that nurture relationships.

Participants will develop confidence and trust in themselves, others, and their surroundings.

They will create shared memories that are joyful and unique.

Do you have or know of a kid who might benefit from an emotional boost in a class with opportunities to develop social confidence in a non-competitive environment and develop trusting bonds with their parents, an aunt, grandfather, or trusted neighbor? Do you know of parents, teachers, guidance counselors, or child therapists that want to try something new for children that isn’t therapy, yet is enriching? Please help share the word. And if you have questions, call me: 603-205-3509! THANK YOU!

P.S. I got some great hand-knitted gloves at Water Monkey for only 5 bucks!

hand knitted gloves at Water Monkey for 5 dollars!
Everyone pretending to be using their devices in a fun improv activity at Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab

Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries!

Applied improv is different from improv comedy. Applied Improv is a teaching or training method that can help business organizations and community groups in many ways. You may have participated in an improv workshop for team-building or leadership development. Or maybe you’ve been treated to a workshop at your organization just for stress relief.

There is a wide variety of applications for improv! I think of using it on two levels. One simple approach is to have a little fun together! This is the primary purpose behind Improv of the Month idea.

What is Improv of the Month?

Improv of the month is an idea developed for visionary business or community leaders who strive for a healthy workforce. It is pretty simple in that champions of the idea should plan on teaching one simple activity each month and like a positive wave, helping it to spread through the organization.

Depending on the size of your organization, leaders can decide on the best process of sharing the activity so that directly or indirectly the entire staff is taught. In a business with multiple shifts and departments a visionary CEO could teach the activity to her/his management team and they in turn teach it to their staff. In a smaller organization, such as a primary care physician practice, a business manager or clinical leader could take on the task of teaching the entire staff. (A relatively new term for using improv for nurses or in other healthcare settings is called Medical Improv!)

The idea is to integrate a little fun into other meetings such as orientation processes, strategic planning meetings, and/or clinical education sessions. In most cases the whole experience will take only 10 minutes. People will have fun, be engaged, and connect around a somewhat silly shared experience. People on different shifts and in different departments will be engaged and have something new in common.

Starting in January, 2019, I’ll share a simple improv activity that you can do with your management team and/or staff. All you have to do to make sure you get each post subscribe to this blog! No charge. No strings attached.

Does the idea seem frivolous?

Spending time this way may sound frivolous and feel awkward at first, but consider these benefits before dismissing the idea.

PILL Improv students playing an activity called "The Gift".
  1. If your teams are having fun together this will likely improve morale and retention.
  2. Positive shared experiences can contribute to a culture of ownership, forgiveness, and learning.
  3. Humor can help people cope with aggression as per this Australian National University research!
  4. And for teams like doctors and nurses who are working under high-stakes, high stress conditions, having a little fun together will help people build trust and develop positive relationships.

Expect some resistance, but don’t let it stop you!

Improv can seem like a foreign language or new outfit that doesn’t quite fit. Yet, when facilitated with emotional safety in mind, most people find that it is fun and gets easier with practice. Remarkably, through the interactive play of improv many adults rediscover a natural ability for playfulness with others. (At PILL (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) we call this divine play!) And since many work environments involve some degree of interpersonal interactions, the notion of practicing in a fun way can help!

And try not to burden yourself with being perfect at these activities. People, for the most part, will appreciate you modeling outside your comfort zone and making room for a little stress relief amongst the staff. In fact, another benefit of playing improv activities is to celebrate the human qualities of imperfection. A stepping to forging relationships without blame, judgements, or fears of difference! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

What is the other level of teaching improv?

The second approach is to use the activities for more intentional and complex behavior change. As you know, individual and organizational behaviors are often interfering with staff’s ability to collaborate, innovate, and provide excellent customer service. Problems with interpersonal dynamics can also contribute to occupational injuries and illnesses. I use improv as an organizational development strategy by working with leaders in designing workshops to build ‘soft’ skills or meet goals. Another very exciting application is the Be Crazy workshops where mindfulness teacher , Liz Korabek-Emerson and I have teamed up to combine mindfulness and improv!

If you’d like to know more about using improv for your business or community for fun or deeper work, please reach out

Is that it?

No! One more thing! If you try out an Improv of the Month activity and want to share your story, take some pics and write to us. We’ll make a blog post out of it and spread the good news even further :).

Happy New Years from PILL!