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!

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.

Why Improv?  Why Now?

Because it restores everything that is slipping away from us in our distracted, mediated, complex and isolated world.  And it’s just darn fun!  When’s the last time you did something just for fun?  

Improv brings us back to connection, embodiment, community, play and civility. Click To Tweet

Long before theatre, music, poetry, and making pictures were the exclusive purview of a professional class of artists who had the “right” training, these activities belonged to all of us and served multiple functions within our cultures and communities.  They provided beauty, preserved our history, allowed us to let down our guard, and strengthened relationships. In teaching non-performance improv we are in a sense returning theatre to its essential role in examining and expressing what it means to be human.  Theatre, in general as an artform has the unique ability to influence and inform our everyday living because the medium itself is human experience. It’s about us. It is us.

Theatre happens in community. In the communal structure of improv, the basic principle is yes and . . .  We are not just playing. We are playing with and for each other. This playing encourages us to develop the skills to be connected; to be present by listening, trusting and speaking up.  As our connections deepen through play, our understanding of ourselves, others and the world can’t help but grow. In any given improv, we might be called on to be the mom, zombie, movie critic, or translator.  Who knew we could step into all these roles? And if that’s possible, maybe we could expand our idea of ourselves beyond our work/family roles to include something we discover, maybe. In playing with each other and accepting whatever circumstance we are given, who knows what we will find ourselves relating to?  Coworkers who are angry, elated, sad, bored or nervous. We might find ourselves open and empathetic to qualities we normally block out or ignore in the people around us. As we continue to practice yes and . . . looking for opportunities to contribute or support to the overall storyline, we can begin to recognize and feel part of a larger trajectory, deepening that sense of being a small AND important part of the world at large.  Anything is possible in an improv, along as we listen, trust and speak up. Anything.

In a world that feels contracted and overwhelming and speedy and aggressive all at the same time, more technology, do-lists and work, work, work doesn’t feel like the solution. It feels like more of the same. We need something different like maybe some good old-fashioned play time so we can slow down, laugh and be together just for the fun of it.

Bio

Liz is a certified mindfulness instructor, transformational workshop leader and creative coach dedicated to creating opportunities for people to connect to their inherent wisdom, confidence and compassion.  Since 2012 she has been designing and leading mindfulness programs for individuals and organizations including the Portsmouth Hospital, Liberty Mutual, and Riverwoods Retirement community.  She also holds an MFA in theatre and brings thirty years of experience in theatre to designing programs that are engaging, insightful and compelling.  Learn more at Korabek Training.

WOW! Moving testimonial from “Stronger Together” PILL student!

“I feel our world is failing and it is challenging to know/learn what to do to affect change, besides voting! I kept seeing this poster in downtown Portsmouth that mentioned PILL (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab). It was a 4 week commitment indicating that we would work with divine play, improv and mindfulness. It scared me, why put myself in this position where I may have to be vulnerable? At the same moment, I knew I should be taking this class.

Our leaders Beth Boynton & Liz Korabek-Emerson were gentle, accepting and very funny as were the other 15 class participants. I haven’t been able to verbally process all of what I received from PILL.

I am a workaholic and I am happy to report, that I did learn to play and have fun. All my senses were heightened, due to the mindfulness exercises; the air, smells, stars, the movement of driving home after class all felt like beautiful gifts. A big heavy darkness has been lifted from me and this isn’t even therapy! All of our ‘good-byes’ were so meaningful. To think that we were able to get to that deep level of intimacy & caring for each other without judgment even without speaking about our lives is astonishing to me.

Beth and Liz are creating something bigger than all of us! It will change us and therefore little by little change our world. I am thankful to both Beth & Liz for following their truth and it has truly blessed me.

I did know I was to take that class 😍 and am joy filled.! Joanne Hardin, Rye, NH Retired and active family care taker.”

Thanks so much, Joanne! Your comments inspire our teaching & may encourage new PILL students. Click To Tweet

Coincidently, we were just putting up PILL posters yesterday for our next mindfulness & improv class starting Weds Sept 26th along with other FALL PILL classes.  We got caught in the afternoon showers. Can you guess what happened next?

Yup…we were singing in the rain!  🙂

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!