Alan Alda Has a Passion for Using Improv to Help Scientists Communicate better!

There's something about improv that opens you up to another person.-Alan Alda Click To Tweet

Building trust, developing empathy, and practicing communication skills are going on all the time in the divine play of applied improvisation activities!  Improv techniques have the potential to help us in all interactions!  One pioneer in applying improvisation is well-known and loved actor, Alan Alda! This is a great interview with him and Dan Rather that includes a couple of fun clips of students improvising, even some gibberish! And pretty nice to hear them talk so lovingly and respectfully of their wives.  I’d say, grab a cup of tea and enjoy this interview!

Stay tuned to PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab for classes open to everyone!

 

Brene Brown Suggests “Show Up for Collective Moments of Joy & Pain”!

Professor, Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW is well known for her TED Talk, research, and writing on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. In her latest book,  “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”, she makes the case that we are in a spiritual crisis and that “…the key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection is to show up for collective moments of joy and pain”!

The idea of collective moments of joy is exactly what seems to be happening in PILL improv play and mindfulness exercises.  Playing, laughing, and meditating together builds trust and a sense of ease with others. As a teacher, (and I bet colleague Liz Korabek-Emerson would agree) this divine play is beautiful to watch!

Brown’s book is an enaging read with a call to action for each of us and she has a zero BS mindset.  There is so much chaos, fragmentation and sadly, violence in our world today that making it a priority to connect w/ compassion seems crucial.

“…true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity.”—Brene Brown

 

What is the most powerful language in all the world?

Gibberish!

In PILL classes we have lots of fun with Gibberish activities.

We played Gibberish Poet in a recent class and one of my students shared her observation that it was wonderful to see trust developing as one person spoke Gibberish and the other translated.  We heard poems about daisies, garbage, and much more.

When you think of it, most (about 90%) of our communication is going on without words, right?  So if we put the actual content aside, which we do in many Gibberish activities we get to focus on other things:

  • Trust
  • Attentive listening
  • Self-expression
  • Relationship-building

As fun and funny as Gibberish activities can be, the deeper transformations that can take place are quite profound. In the video below you can see a top BBC Journalist in an interview with artist, Alex Sternick.  Watch it for a few minutes and focus on all the ‘stuff’ going on between these two people that isn’t about words!  Let me know what you think!

 

 

Late Bird Special! Mindfulness Meets Improv Class-Stronger together!

Does this class sound interesting to you? We love to have you join us.

Stronger Together:  The Extra Strength PILL for Connecting with Fun & Presence?

There is still room in this unique workshop series that Liz Korabek-Emerson and I piloted over the summer!  It sounds weird, but combining these two practices is easy, fun, and sometimes….transformative.

We’ve already got enough signups to run the class and want to see if there are any more takers!

Soooooo….we’re offering a $10 savings to anyone who registers between now and Monday at 6p.  Don’t wait too long though b/c there is a limited # of spots open.

Register/learn more here and look for the Late Bird Ticket!

If you have questions, email me or liz:

Liz:  Korabek@comcast.net

Me: bbbboynton@gmail.com

 

What Makes Applied Improv an Effective Strategy for Preventing Violence?

Ask any teacher of applied improv this question and you’ll likely get a variety of similar answers with a diversity of examples and approaches.  Nevertheless, it is an important question to ask right now.

After all, we seem to be surrounded by devasting violent acts. Some tragedies are manmade like this week’s horrific shooting in Las Vegas.  Some are the results of mother nature, like hurricanes Irma and Maria.  And some are a combination; as with the current situation in Puerto Rico where hurricanes caused massive destruction and we have been slow to help.

I don’t think you get to be human and not experience some kind of suffering.  Yet, minimizing it for ourselves and others seems like a compassionate and purposeful mission.  I believe fiercely in this and that there is hope. Some of which lies with students and teachers of applied improv.

Why Applied Improv?

There are several compelling reasons. First, applied improv is a way to playfully practice and grow fundamental communication skills like listening and speaking up.  All activities help with at least one of these skills while the vast majority help with both. As we practice developing these skills we build the foundation that helps us to manage conflict, embrace diversity, and give and receive constructive feedback with respect and kindness.  These are the building blocks to healthy relationships even among people with different cultures, skin colors, sexuality, age, genders….etc.

Second, participants get to be imperfect and supported at the same time.  We celebrate mistakes in improv which allows us all to be human and stay connected.  While the games of improv can lead to silly, fictional stories like eggplant and applesauce recipes, nano-weights for muscle-building, or knitting book-covers by the millions, there is an underlying and profound sense of trust-building going on. This lets us take risks, try out new behaviors,  and share ideas.  In essence, the process helps us discover who we are and who we want to be.  Our best selves can emerge with authenticity and in friendship.

Third, we get to experience ‘divine play’.  Many will nod in understanding this concept in thinking of a baby playing with his or her food and making funny sounds, dogs chasing each other on a beach, or horses frolicking in a field. This spirit of playfulness is incredibly joyful and improv lets us experience it first hand.

Fourth, as we play together we share experiences that are often, but not always funny.  We also share moments of other emotions such as sadness or anger.  These shared experiences are bonding.  Most people want to care about others and be cared about.  As our world is erupting in chaos, the importance of creating spaces and opportunities for this cannot be understated.

Fifth, a point made by improv student and retired 2nd-grade teacher, Glenna Kimball, “Having time to play together gives us the strength to cope with everything else that is going on”.  This is important b/c getting stuck in despair would be easy to do these days, but not helpful.  Making joy a priority will help us stay the course.

Where can you find an applied improv class? 

I have two businesses that involve applied improv.  One is PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab, where you’ll find basic classes and along with new projects like combining mindfulness and improv (with Korabek Training) and the upcoming version for young adults (with Project SparX out of Fireside Theatre in Newburyport, MA).  I also teach Medical Improv to healthcare professionals wherever I am invited to.  I have been as far away as Saudi Arabia!  The activities are the generally the same, but the framing involves improving critical outcomes such as patient safety, patient experience, and workforce health.

If you are an applied improv teacher, please feel free to post your related work with any links to it,  additional ideas and approaches you are using in the comment section of this blog.

Summary

Our abilities to cope with, respond to, engage in conflict about, and prevent violence all have roots in our abilities to form healthy and respectful relationships. Our social fabric may be wearing thin or unraveling, but applied improv classes can help.  And there are new teachers and approaches rising up all over the world!  Learn more at the Applied Improvisation Network.

 

 

 

 

Combining Improv and Mindfulness is Trending!

Improv and mindfulness?  Sounds kind of strange, yes?  And yet, what if we can practice being present with ourselves as well as each other?  Hmmmmmmm!

This summer Liz Korabek-Emerson and I launched Stronger Together, a 4-part workshop series where we combined meditation training with fundamental improv activities.   About 10 people jumped in to try out this seemingly weird combo where each week we had a theme for each session and started out with a warm-up activity followed by some meditation and then improv activities.

Some of the feedback we received:

  • I’m having so much fun, but it is hard to explain to my friends.
  • I’ve never felt this comfortable in a group!
  • I don’t want it to end.

And we had so much fun teaching, we are offering it again Monday evenings starting Oct 23rd at PPMTV in Portsmouth and you can learn more or register here.

Other mindfulness/improv resources include Ted DesMaison and Lisa Rowland’s series called Monster Baby Podcast and Liz’s blog series:

Mindfulness Meets Improvisation 

By Liz Korabek-Emerson

Part I: Listen and Respond (and Be Present)

Part II: Start Anywhere

Part III: Embrace Uncertainty

Part IV: Be Kind

Part V: Cultivate Generosity

At PILL we take the focus off of performance.  This helps make joyful improv activities available to anyone who wants to give them a try!

How Delivering Pizza Led Me to a Spiritual Reunion that I Am SO Grateful For!

Most of my work these days is around developing, promoting, and teaching PILL classes in Portsmouth and Medical Improv at healthcare conferences and organizations all over the country.  I LOVE and am committed to this fun and transformative process!

Upcoming gigs:

But what does that have to do with pizza and spiritual events?

Well……sometimes it is good to step away from trying to make things happen and let them happen with a faith in some higher plane of wisdom, …maybe… right?  So this summer I toyed with some part-time ideas of bartending, nursing, and delivering pizza.  I wanted something low stress and different.  Bartending?  Maybe.  Nursing? No, part-time is too stressful.  Not enough staff typically and I’ve done 30 plus years of direct care.  I want something lighter.

Delivering pizza?  Seriously?

I had to struggle with my ego a bit.  After all, what is a nurse, author, and international speaker doing delivering pizza?  I know, it is a little weird, but that’s what I decided to do.  So a couple of times a week I put on my Papa Gino’s outfit and drive around the seacoast and deliver pizza.  The people I work with are from all over the world and very nice.  The scenery is nice, people getting pizza are usually in good spirits,  and for now,  I kinda like it.

And one day, I was surprised to see a vaguely familiar name on a delivery order that I was assigned to.  A relative of my ex sister-in-law, Susan who passed away a few years ago from colon cancer.  She had been divorced from my brother and due to complex family dynamics way outside the scope of this post, I had lost track of her.  And yet she was a very nurturing person in my life when I was growing up.   ( I think I met her when I was about 10 years old.)

To say the least, I loved her dearly and have fond memories of her and her family.

So, I took a deep breath in noting some anxiety taking the pizza over.  After all, I wasn’t really exactly sure who I was taking it to and what kind of feelings might be encountered given the old family dynamics and my, shall we say unusual role?

Well, Susan’s brother answered the door.  I remembered him immediately, gave him the pizza, and introduced myself saying how much I missed his sister.  He remembered me and without any hesitation invited me in to see his (and Susan’s) Mother.  OMG what a gift.  I remembered her and she, now elderly,  remembered me.   We hugged and both got teary.  She’s just as nurturing as Susan was!  When I was a little girl she AND Susan were wonderful beacons of love in my life.

Well, she wanted me to come back and her son said the door was always open.  I left with a full heart and promise to do so.  I even dropped by without my pizza garb for a longer visit last week.  I feel so joyful about this reconnection and opportunity to be part of her village at this point in her life and mine.

Crazy, right?  A Higher plane of wisdom, maybe….right?

Spotlight on Seacoast Actor & NH’s Commitment to Holistic Health Via Art, Medicine, & Improv

Jennifer Sue Mallard is well-known for many wonderful acting roles on the NH seacoast.  Did you see her as the Lady of the Lake in this Summer’s hit show, Spamalot at Seacoast Rep?  OMG the whole show was amazing and so was she!

A newer and also exciting role for Jen is as one of the dedicated instructors at the River Guild Holistic Health Collective in Concord, NH.  Here she teaches many forms of art all of which is approached in a therapeutic way. She incorporates meditation in every class and teaches improv for adults and youth.

Jen also teaches wire wrapping healing stones, painting from your soul and collaborative choreo!

I’m loving having found an outlet to combine my passions of helping people organically and in a healthy way by using what I know And love. Art is such a beautiful form of medicine and I’m lucky to have become aware of how I can use my skills in a deeper way, to bring us all together and heal the soul!  –Jennifer Sue Mallard

The River Guild is a holistic health collective with community space serving Concord and Central New Hampshire. Their classes include yoga, healthy eating seminars, meditation, reading groups, author events, mindful parenting, art and children’s classes. Doesn’t this look like an exciting place? Whether for primary treatment or to support traditional medicine, with all the chaos in health care these days, it is reassuring to hear about a calming and loving place for healing.  And what a great place for instructors too!

Their philosophy is grounded in the firm belief that everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach!

Meanwhile, here on the seacoast Fall classes for PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab are taking shape. Applied improv, (different from improv comedy) is a fun way to meet people and grow!

Mindfulness Meets Improvisation-Part V-Cultivate Generosity

In part I of this series we explored how both practices help with listening, responding, and being present.  In Part II, we talked about starting anywhere, Part III, embracing uncertainty, and Part IV-on being kind!  

Here we explore how these two seemingly different practices both help us to: Cultivate Generosity!

When we are confident in our ability to meet our lives, moment by moment, we can afford to relax and be generous with ourselves and others.   We can take the long view and put things into perspective.  We don’t have to take ourselves so seriously.  In practicing mindfulness, once our minds settle even for a moment, we begin to connect with spaciousness, the feeling that there is enough room for things to be just the way they are.  

The ducks can just float by – we don’t have to line them all up.  

We recognize our thoughts and then practice letting them go.  We have the opportunity to further practice this when we improvise.  We have an idea of what to do next and then the situation changes and we have to shift gears, letting go of our idea.  By continuously letting go of our ideas, thoughts and scenarios in our heads and opening up to the moment fresh and curious we create the spaciousness to go with the flow.  

In the flow we start to see the bigger picture and how we can jump in and be generous.

If you are interested in experiencing these two practices (and we hope you are), join Beth Boynton and me for our exciting launch of the workshop:

Stronger Together:  The Extra Strength PILL for Connecting with Presence & Fun 

We believe you will exhale, laugh, and leave sessions feeling stronger together!

Mindfulness and improvisation?  To help people develop emotional intelligence, good communication skills, presence and deeper connections?  Granted, it’s a little out of the box.  But most fun, cutting edge and innovative stuff is.  -Liz Korabek-Emerson

Liz is a certified mindfulness instructor, transformational workshop leader and creative coach dedicated to helping people become more resilient through mindfulness.  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 creating and directing theatre to teaching programs that are empowering, creative and engaging.  Learn more at Korabek Training.

 

Mindfulness Meets Improvisation-Part III-Embrace Uncertainty

In part I of this series we explored how both practices help with listening, responding, and being present.  In Part II, we talked about starting anywhere!  Here we explore how these two seemingly different practices both help us to:

Embrace Uncertainty

Anything can happen . . .and it usually does!  But most of don’t like that.  So we spend our time and energy trying to resist or predict or manage what is going to happen to us next.  And we wonder why we are so stressed!  Mindfulness and improvisation both allow us to relax with the uncertainty of the next moment.  

We meet it and then let it go.  

When we slow down enough to be with what is actually happening, its usually not as bad as we think, or if it is challenging, we see that we do have the resources to handle it.  Often,  someone, our scene partner steps in to help us.  In the improvisation no one knows what is going to happen next so we get the opportunity to consciously practice meeting the next unknown moment.  The uncertainty of creating on the spot teaches us to relax and become more confident in our ability to meet the new twist in the unfolding plot . . . of our lives.   

If you are interested in experiencing these two practices, join Beth Boynton and me for our exciting launch of the workshop:

Stronger Together:  The Extra Strength PILL for Connecting with Presence & Fun 

(Catch the Early Bird rate through 7/19/17)

We believe you will exhale, laugh, and leave sessions feeling stronger together!

Mindfulness and improvisation?  To help people develop emotional intelligence, good communication skills, presence and deeper connections?  Granted, it’s a little out of the box.  But most fun, cutting edge and innovative stuff is.  -Liz Korabek-Emerson

Liz is a certified mindfulness instructor, transformational workshop leader and creative coach dedicated to helping people become more resilient through mindfulness.  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 creating and directing theatre to teaching programs that are empowering, creative and engaging.  Learn more at Korabek Training.