A Children’s Visual Arts Teacher Explores PILL Improv with Her Students

By Rhonda Miller,

How do we work in a group while we are creating? How much of my idea should be used or included? How do I honor both myself and the other participants? These questions are important for furthering internal and external interactions in facilitated improvisation.

In the PILL improv class I took the teachers set up a space that was safe; where saying yes to a classmate’s idea and then running with it, was encouraged and supported.

Teaching the visual arts to children, I had hoped that some of the exercises could be useful in my classroom. I can already see how using improv is going to help set the stage for successful visual art making. The immediacy and getting to know people organically through improv will help the students create a “studio” that is safe and collaborative for the creation of physical art.

Recently, I was able to share some test run improv exercises with children while they were fresh in my mind at a summer art camp I co-teach for kids between the ages of 6 and 12. To see the subtle differences and similarities between children and adults engaging in the exercises was interesting.

“Strike a pose” is an exercise where one person strikes a pose and their neighbor tells a story or begins to act out the pose. Both the adults and children had a proclivity towards one or the other; either wanting to tell the story or act it out and engage the “poser”. To see adults and children alike struggle with “that’s not what I intended” or “I don’t want to guess incorrectly” and then work through those preconceived notions was admirable. These struggles are what ask us to reach outside of our comfort zone and the working through has to happen so quickly, that we gain information about our tendencies, strengths and challenges.

The kids played this and other games more than once. They liked the games overall, but some felt pressure the first time playing, while others knew what was coming the second time around and had more performance anxiety than when we first played. When in doubt, they  had a longer pause, shrugging and/or vocalizing that they “didn’t know what to do”.

In both the adult and kid games (interesting to me that kids called them games, and adults – myself included – called them exercises), participants seemed to want to come up with a “good idea” and that pressure caused hesitation. The fleeting nature of improv is both a blessing and a curse; if you “mess up” it can all be over in a moment (if one can let go the residual internal critic),  but the time factor causes people to feel harried and lost, especially if they want to “get it right”. 

Making ourselves vulnerable in a safe environment allows the speed w/ which things resolve to become an asset.

The art form of facilitated improv asks others to be generous & makes one want to be generous in return. Click To Tweet

The questions at the start of this post are worth asking. We also often ask “What will others think of me? What if I mess up? What if I can’t think of anything?” instead. We all have a need to be accepted and appreciated. Facilitated improv games tweak this nerve and nudge us to be more mindful of how we are; both with ourselves and with others. Just as important to help us toward being present, are figuring out what questions are helpful. Curiosity drives us to ask more helpful questions.

I have loved taking this class. At moments it has terrified me, which is one of the most valuable things to remember when asking the students in my art room to become curious – even when they are fearful. Finding our curiosity through the fear is what creativity is all about, in whatever form it takes. 

Bio

Rhonda Miller is a local artist and art teacher – her bliss is creativity. She loves helping people reach their creative core. The joy that is cultivated while creating is a powerful force, and Rhonda feels honored to get to share in that with others. As an artist, Rhonda loves getting messy, using as many media as are available. She is the author of “What Potential!: A Simple Guide to Cultivating Creativity for Parents and Children

If performing isn’t the goal of PILL improv, what is?

By Dwyer Leahy Vessey

Sometimes when I mention I’m going to Improv I get asked if I want to learn to “perform” improv…and I say – Improv is one of the only times that I don’t feel like I have to perform…I get to play.

And then I say “improv is like when you were a little kid and and you went outside to play with a friend and then another friend came by and the game changed into something new and then more kids showed up and you played outside until your mother whistled you home…that’s improv.”

If your curious to know what taking a PILL class is like, check out this slide show of a recent class. It might be hard to tell WHAT we are doing, but notice how much FUN we’re having doing it!

Check out this single session at York Adult & Community Education.

 

Help Lightening Larry Share Kindness & Empower Homeless People!

By Lori Austin, LCSW

So excited, once again to think about empowering those who struggle with homelessness to gain independence via RUNNING for Back on My Feet (BoMF).  

For me being an athlete throughout my whole life and running in my adult life has had enormous benefits.  It has kept me moving forward through my own personal traumas, losses and acceptance of my own illnesses. 

I have found grace and through this grace I can share it with others. Grace then comes back ten fold through service. I have never been homeless but I have struggled as most of us have in our lives.

It has taken me a long time to embrace who I am learning to love the struggle and my beautiful gifts. Growing up with illness around me as a little girl, coping with my own and facing losses of two brothers in adulthood taken too fast. Then seeing my beautiful parents leave this earth via cancer and Alzheimer’s.  I am where I am today through all of this.  The gift of international travel blessed me life in recent years as a social worker where I found a true voice after years of being a caretaker of my family members. 

Lightening Larry was born in England out of a joke with colleagues, (It was an accent thing with my name, Lori.  Has anyone seen Larry? Who is Larry?). He has come to represent a superhero sharing light and kindness to the world. 

It is a true honor and blessing to simply run and raise money for BoMF at the London Marathon in April 2018 where Lightening Larry can go back and spread light.

The volunteers of BoMF share their time with members at 5:30 am three times a week running to help them build confidence and move forward with their lives. After they make a commitment to themselves and BoMF, the runners gain access to job training and housing.  This occurs in 12 major cities in the United States.  I have chosen to run London Marathon which helps raise money for new chapters in new cities in the United States. Incredible!!

Please help support me as I am raising $7,500 plus.

Learn about the origins of BoMF here.

Thinking of Taking a PILL? Check out Sunday’s Single Dose and September’s Discover PILL Classes

I love teaching Improv classes for people who want to have fun, tap into a supportive community, and play around with personal growth.  Ask any PILL-taker what they love about class and you may get different answers.  One thing I think we all share is the joy experienced in Divine Play.  I’ll write more about why I love teaching and playing improv in another post, but right now I want you to know about 2 upcoming classes!

Discover PILL:  The Improv Way to Have Fun, Meet Nice People, & Grow!

Monday evenings 6:00p-830p, Sept 11th-Oct 16th 2017

This beginners’ class is held once/week for 6 weeks and is a great way to try fundamental improv activities and meet some fun and nice people. You may also experience increased confidence and improved communication skills. Facilitated by Beth Boynton.  We’ll make time for discussion and socializing.  No experience necessary!  Just a desire to explore the realm of this divine play with others.  Read more or register here!  This class may be repeated multiple times!  Oh and don’t miss the Early Bird rate!

Contact Beth (bbbboynton@gmail.com) with any questions!  I’m always happy to meet for coffee in Portsmouth and tell you more.

Discover PILL 2: More Divine Play the Improv Way

(It is a Single Dose PILL and STARTS THIS SUNDAY!)

4th Sunday of the month starting August 27th.

If you’ve taken Discover PILL: The Improv Way to Have Fun, Meet Nice People, & Grow and/or Stronger Together: The Extra Strength PILL for Connecting with Presence and Fun, you’ll be jazzed to know about Discover PILL 2. In this once a month level II class we’ll jump right into improv activities, try some more complex ones, and play for longer. They’ll be time for socializing and discussing too! But mostly, we’ll play! Read more or register here.  You can save by registering online.  Use the private pay option to pay the online rate at the door!

Contact Beth (bbbboynton@gmail.com) with any questions!