Fortunately/Unfortunately – Hilarious Improv Take-Home Activity with a Resiliency Ripple

I love the games we play at PILL so much that I go home and get my family to play some of them during dinner.  Our favorite so far has been ‘Fortunately/Unfortunately’.  It’s hilarious and heart-warming to see us all, especially my teenage daughter getting into it, letting her hair down, being silly and having so much fun! -Kelly Hurd, M.Ed.
Reiki Practitioner, Yoga Teacher, Health & Lifestyle Coach, Wellness Educator
603 767-8622

(Scroll down to learn how to play Fortunately/Unfortunatlyl)

Thanks, Kelly!  I find it very exciting to hear how students of PILL- (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) bring activities home or to work.  Not long ago, another PILL student shared her story of bringing the Danish Clapping Game to a group of women she was working with in prison.  It was the first time she heard some of them laugh!  And visual art teacher, Rhonda Miller experimented with some improv with kids age 6-12 at a summer camp with great success.

The rippling effect of improv can be profound. Just imagine Kelly's daughter letting her hair down and their family playing together over a meal! Click To Tweet

I learned Fortunately/Unfortunately  at an improv for resilience workshop with Jude Treder-Wolff.  Jude is a creative arts psychotherapist, singer/songwriter and actress who creates and facilitates creativity-based workshops dealing with emotional intelligence, stress-resilience, burn-out prevention and all aspects of professional development. Her article,  Resilience Is Hope With “Muscle” — And Improvisation Training Is The Work-Out That Work is well-worth reading. In the piece she describes six ways that improv builds resilience.  For instance, “Generating supportive social experiences in which everyone can develop their capacity to respond to the unexpected and unpredictable in novel and useful ways that contribute to a rewarding creative process!”

So whether for fun or deeper learning, at home or at work, improv activities are a source of joy!

To Play Fortunately/Unfortunately

  1. Explain that you will go around in a circle and take turns with alternating phrases beginning with fortunately or unfortunately. Let your group know that they can make things up and should build on the story.
  2. If you have an odd number of people, each person will be able to build on the story with both positive and contrary mindsets.  If you have an even number, try two rounds and with second round start off with unfortunately first!
  3. Start with a statement that has some story-building potential like, “One day, (or ‘once upon a time’) I was driving to the store to pick up some groceries.”
  4. The next person should add to the story by starting with: fortunately.  For instance, “Fortunately, my children had made a shopping list for me.
  5. The next person adds to the story and starts with: unfortunately.  For instance, “Unfortunately, there the shopping list was mostly ice-cream and cake.
  6. And so on….
    • Fortunately, I found some string bean cake and broccoli ice-cream.
    • Unfortunately, when I got home my whole family made sour faces.
    • Fortunately, I decided to take the broccoli ice-cream to my neighbor as a gift.
  7. Continue to go around the circle creating the story for as long as it feels fun! Resist the urge to stop too soon as sometimes a little percolating time allows people to get more comfortable with the process.  This can lead to surprising twists!
    • Unfortunately, the ice-cream was melting all over me.
    • Fortunately…

Where this story goes is anybody’s guess. Maybe she’ll be covered with green sticky ice-cream and be mistaken for an alien who is captured and brought back to Mars!  In any case, every one will be part of the story’s creation!  A new shared experience, even if it is a silly one!

If you try it, let us know how it went!

Thankful for People of PILL!

Happy Thanksgiving to all the People of Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab – PILL!  You are such beautiful, loving, and divinely playful people.  I am grateful to each of you for trying something new and bringing your wondrous personalities and kind humanity to every class.

Each of you PILL people and the divine play of improv affirm the goodness and spirit of humanity! Click To Tweet

Over the past 2 plus years you have made me laugh, hysterically at times.  At PILL rubber bands and knitted socks come to life, shoes fly over kings in their thrones, eggplant and applesauce become mouth-watering delights, while eggplant and lemon juice a cure for gout.  Oh, and one little girl who was called to the principle’s office is forever etched in my heart.

You have inspired and influenced my improv teaching skills in a big way.  And some of you have provided video footage that has engaged healthcare professionals all over the USA and maybe abroad.  I even had the biggest blessing of having my son, Curran work with us in a filming session.  The video for the longest “Emotional Meeting”  is a teaching treasure trove and major personal joy.

I had extreme pleasure and much learning in our Stronger Together classes with Liz Korabek-Emerson.  I am grateful for our collaboration.

So thank you all for being part of PILL.

Don’t forget to do a little Danish Clapping today!

 

PILL as Playful Learning around Portsmouth – PILL as Playful Teaching around the World!

Over 2 years ago a few people joined me to launch the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab aka PILL!  Many, such as Joanne Hardin,  have been pleasantly surprised with their experience of improv  without a performance focus.

  • I had forgotten how to play and had so much fun!
  • I met such nice people!
  • I was nervous at first, but the instructors made it safe!
  • I learned how to be a better communicator!

BTW, We have a new beginners’ class starting Saturday afternoons 11/17/18 and would love to have you join us. (If the fee is a barrier, please email beth: bbbboynton@gmail.com)

AND a lot has happened since then!

In addition to many joyful moments in classes, potlucks, fundraisers, and holiday parties there are three pretty awesome things evolving from PILL that have local and global implications.

First, about 15 PILL students have participated in a filming project.  It is a project designed to get video footage that will help others see how fun, easy, and safe activities are.  And how they can be used to teach communication-related skills. These are held at PPMTV and are a blast. Pizza, T-shirts, and fun times are the rewards for participants and I get powerful video footage that I can use  as a nurse consultant.  I teach communication and emotional intelligence in healthcare and am very passionate about it b/c the skills help us provide better care and enjoy our work.  (We make way too many mistakes for our patients and suffer way too much burnout.)

Just last month an online article I wrote about Medical Improv included PILL videos and has gone over the world wide web.  Check it out here and please share with any healthcare professionals you know!

Second, one PILL student knew of and thought that we could be helpful to Friends Forever International, (FFI) a Durham, NH based organization that helps young adults from other countries learn skills and build relationships that will help them become leaders and promote peace!

Michael, Beth, Myan, Liz, & Clinton

Co-teacher, Liz Korabek-Emerson and I reached out, met with their programming director, and then had a second meeting with 3 of their Alums from Northern Ireland and Israel. In this second meeting, Liz and I learned about the improv workshop they were designing and offered some ideas to help them meet their objectives.  (There is an art to designing and facilitating safe, fun, and meaningful improv workshops and I don’t mind claiming, we are really good at it.)

We left that meeting feeling quite jazzed that our input would help them bridge relationships with 10 young adults, ( 5 Catholic & 5 Protestant)!  More to be revealed w/ FFI!

 

Third, Liz and I  also kicked off a community-building  retreat for Journey Song, an organization that works with Hospice and provides singing to folks who are dying. We designed a “Gods Must Be Crazy” session using our most popular formula of mindfulness and improv!

This is a great new way for businesses to offer fun and effective team-building!

The Gods Must Be Crazy was outstanding. I thought it would be good but it was much more than that. –JS Member

I loved 'The Gods Must Be Crazy'! They added a lot to the day & set the tone for the rest of the retreat. -JS Member Click To Tweet

Want to learn more?  Drop us a line!

This Gifted Seacoast Illustrator is Also Very Funny!

After being told not to draw on the walls, Carolyn at age three, started doodling under windowsills and on the blank end papers of hard back books.  When these crayon creations started appearing under the toilet seat, her mom finally took the hint and gave her pens and paper to use. 

(See what I mean about being funny?)

Carolyn grew up in the Seacoast area and received her BFA at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. She has worked as a freelance illustrator for the past 34 years, including one year at Hallmark in Kansas City. After living in San Francisco & Seattle for 22 years, she finally moved back to Portsmouth in 2003. 

Carolyn creates illustrations for advertising, publishing, & products.  To learn more about her work check out her online portfolio.  I saw some familiar art like this Portsmouth, NH one, one for Market Square Day, and Barbara’s foods.

(See what I mean about being gifted?)

To find out more about her humor, check out this story when she played the Rogue Rubber Band at a recent PILL class and her website about page where she is intently playing monopoly with her cat! Well, someone’s cat.

To come and play some easy, safe, improv, check out the next entry-level Discover PILL class! Four Saturday afternoons 2:30-4:30p starts Nov 17th.  If you need to increase your joy experience during the holidays and current events, I highly recommend it! 🙂

 

Lessons about Perspective-taking and Empathy from a Rogue Rubber Band & Hand-knitted Pair of Socks!

Carolyn

Carolyn Vibbert, an illustrator and Kathy Pearce, a librarian are also PILL students (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab).

Kathy

Oh, but that’s not all!

Carolyn was recently interviewed as the most memorable Rogue Rubber Band (RRB) followed by Kathy answering questions as the most endearing Hand-knitted Pair of Socks (H-kPoS) in our own version of the new hit podcast Everything is Alive!

I know, I know,  it sounds weird.  Yet, not only was it extremely fun to have them interview each other while they personified inanimate objects, both conversations were quite heartfelt.

Here are some highlights!

RRB shared stories from being in a war with other rubber bands.  She didn’t like that.  She also explained how some would put her on their wrist and snap her for some sort of behavior change and that kind of jazzed her up.  Then, in answering a question about being useful, she shared a poignant story of how one her friends who had a disability (was broken) and had been wrapped around a pile of papers and secured with a piece of tape.

H-kPoS shared what it was like to go through the washing machine, scary at first, but ultimately fun. (It was her favorite day of the week as I recall, emerging all fresh and clean).  She also described a difficult time in her life when she was separated from her mate having been trapped in a pant leg and put away for the season.  Oh but what a joy it was when they found each other again! And she wasn’t worried about aging and getting worn b/c becoming a puppet or even cleaning rag offered promises of vitality.

After our class that evening I thought about the experience a lot! I realized that it could be a fun and safe way to build empathy and practice perspective-taking.  I mean, if we can let ourselves think and feel what someTHING else’s experience might be, just maybe it could be a fun, safe step in exploring what someONE else might be thinking or feeling.

Perspective-taking and empathy are critical relationship skills that help us listen, learn, and navigate conflict. Click To Tweet

Powerful skills for today’s world, right? Skills that require safe practice b/c they are not easy to develop, especially if we are feeling vulnerable.

Facilitated improv classes are fun, safe, and sometimes, transformative!

Next entry level Discover PILL class starts Saturday afternoon 11/17/18.

“Collaborative Arts” A new series to learn and practice how to work collaboratively to catalyze change!

Drawing from the ARTS to bring the best out in individuals, communities and businesses holds much promise for humanity and the seacoast is rich with resources!

I recently met consultant, Beth Tener through colleague Liz Korabek-Emerson.  Beth participated in our recent mindfulness and improv PILL class and was a delight to work and play with!

She is doing some exciting workshops at the beautiful Seacoast Science Center and I can’t wait to go to the ecosystem one she is offering.  Perfect location, right?  She just completed the first of three sessions and it was a great success, (THE ART OF DESIGNING MEETINGS THAT DO MORE)!

Here is a little about Beth and upcoming workshops!  (You can go to one or both even if you missed the first one!)

Beth is the Principal of New Directions Collaborative, is a facilitator and strategy coach who works with collaborative initiatives that bring together business, government, and the social sector to address complex challenges, such as transitioning to a clean energy economy and revitalizing communities.

THE ART OF WORKING IN COLLABORATIVE WAYS

Monday, October 29, 2018
1:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT

Given the complex inter-related challenges our communities and organizations face, it is becoming imperative to work across disciplines, organizations, and cultures to develop workable solutions. Learn more and register here.

THE ART OF WORKING AS AN ECOSYSTEM

Thursday, November 29, 2018
1:00PM – 4:00PM EDT

Activating the full potential within an organization, community, or network requires us to see how our work fits into a larger whole and how we can connect what are often fragmented “parts.” Some wisdom, collective strength, and innovative solutions can only be activated when we engage and connect all parts of an organization, community, or system. Learn more and register here.

Thanks for enriching our community, Beth.

Mindfulness Fundamentals Starts 10/24/18 – Portsmouth Hospital – w/ Liz Korabek-Emerson, MFA

With Liz Korabek-Emerson

$50

Register here

This 4-week class is an introduction to the practice of mindfulness; training the mind to be awake and aware in the present moment. Mindfulness can help reduce stress, support healing and improve well-being. The class will include practice, discussion and suggestions for integrating mindfulness into our busy lives. You do not need any previous experience.

Liz’s teaching style is gentle, playful & deeply compassionate.  She has helped make mindfulness practice more realistic for me! -Beth Boynton, RN, MS

Liz Korabek-Emerson is a certified mindfulness teacher, creative coach and owner of Korabek Training. She has been designing and facilitating mindfulness programs for individuals and organizations since 2012.

Schedule

Wednesdays 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

  • October 24
  • October 31
  • November 7
  • November 14

Where?

Classroom #1 at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, 333 Borthwick Ave, Portsmouth, NH 03801. 

 

Envision a face saying “Ewwwww”: How nonverbal language can build trust, even with folks with dementia!

Among other things like creating opportunities for divine play and meeting nice people, Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab (PILL) offers classes that help participants tune into nonverbal communication. Keeping in mind that 80-90 % of our communication takes place in this realm, increased awareness of and facility with sending and receiving nonverbal messages can help us with all of our relationships.

Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts! --Albert Einstein Click To Tweet

What I communicate nonverbally is important in building trust and safety with students and one way to describe what I mean is to share an example that comes from working as an RN in a long term care facility a few years ago.  Here I was a Charge Nurse for two secure (locked) units where folks with moderate to severe dementia lived.

One of my tasks was giving medication to people who couldn’t swallow pills and so certain medications would be crushed and mixed with something that was easier and hopefully more enjoyable to swallow, like applesauce or for some, even better, ice-cream.  Even so, sometimes, residents would

make a face that told me the experience was gross!

In this moment, I would take a minute to respond to their nonverbal message.  “Oh that didn’t taste very good did it?  I’m sorry!”   I don’t think that my words were understood, but I believe most of my patients sensed the sincerity and compassion conveyed in my facial expression, tone, and other body language.

Please consider joining us for our next PILL class which starts 9/26!  Liz Korabek-Emerson and I will begin our 5th session of our Stronger Together class where we combine mindfulness and improv for a unique and fun experience!

Creating an environment where people feel safe is essential for facilitating positive experiences and learning as recently described by Joanne Hardin in this testimonial.

Portsmouth’s Creative Mornings & Christine Kelly’s Excellent Talk on Setting Intentions!

Creative Mornings is a progressive program that features an inspiring talk every month in cities all over the world.  PORTSMOUTH, NH is one of them as are London, Paris, Brussels, and Cape Town.  In short, the monthly theme is international while each city’s presentation is by local creative talent.  This past July, consultant Christine Kelly provided a practical and positive talk on setting intentions.

I loved it and am incorporating her advice into setting my intention for a home that looks and feels the way I deserve it to.  For me, this involves some reflecting, journaling, networking, and meditating.

And it is working, I’d say.  I want to use word of mouth as a primary process (as opposed to Craigslist) so there is an element of knowing me inherent in the process.  Yesterday my brother emailed me a rental sign he saw and I just got a text from a Zumba buddy about a rental downtown.  After I publish this I’m gonna go check it out. I’m not in a hurry.  I want a nice community whether sharing space or a studio/1BR in a nice village.  Quite frankly, that IS part of my creative life!

Oh wait, I'm writing about Christine Kelly's excellent Creative Mornings' talk on setting Intentions. Click To Tweet

Her talk was pragmatic and inspiring! it was also helpful in terms of understanding how our brains work to help us accomplish (or not) our goals.

If you missed it, don’t worry, you can listen here! Thanks, Christine!

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