Improv is easier to try than you might imagine! Single Sessions this Fall on the Seacoast!

You have options!

At PILL (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab), improv is about having fun in a supportive community.   Our students often say they were nervous to try a class yet, once they get started, have a lot of fun!  You can get a taste of PILL improv with a one-time commitment through Kittery & York Adult Education programs this Fall!

Kittery Adult Education

Thursday Evening Sept 20th, 2018 from 6-8:30p

$38

Toying with the idea of trying out improv in a safe supportive environment near Portsmouth, NH? Click To Tweet

York Adult Education

(See page 15)

Tuesday evening Oct 2nd, 2018 from 6-8:30p

$25

 

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

This Just in From PILL – For Your Improv Radar! :)

Thanks to new PILLer, David Silberman, aka “Darling David”  we have some other exciting improv goings-on to share!
There is the first-ever Vermont improv comedy festival,….this weekend July 19-21, 2018 https://www.bigpondimprov.com/ – Elderberry Jam, the troupe, (David is a member!) and will be performing at 6 PM!
By the way, this senior-oriented improv troupe is always auditioning for new members…if y

ou or someone you know is an experienced improvisor, of 50 years or higher, check them out! (Hmmmmm, I want to keep in mind!).  You can follow Elderberry Jam here:
Last but not least, there is the Vintage Improv Festival, in Boston coming on Sunday Sept 9, 2018!
Hey maybe could carpool from PILL HQ?
Thanks, David and break a leg this week-end!

“Eat Pray Love” & Maybe Play a Little Improv?

Choosing Curiosity Over Fear” is a wonderful interview from Krista Tippett’s Onbeing program with the author of “Eat Pray Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert.  As you will see, if you follow the link, you can read or listen to it.  They are not talking about improv per se, yet their discussion had some wonderful parallels about the process of play and our human experience.

Highlights that might entice you to put this @Onbeing interview w/ 'Eat Pray Love' author on your radar! Click To Tweet
  • A discussion about practical magic which affirms the divine play of improv.

…it’s the mystical things that we need to demystify the most, in order to lay claim to them and to not keep thinking of them as something that only belongs to a very special class of people. The more mystical and precious, in a way, that we make creativity and spirituality both, the more people get left out of it. And I think that’s a pity and a loss, and sometimes, even a tragedy. So it should be that all are invited, or else what are we even doing here?  –Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Exchanges about human creativity which sometimes gets lost in our growing up and life.  

…every human child is born doing this stuff innately. It’s an instinct. There’s no child that you put crayons and paper in front of who doesn’t get it, what you’re supposed to do. No four-year-old boy was ever sat in front of a pile of Legos and said, “I don’t know, I’m just — I’m not feeling it.” [laughs]–Elizabeth Gilbert

When improv experiences are safe and fun, people can reconnect with their own creativity!  It is a delight to see!

  • A really cool story the author shares about an idea she had and lost around the same time her friend and author, Ann Patchett seemed to have found it!

 …ideas are conscious and living, and they have will, and they have great desire to be made, and they spin through the cosmos, looking for human collaborators. –Elizabeth Gilbert

I am convinced that one way to develop trust in and explore the ideas spinning around in the cosmos is with the playful interactions of improv. I found Gilbert’s interview quite inspiring.  Let me know what you think!

A Profound & Simple Story of Improv Healing!

Susan, a new student in Discover Pill: The Improv Way to Have Fun, Meet New People, & Grow shared this story  after teaching a closing activity we do to women she works with who are in recovery.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the improv class, but my sister was so excited after taking one of Beth’s trainings years ago that I decided to join her. I have been having so much fun that I decided to bring some of what I learned back to my workplace.

During one of the sessions of our intensive outpatient programs, I taught the Danish Clap to the all women clients in our drug court program. I wanted to see if they would enjoy it as much as I did(do), and they did!

I reminded them how having fun is an essential ingredient of Recovery. I tied in the activity to information about dopamine and brain chemistry. They laughed and had fun. I hadn’t seen them laugh so hard until then. And these women said they were going home to share this improv activity with their children. Click To Tweet

I notice that they are friendlier now and make a point to stop by my office and say hello. I am so impressed with this and look forward to learning and sharing more.  — Susan

What a beautiful testimonial this is to the divine play that improv can be!

Portsmouth PILL Peeps Help Improve Healthcare from Coast to Coast!

This Spring I’ve traveled to San Francisco and Chicago to present a new Medical Improv workshop called, “Risk Management by Design:  Building a Practice of Trust“!  It is a 9 hr training that will bring me to PA in may.  It is extremely exciting b/c the audience is made up of Health Risk Management professionals who work for non-profit aging service providers from all over the country.  (There were representatives from Riverwoods in Exeter!) These are the people who want to make healthcare safer for all the residents and families they serve.

Like many of us in healthcare, we’ve known for years that emotional intelligence and communication issues are associated with problems with errors, poor customer service, and workforce injuries.   A “soft” skill set that includes self-awareness, self-esteem, assertiveness, listening and empathy.  And they are hard to build!

As a nurse consultant, I am one of the pioneers of a teaching strategy called, Medical Improv and have a local business called PILL which stands for Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab! Over the last 18 months over 60 people have taken classes taught by me and colleague Liz Korabek-Emerson.  And several students have participated in the PILL filming project which has provided  helpful videos like Same-Time-Story and Gibberish Talk Show Host.

Look at how these Health Risk Managers in San Francisco are leaning in as they watch Mary-Ellen McElroy, Dwyer Vessey, and Anita Remig play the Gibberish activity.  These videos are priceless teaching tools because they:

  • Fully engage participants in the learning.
  • Demonstrate how-to do activities.
  • Prompt discussion about the relevance to essential skill-building.
  • Offer reassurance that you don’t have to have acting experience to play.

So far over 130 professionals have participated in this Spring Training and many will take the activities back to the nurses, administrators, nurse assistants, activity directors, human resource managers and others they work with in an effort to build trusting relationships and effective communication skills.  The potential rippling effect of this work is immeasurable!

And there I am, grateful and proud! It is like bringing my students with me and they become teachers!  In the very honorable work of making healthcare safer and more compassionate! Thank you PILL Peeps! 🙂

What is in Your PSE Bucket? Wait, what IS a PSE Bucket?

It is a bucket of Positive Social Experiences.  PSEs are those that feel trusting, and safe.  They may be playful, loving, or even involve conflict that has led to better understanding and a closer, more respectful relationship.  PSEs are affirming of human goodness and contribute to our wellbeing and joie de vivre.  The more the better, right?

Now, it probably isn’t realistic to have all experiences be like this, right?  For most of us this being human involves some painful experiences like broken trust, unsafe situations or relationships,  unresolved conflict, grief, lost and so forth.

There is the not so positive social experience bucket too, (but I’m not going to give it an acronym!).

I love creating a safe environment for teaching improv and watching people play.  I am sure my endorphins get a boost.   With a few guidelines to follow there are lots of improv activities that are super fun to play.  And you don’t have to have any experience in acting or improv!  At PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab, we take the focus off of performance and put it on the playful experience.  Some students have even called it “Divine Play”!

Next beginner class starts 4/28! Maybe you’ll join us?

Here’s my promise:  Take a PILL and add to your PSE Bucket or your money back!

 

7 Reasons Why I’m Excited about this Medical Improv Gig & Please Wish Me Luck!

Tomorrow morning I’l be on a flight from Boston to San Francisco where I’ll be presenting a day and a half workshop called, “Risk Management by Design:  Building a Practice of Trust”.   The workshop is designed to introduce Medical Improv as a teaching strategy. There will be 60 or so participants who are leaders in non-profit aging organizations such as; long term care and assisted living facilities, Hospice and Home Health.  They are nurses, attorneys, administrators, human resource representatives, insurance specialists, and maybe a few physicians and they are working very hard to keep residents safe.  Later in April I will present this same workshop in Chicago, and in May, Philadelphia.

MEDICAL IMPROV can help us in so many vital ways! The opportunity to bring this work forward in a big way is so very exciting.  Here’s why:

  1. Participants will experience 15 or more experiential activities designed to build skills associated with emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork and leadership.   Many people, when they have a chance to try this kind of improv discover that it is safe, fun, and effective.
  2. Many of them will be empowered to integrate activities into in-services, orientation processes, administrative and clinical meetings at their organizations.  This means that staff, management, and senior leaders will have fun opportunities to practice listening and speaking up etc. in an affordable way and on a regular basis. The rippling effect could be profound.
  3. Setting Realistic Expectations is a primary focus for my client and this alone suggests a desire to be honest, transparent, and respectful of all stake-holders. Improv, when facilitated to create a safe environment and framed with these learning objectives, is a powerful tool for developing self-awareness, building trust, and practicing the interpersonal skills necessary for these ideals.
  4. Being a pioneer in this emerging field is sometimes challenging because there are few signposts. This will put me on the map!
  5. All participants will get a copy of my book, “Medical Improv:  A New Way to Teach Communication”.  This means that when all is said and done over 200 professionals involved in patient safety will have copies.  I believe it is my best work and in addition to reenforcing activities, I make a strong case for why we need experiential learning and there is a great list of other resources.
  6. I will be able to invest some of my fee in the PILL(Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) filming project with PPMTV and PILL students which is intended to provide an online resource for lesson plans and video bites of improv activities to help others teach activities.
  7. Last but not least, I get to have coffee with Dr. Candy Campbell after the workshop.  She is a nurse instructor at the University of San Francisco and improv teacher.  In fact she did her doctoral thesis on improv and communication skills for nurses.  She too is a pioneer and wrote the forward to my book.  We are going to have one dynamic cup of coffee!

I am grateful to all the students in PILL who teach me so much.

I know you are rooting for me and the work!

Oh and next PILL classes start 4/28!

A Lifetime of Learning in 60 second Improv Game: Death in One Minute!

Sadly, my improv teacher, David LaGraffe, passed away suddenly a few months ago.  David was a gifted facilitator in creating a safe environment for taking risk, playing, and reflecting.

david lagraf

 I teach improv as an opening to the possibilities of one’s own genius.

–David LaGraffe 

I miss his teaching and am grateful for many fun and profound experiences over the years.  One of my fondest memories is from a few years ago when we did an activity called Death in One Minute.  Basically there are two participants who have 60 seconds to start and end a scene with one participant dying.

We were husband and wife on a boat.  We started the scene and within the first 10 seconds he fell to the floor and was dead. (Not really but for the scene!).  I raced to his rescue screaming and trying to revive him.  And I continued to try frantically for the remaining 50 seconds. (It felt like forever!)

In the debriefing that followed, he gently nudged me to think about other possibilities.

What else might I have done besides screaming?

  • “Free at last, the poison worked!’ I take out my cell phone ‘Jim, he’s gone.  Meet me in 20 minutes at the dock.  I’ll cover him with the tarp and you jump on.  I’ll need help with the body….”119px-(Woman_in_Hat_Rowing_a_Boat)_-_Google_Art_Project
  • “Poor David, he should have remembered his medications, but you know I was tired of reminding him.  All those years of cooking and cleaning for him….I’m sure I can make it to Greece and start the fine chocolate shoppe I’ve dreamed of…”
  • “Oh my, I’ve never tried driving this boat.”  I take the steering wheel and shifts sharply to the left and screams and falls while David rolls.  I over correct to the right….(for all I knew this may have revived him!)…
This place of opportunity and hesitancy is a very rich growing edge where I learn what holds me back Click To Tweet

In that 50 seconds, anything was possible.  But I had stayed in this mode of reaction rather than bring my own ideas forward. OMG!  I so get it now. And this place of opportunity and hesitancy is a very rich growing edge where I have and continue to learn what holds me back, to safely take more risk, and appreciate how hard it can be.  At the time, we laughed about the memory and this shared understanding about how deeply powerful this work can be.

Click To Tweet

Learn how theater education is being used to build ‘soft’ skills in healthcare!

How Would You Describe “Divine Play”?

 

What makes you smile inside and out?

  • Making sweet cooing noises and having a baby smile back at you?
  • Watching baby goats do their little jumping thing?
  • Seeing a dog on the beach throw a ball at her owner and prancing around insistently until he throws it?
  • Buying a gift for a dear friend that you KNOW she will love and then giving it to her?

These moments of joy are sacred, don’t you think?  Somehow we feel safe, trusting, and loved in them. I wonder if we are tapping into the divinity of the human spirit.  Something that is always there, but may be elusive at times.  It sure feels good!  We need to play and have an innate ability to.

Play, or Divine Play as we like to call it, is part of PILL improv.

Watch the facial expressions of Jody and Glenna as they play this very easy activity called ‘Same-Time-Story” And also watch the people watching them.  The delight is almost palpable.  

At PILL we make it a priority to create a safe environment for divine play and the community is incredibly supportive.  You don’t need to be an actor to play! Check out our classes or email your questions: bbbboynton@gmail.com.