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!

“Holiday Meal” An Improv Activity with a Cornucopia of Rewards!

by Richard Oberbruner

“Holiday Meal”  

The actors sit in chairs around an imaginary square table (empty middle space). They each impersonate a family member from one of their actual holiday meals. It’s this simple. The mix of personalities will light up the scene!

There is one rule to get the scene started: Talk in order. Once each character is introduced, then multiple conversations typically take hold.

Just like a real holiday meal!

One actor begins speaking in-character. All other actors pay attention in their own way. The next actor to-the-right then gets speaking focus, and so on around the table. The next actor can continue the current topic or branch-off into another one. React naturally when it’s your turn. Let your character’s emotional state dictate what you say. Holiday meals can be emotional pressure cookers. Actors get to say on-stage what is typically not said in real life. Take advantage of this.

Once every character is introduced, the orderliness fades, replaced with a couple conversations going on simultaneously – just like a real holiday meal! Don’t let the menagerie bother you. This is a good challenge for actors to stay focused on who they are, as well as, reacting to what they hear.

At my recent improv class, one woman’s boyfriend wasn’t showing up “again.” This created gossip around the table. The little boy tired of all the “adult talk” hid underneath the table. The know-it-all lady next to him said “That kid needs to be on something. Give him his medicine.” All the actors were being real. No one was trying to be funny. The funny took care of itself thanks to the emotional investment it takes to portray a real person.

The ultimate objective to “Holiday Meal” is controlled chaos. Real people with real feelings reacting to real things. Click To Tweet

Does your character shy away in a busy setting or stick his/her nose in the action? Does he/she become louder, quieter, gossipy, appalled? It’s fun to lose yourself in a scene like this. Beginners can safely test a new idea. More experienced improvisers have a multitude of situations to react to. In either case, “Holiday Meal” creates realistic characters in the heat of the moment.

Learn more about Richard’s work as a Communications Coach at R.O.I Training. Improv is his communication tool. He conducts employee engagement sessions with corporations and non-profits nationwide.

https://www.buildingbrighterteams.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardimprov/

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.

Friends Forever International-Did you know about this cool organization in our backyard?

Right off of Rte 4 in Durham! You have to admit this is pretty exciting work.  Hopeful work. 

Their MISSION:

Friends Forever International empowers youth leaders to connect, strengthen, and serve communities around the globe by combining their passion to make the world a better place with the skills, experiences, and resources required to do so.  Learn more about the awesome work FFI is doing.

Their GOAL

Every young person who desires, regardless of ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, and ability will have the opportunity to build their leadership skills beyond what they imagined possible before participating in the program. These young leaders will transform the way that they see the world and realize that they can change the world for the better. Now.

How did this get on the PILL radar you ask?

Word of mouth always involves relationships and stories. That’s why when PILL student, Joanne Hardin suggested that Liz Korabek-Emerson and I reach out to FFI leadership, we did.  She had just completed our mindfulness and improv class, Stronger Together and in addition to her testimonial, felt our work might be of interest to this organization.  (She knows of FFI from a close friend.)

Front to back Chelsea, Beth, Liz!

Long story short, we reached out and were invited to connect. Liz and I met with Chelsea Fitton, Sr. Program and Community Engagement Manager recently.  As you can see we had an inspiring meeting.  And we hope to go back and talk more with their alumni trainers soon.  Thinking just maybe some mindfulness and improv might be helpful! 🙂

Lots of hopeful stuff going on in the world despite all the chaos!  Thanks, Joanne!

Medical Improv & How I Got into It in WAY FUN Podcast w/ Margot Escott, LCSW!

Hey Friends of PILL, ‘Out of the PILLbox Players’, and friends and colleagues of yours truly! Please put this podcast on your radar to listen to and share. I loved talking with Margot about improv work locally and nationally.  Margot’s questions and listening helped me to articulate my beliefs and wisdoms with a sense of confidence, enthusiasm, and spiritual focus that feels so authentic.

Lot’s of fun topics and mentions (my son and his work, history of me and med improv, using the word improv in teaching pros and cons, AIN conference coming up in NYC, love, listening, empathy, and more….)

Podcast: Beth Boynton & Medical Improv

Hope you enjoy, happy for feedback, and most of all, THANK YOU!

Margot’s podcast series is focused on Improv for Therapists and I’m jazzed to listen to others and follow this series. She is a social worker in Florida and is doing some wonderful work using improv for caregivers and folks who live with Parkinson’s.

Oh and PILL classes coming up soon!

 

Margot Escott, LCSW & Beth Boynton, RN, MS - inspiring conversation @ Medical Improv on 25 min podcast! Click To Tweet

Doesn’t this Improv Activity Sound Like Fun?

Richard Oberbruner is a fellow improv teacher.  He shared his experience facilitating this activity recently and I can’t wait to try it with PILL students!
He wrote:
“Three Timeframes.” This scenic improv game was a gut-busting joy recently at my weekly adult improv class. You familiar with it?
Two players act out a scene at three different ages in their lives.   At various points in the scene, I call out a different timeframe. The two players continue their conversation but at older or younger points in their lives. The transitions from one timeframe to another creates the funniest moments!  
This game reinforces two things:
1) Focus on the part of the players. They have no time to think. Just do. 
2) The adage I learned through my training at Second City Theater: Human behavior is the funniest form of humor. Not jokes.
The three timeframes we chose to jump-around in-between were Third Grade / Millennial / Senior Citizens. Third graders are all over the place. Millennials are device-centric minimalists. And seniors are slower, more methodical.   I highly recommend playing this scenic game with your students. It’s stage worthy and life affirming!   ~Richard

Learn more about Richard’s work as a Communications Coach at R.O.I Training. Improv is his communication tool. He conducts employee engagement sessions with corporations and non-profits nationwide.

https://www.buildingbrighterteams.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardimprov/

What Would a Kavanaugh Apology to Ford Look Like? And in What World?

I believe Christine Blassey-Ford’s account of Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. I am open to learning new information that suggests otherwise.

I also believe a healthier world is possible!

One where all people are of equal value, have the skills to communicate respectfully and share power in relationships.  Mutuality and boundaries will vary, but respect will be constant.

In order to create such a world, we need a vision of what it might look like along with effective ways to develop ‘soft’ skills like self-reflection, ownership, perspective-taking, attentive listening, and empathy. These are hard skills to practice because they require emotional maturity, behavioral change, a culture that supports them, and safe opportunities to practice with others. I’ve learned a lot of these kinds of skills through individual work in therapy and playing with others in improv classes.

For one minute, just one minute, consider a universe where Judge Kavanaugh apologizes to Dr. Ford. Click To Tweet

A parallel planet somewhere where humans are more evolved than we are right now. Here, Brett Kavanaugh has gained insight into his own emotional injuries and alcohol use through psycotherapy and Alcoholics Anonymous. He has come to realize he has hurt many people in his life and wants to make amends. He pieces together memories and admits to himself, his therapist and  his wife that he assaulted Christine Blassey-Ford when they were in High School.

He is learning how to express himself and listen more respectfully in therapy.  He is taking applied improv classes to help him to practice . With support of his therapist and wife he has decided to contact Dr. Ford and to admit his behavior and apologize.   He knows must take this step if he is to be a healthy husband, father, and Judge.

Kavanaugh writes a letter.

Dear Dr. Ford,

I am writing to you today with a heavy heart and a great deal of shame.  I am sure you remember, probably better than I do, that day when I assaulted you in a bedroom at that party in the summer of 1982.  Mark Judge was there and we were both very drunk.  We were laughing when I pinned you on the bed, groping you and trying to take off your clothes with one hand and covering your mouth to keep you from screaming with the other.  I can’t remember how you got away and can only imagine how scared you must have been.  You were younger and smaller than me.  It must have been terrifying for you and I am so so sorry.  I can’t begin to imagine the physical and emotional pain I caused you.

If there is anything I can do to help decrease the pain I must have caused and may still be causing today, I want to try.  I will answer any questions you have and try to help you understand my horrific behavior as I have come to in therapy.   I will listen if there is a way that feels safe to you.  With police, your husband, or any support you need present? Or read anything that you would want to share.  I don’t know if you can ever forgive me. I terrorized you and will understand if you do not want to interact with me in any way. I do know that I will work very hard to earn some kind of forgiveness. I am afraid of a criminal complaint, but if you decided to file one, I won’t fight it.  I have two daughters and as father I cannot fathom how something like what I did to you might impact them.

Words are not enough for the remorse I feel about what I did to you.

Brett Kavanaugh

I don't know what Dr. Ford's response to such a letter would be, but it could be a path towards healing for everyone. Click To Tweet

Sigh….human evolution is a slow process!

And to those of us involved in furthering the efforts of applied improv and  other ways of nurturing humanity, let’s keep going! Fight for truth and justice here and now, take care of ourselves, and contribute to a healthier world whenever we can!

Where can you get True Blue Seaglass Jewelry & Wave Rings? REALLY Real Seaglass?

Seaglass is a real word no matter what spellcheck says! And it is only real if the sea has rolled it around, smoothed it out, and left it on a beach somewhere. And Jori Ami has been collecting it for years on beaches far and near.

Jori is the owner of True Blue Seaglass!  She’ll be at the Marketfest on Saturday 9/22/18 in York, Maine with lots of unique and lovely earrings, bracelets, toe-rings, and more! Collecting seaglass and turning it into beautiful jewelry is a spiritual experience for Jori. She collects and crafts each piece with a vision, artistry, and love!

I’m going so I can say “Hi” AND get more silver wave rings.  To create a ripple effect on my hand.   Sort of like the double decker waves here. Can you envision one on each finger?

Check out all the vendors and activities at Marketfest York!

And please, pray for surf!