“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/

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

10/9 Seacoast Writers’ Panel Discussion Brought to You by Maat Publishing & WSCA Community Radio

Please join Steve Carter, Tom Sweeney, and I in Portsmouth next week.  We’re all local writers and have varying experiences to share about writing, publishing & marketing. This is a free monthly event featuring a variety of writers and publishers.  I’ve been to several and always learn something helpful! (Podcasts archived here!)

Offered by Maat Publishing

in cooperation with WSCA Community Radio

It is typically a small gathering with plenty of time for questions and 1:1 networking after the panel discussion. 

Plus, complimentary snacks and beverages.  Hope to see you there.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 6:00 to 8:00 P. M.

Portsmouth Community Radio

909 Islington Street Portsmouth, NH

There will be a 30-minute panel discussion, followed by Q&A, and then time for hanging out and chatting.

Panelists:

Tom Sweeney

Steve Carter

Beth Boynton

Get your questions answered and connect with others in the field: writers, editors, cover artists, publishers, marketers.

Event is free and open to public

Complimentary light refreshments, beer & wine will be available

WPM is offered on the second Tuesday of each month.

Vision Statement

At Maat Publishing, our vision is to help you bring your book to life!

Working with us, you will be part of a collaborative team. As author, you know what you wish to achieve and are free to choose the services that are right for you. Throughout the process you are always in charge. Our part of the collaboration is to provide you with the best guidance in getting the story residing within you out into the world in a timely fashion.

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.

“Out of the PILLbox Players” Sneak Peak Slideshow – ‘Emotional Meeting’ OY!

Last summer, we started the PILL filming project to help show how fun and easy PILL classes are and to create training material for Medical Improv.

Recently the second filming session of the Out of the PILLbox Players took place at PPMTV in Portsmouth, NH.  We had a blast!  There is a treasure chest of film footage with beautiful humans playing.  Since it will be a while before video is ready, here is a slideshow from an activity called Emotional Meeting*.   

Out of the PILLbox Players in order of appearance:  Liz Korabek-Emerson, Barbara Trimble, Susan Conboy, Curran Russell, Lori Austin, Jody Fuller,  Robin Masia, Glenna Kimball, Dwyer Vessey, Patricia Corso, John Klossner, & Carolyn Vibbert! THANKS  to each of you and all of you  kindhearted and playful people! (Mary Ellen McElroy and Anita Remig were not available for this one.  You can enjoy them in Gibberish Talk Show Host!)

  • Emotional Meeting can be found in Kat Koppett’s “Training to Imagine”!

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! 🙂

Is it something personal?  Help keep programming going or at least check out fun PPMTV Kickstarter video!

Well, personally, I love PPMTV! They are helping me with filming project designed to make healthcare safer and more compassionate for patients, residents, and families and healthier to work in for nurses, doctors, etc

Last week, I was in San Francisco teaching Medical Improv to about 60 health risk managers.

Here I am with the group watching a video with seacoast PILL peeps Jody Fuller and Glenna Kimball doing an improv activity called Same Time Story.  It is a fun and effective way to teach empathic listening skills!  We need THAT in healthcare, don’t you think? Look closely and see how engaged the participants are!

Now PPMTV needs $$ for new programming stuff.  I threw in a few bucks and maybe you will too.  If you can.  And if not, please share this post and check out their fun video, “It’s Always Something!” What a crew!

Kickstarter Project to Help Keep PPMTV on the Air.  Please consider a donation to help replace their computer program and get some new software that makes all the programming possible.

Oh and next PILL classes start 4/28!

Read More

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!

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!