Beth teaching improv with health risk managers

Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries! January – “5 Things”

Improv of the Month Series

As discussed in the introduction to this series, integrating improv activities into your day to day work can be part of an organizational development effort to boost to morale, improve communication skills, build positive relationships and cultures. Please take a few minutes to review the introduction to learn more about setting up your process.

January Improv Activity – “5 Things”

How to Play

This activity can be played in a circle or in pairs.

Person A asks Person B to “Give me 5 things…” Person A completes this phrase with some sort of category like:

  • Give me 5 things that are green.
  • Give me 5 things that use gas.
  • Give me 5 things you keep in your attic.
  • Give me 5 things that you like about snow storms.
  • Give me 5 reasons for whistling while you work.

Person B responds e.g. to 5 things that are green:

  • Traffic lights.
  • Money.
  • String beans.
  • Sally’s eyes.
  • A green car.

Shana Merlin, improviser, teacher, and performer of Merlin Works demonstrates in this brief video!

Facilitation Tips

  • Starting out in pairs can feel safer to some people. Over the month, you might do it once in pairs and then graduate to a circle involving the whole team. From an organizational development perspective the experience with pairs will build those relationships while doing the activity in a circle will do so within the whole team.
  • Encourage starting out with simple requests and let the creative thinking gradually increase. Do this by instructing people to come up with categories that others will be successful with. Some people will be instantly comfortable with wacky categories, but could create anxiety in others. This kind of anxiety can lead to some people not sharing ideas with the group and may be part of what you fundamentally are seeking to change. Keep in mind, the idea isn’t to force everyone to have the same kind of creative thinking, rather to help people feel safe to connect with their own.
  • Invite responders to try not to think too much in answering and suggest that if they get stuck, they can make things up. (A green house, a green car, a green hat, a green martian, a green airplane would all be fine!)
  • Encourage the group or partners to be supportive of responses even if they are silly or even wrong. For instance, if Sally’s eyes are blue allow for the correction while keeping the game going. “How fun to learn about Sally’s eyes’, encourage brief applause, ‘nice job! Who’s next?” The idea is to have fun, be creative, get to know each other, not to be right!
  • Feel free to modify this to 3 Things. This will save a little time and be a little safer.
  • Consider doing this at the beginning of one meeting and closing another meeting.
  • Once you sense that people are more comfortable with the activity encourage or challenge the group to try more unusual categories. As practice with the activity and exposure to other people’s ideas, people will become more comfortable in thinking outside the box. This adds a whole new dimension of value to spending time with this activity.
  • Over the next few weeks consider initiating conversations at lunch or in the hall about what kinds of categories your team and their staff are coming up with.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open to how this shared experience is impacting the energy and morale in your workplace.
  • If you want, take a picture and write a short story about it. Maybe we’ll publish on the Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab Blog. 🙂 Contact me for more info at!
Beth facilitating improv

There is a lot more to applied improv than meets the eye!

Contact Beth to learn more about teaching improv in healthcare or other businesses. And check out the exciting new methodology offered in Be Crazy workshops co-created by Liz Korabek-Emerson and Beth Boynton!

Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab PILL classes

Improv sessions to give nurses & kids a boost!

What benefits does facilitated improv offer?

Facilitated improv sessions provide safe opportunities for participants to play together and build trust. The combination of trust and play is like magic for nurturing relationships, encouraging teamwork, decreasing stress, and developing social skills. And contrary to popular opinion, you do not need any improv or acting experience to enjoy the activities!

PILL – Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab is offering single session classes at PPMTV this month. One is for kids and their adults (Jan 19th) and the other for nurses  and nursing students (Jan 26th).

What to expect at a PILL Improv Session!

A safe environment for playful activities. 

Confidence and trust-building experiences.

Lots of support!

Positive social experiences.

Shared memories that are joyful and unique.

To learn more please check the above links, read testimonial, or contact Beth: 603-205-3509 – Happy to answer questions! And if you know of a nurse or kid who might be interested, please share. Thanks a lot.

Liz Korabek-Emerson & Beth Boynton putting up PILL Posters in Portsmouth, NH

Improv for Kids with Adults – Build Trust & Confidence!

We were Pill Postering in Portsmouth

My friend and colleague, Liz Korabek-Emerson and I were walking around Portsmouth, NH yesterday putting up PILL posters. We were catching up after the holidays, brainstorming ideas, and promoting our classes – Korabek Training and PILL!

We talk a LOT about how to explain the value of the improv and mindfulness activities we teach. We see and feel how nurturing experiences can be. We get moving testimonials from people who have never taken classes like ours. And we delight in creating safe and fun environments that encourage trust and divine play! BUT, how do we explain it?

Enriching to experience – hard to describe

As we walked along, Liz challenged me to think of language that would explain the benefits this pilot PILL class for kids and their adults would offer – (Saturday afternoon Jan 19th, 2019 – 2:30-4:30 at PPMTV)


Shortly after we were in Water Monkey where we always exchange hugs with Roger, one of the owners and wicked nice man. Soooo, while handing him a poster, I told him about the new class! He listened and seemed to get it!

Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab PILL classes

It will be an afternoon of playful bonding for kids and their adults – with other kids and their adults.

There will be positive social experiences that nurture relationships.

Participants will develop confidence and trust in themselves, others, and their surroundings.

They will create shared memories that are joyful and unique.

Do you have or know of a kid who might benefit from an emotional boost in a class with opportunities to develop social confidence in a non-competitive environment and develop trusting bonds with their parents, an aunt, grandfather, or trusted neighbor? Do you know of parents, teachers, guidance counselors, or child therapists that want to try something new for children that isn’t therapy, yet is enriching? Please help share the word. And if you have questions, call me: 603-205-3509! THANK YOU!

P.S. I got some great hand-knitted gloves at Water Monkey for only 5 bucks!

hand knitted gloves at Water Monkey for 5 dollars!
Everyone pretending to be using their devices in a fun improv activity at Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab

Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries!

Applied improv is different from improv comedy. Applied Improv is a teaching or training method that can help business organizations and community groups in many ways. You may have participated in an improv workshop for team-building or leadership development. Or maybe you’ve been treated to a workshop at your organization just for stress relief.

There is a wide variety of applications for improv! I think of using it on two levels. One simple approach is to have a little fun together! This is the primary purpose behind Improv of the Month idea.

What is Improv of the Month?

Improv of the month is an idea developed for visionary business or community leaders who strive for a healthy workforce. It is pretty simple in that champions of the idea should plan on teaching one simple activity each month and like a positive wave, helping it to spread through the organization.

Depending on the size of your organization, leaders can decide on the best process of sharing the activity so that directly or indirectly the entire staff is taught. In a business with multiple shifts and departments a visionary CEO could teach the activity to her/his management team and they in turn teach it to their staff. In a smaller organization, such as a primary care physician practice, a business manager or clinical leader could take on the task of teaching the entire staff. (A relatively new term for using improv for nurses or in other healthcare settings is called Medical Improv!)

The idea is to integrate a little fun into other meetings such as orientation processes, strategic planning meetings, and/or clinical education sessions. In most cases the whole experience will take only 10 minutes. People will have fun, be engaged, and connect around a somewhat silly shared experience. People on different shifts and in different departments will be engaged and have something new in common.

Starting in January, 2019, I’ll share a simple improv activity that you can do with your management team and/or staff. All you have to do to make sure you get each post subscribe to this blog! No charge. No strings attached.

Does the idea seem frivolous?

Spending time this way may sound frivolous and feel awkward at first, but consider these benefits before dismissing the idea.

PILL Improv students playing an activity called "The Gift".
  1. If your teams are having fun together this will likely improve morale and retention.
  2. Positive shared experiences can contribute to a culture of ownership, forgiveness, and learning.
  3. Humor can help people cope with aggression as per this Australian National University research!
  4. And for teams like doctors and nurses who are working under high-stakes, high stress conditions, having a little fun together will help people build trust and develop positive relationships.

Expect some resistance, but don’t let it stop you!

Improv can seem like a foreign language or new outfit that doesn’t quite fit. Yet, when facilitated with emotional safety in mind, most people find that it is fun and gets easier with practice. Remarkably, through the interactive play of improv many adults rediscover a natural ability for playfulness with others. (At PILL (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) we call this divine play!) And since many work environments involve some degree of interpersonal interactions, the notion of practicing in a fun way can help!

And try not to burden yourself with being perfect at these activities. People, for the most part, will appreciate you modeling outside your comfort zone and making room for a little stress relief amongst the staff. In fact, another benefit of playing improv activities is to celebrate the human qualities of imperfection. A stepping to forging relationships without blame, judgements, or fears of difference! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

What is the other level of teaching improv?

The second approach is to use the activities for more intentional and complex behavior change. As you know, individual and organizational behaviors are often interfering with staff’s ability to collaborate, innovate, and provide excellent customer service. Problems with interpersonal dynamics can also contribute to occupational injuries and illnesses. I use improv as an organizational development strategy by working with leaders in designing workshops to build ‘soft’ skills or meet goals. Another very exciting application is the Be Crazy workshops where mindfulness teacher , Liz Korabek-Emerson and I have teamed up to combine mindfulness and improv!

If you’d like to know more about using improv for your business or community for fun or deeper work, please reach out

Is that it?

No! One more thing! If you try out an Improv of the Month activity and want to share your story, take some pics and write to us. We’ll make a blog post out of it and spread the good news even further :).

Happy New Years from PILL! 

York, ME – Holiday Mini-sessions for Family Photos

York, ME photographer, Heather Henriksen

Thursday Dec. 27th & Sunday Dec. 30 in York, Maine    2:30-4p.m     

Now is the time to grab your photo!  10 minutes is all you need.

Heather Henriksen Photography is offering mini-sessions for 2 dates only.  Capture your family  while you are home for the holidays.  

Email Heather to set up a time for your family to drop in for a quick and easy 10 min shoot –

Heather has been a student in PILL classes and I can SO imagine her capturing sweet moments with your family this holiday season.

Learn more.

Jubilation Fantastically Fun Fitness Logo

Trust on the Dance Floor – Jubilation!

I’ve been taking Zumba classes at Jubilation in Portsmouth for years and I love it.  There are lots of things to love.  The music, the community of dancers, the space!  (The first class is always free btw.) The owner, Honore LaFlamme, creates a safe environment for all ages and abilities to enjoy dancing. You can get dressed up fancy for a workout or not. Just be you! And the people who go there are very welcoming!

One of the most profound things about my experience is about trust.

Beth Boynton and Honore LaFlamme after dancing at Jubilation
Beth and Honore after Class

In general, I admit, I don’t like people telling me what to do. Yet when I am dancing I’m totally glad to follow direction. It is a relief to not be in charge! It is really good for me to let that in!

This combination of dependence and trust seems remarkable. After all, you can have one without the other. Think about it how it might feel to be dependent on someone you don’t trust. And trusting someone you aren’t dependent on isn’t quite so profound or maybe risky, right?

When I experience both, I can literally feel my heart open up.  It is a wondrous feeling and I am grateful for it every single time.  I don’t have to be perfect or even close to it.  And it is also fine to be good at a particular step or routine.  

Do you know what I mean? Isn’t it great to follow someone when you feel this sense of trust?  

People having fun at Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab aka PILL

Help Nurses Combat Stress – Improv Class for Seacoast RNs & LPNs!

PILL – Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab is offering a single session improv class to help nurses combat stress! If you are a nurse or know a nurse,  would you please help spread the word? 

Nursing work is stressful.  There is unrelenting pressure to do high stakes work compassionately, quickly, and correctly.  Burnout, compassion fatigue, and workplace bullying add to the mix.  Over time, stress can zap the joy out of meaningful work.  

Helping nurses combat stress is super important and while improv for nurses may sound foreign, it is a fabulous way to relieve stress!  No acting or theater experience is necessary!  

Colorful and beautiful sky with balloons floating a PILL logo to advertise Stress Relief Improv for NURSES! :)
 Stress Relief PILL for NURSES!
With Beth Boynton, RN, MS Saturday, Jan 26, 2019 – 2:30 to 5:00 PM (EST)
@ PPMTV  280 Marcy St. – Portsmouth, NH
Learn more/register here or contact Beth
(603) 205-3509 – 
Cost $80 – 2.5 Contact Hours

As a teacher, one of my favorite things to do is to help get a room full of nurses laughing and playing together.  Seeing them have fun and get a break from their stressful work is very rewarding!  Try out this unusual program for yourself or bring one to your workplace!


In addition to having fun, this PILL may cause positive side effects!

  • improve communication
  • Increase confidence
  • Boost immunity
  • Meet nice colleagues  

Medical Improv or improv for non actors is a fantastic way to improve communication and other ‘soft’ skills!  The experiences of speaking up and listening while building stories together allow nurses to practice important skills. Because the activities are fun and experiential, the learning sticks!

PILL logo with ice and snow

No one knew what would happen when they took the Arctic PILL! :)

In fact, no one was really planning on taking an Arctic PILL!  One very cold day in downtown Portsmouth, NH,  3 devoted PILL students came to class.  First Susan, then Kelly, then Jen.  It wasn’t long before they realized their dilemma. 

They were locked out of the building!

As the teacher, I felt a sense of panic when the app to get into PPMTV wasn’t working. 

In my head… Don’t worry.  Trust your students. Trust the process. Try the app again.

Everything will be fine. Try the app again!

After all this was a PILL improv class.  If anything in life can help you learn to roll with the unexpected, it is improv! 
PILL Improv Students and Teacher having fun despite getting locked out on a very cold day!

You know what?  Each woman was 100% supportive! Together  we said YES to the situation and started class outside.   

It was an awesome class. 

Neighbors told us we looked like we were having lots of fun! Later when we went in search for warmth and hot beverages, people at Cere’s Bakery told us we looked so happy.  And I think we livened up Breaking New Grounds with our silly and and love-filled energy!

Beth & Susan rapping like Mr. Mike?

We’ll be announcing winter PILL classes soon!  Please join us for some wacky-fun and loving-spirit times! 

Fortunately/Unfortunately – Hilarious Improv Take-Home Activity with a Resiliency Ripple

I love the games we play at PILL so much that I go home and get my family to play some of them during dinner.  Our favorite so far has been ‘Fortunately/Unfortunately’.  It’s hilarious and heart-warming to see us all, especially my teenage daughter getting into it, letting her hair down, being silly and having so much fun! -Kelly Hurd, M.Ed.
Reiki Practitioner, Yoga Teacher, Health & Lifestyle Coach, Wellness Educator
603 767-8622

(Scroll down to learn how to play Fortunately/Unfortunatlyl)

Thanks, Kelly!  I find it very exciting to hear how students of PILL- (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) bring activities home or to work.  Not long ago, another PILL student shared her story of bringing the Danish Clapping Game to a group of women she was working with in prison.  It was the first time she heard some of them laugh!  And visual art teacher, Rhonda Miller experimented with some improv with kids age 6-12 at a summer camp with great success.

The rippling effect of improv can be profound. Just imagine Kelly's daughter letting her hair down and their family playing together over a meal! Click To Tweet

I learned Fortunately/Unfortunately  at an improv for resilience workshop with Jude Treder-Wolff.  Jude is a creative arts psychotherapist, singer/songwriter and actress who creates and facilitates creativity-based workshops dealing with emotional intelligence, stress-resilience, burn-out prevention and all aspects of professional development. Her article,  Resilience Is Hope With “Muscle” — And Improvisation Training Is The Work-Out That Work is well-worth reading. In the piece she describes six ways that improv builds resilience.  For instance, “Generating supportive social experiences in which everyone can develop their capacity to respond to the unexpected and unpredictable in novel and useful ways that contribute to a rewarding creative process!”

So whether for fun or deeper learning, at home or at work, improv activities are a source of joy!

To Play Fortunately/Unfortunately

  1. Explain that you will go around in a circle and take turns with alternating phrases beginning with fortunately or unfortunately. Let your group know that they can make things up and should build on the story.
  2. If you have an odd number of people, each person will be able to build on the story with both positive and contrary mindsets.  If you have an even number, try two rounds and with second round start off with unfortunately first!
  3. Start with a statement that has some story-building potential like, “One day, (or ‘once upon a time’) I was driving to the store to pick up some groceries.”
  4. The next person should add to the story by starting with: fortunately.  For instance, “Fortunately, my children had made a shopping list for me.
  5. The next person adds to the story and starts with: unfortunately.  For instance, “Unfortunately, there the shopping list was mostly ice-cream and cake.
  6. And so on….
    • Fortunately, I found some string bean cake and broccoli ice-cream.
    • Unfortunately, when I got home my whole family made sour faces.
    • Fortunately, I decided to take the broccoli ice-cream to my neighbor as a gift.
  7. Continue to go around the circle creating the story for as long as it feels fun! Resist the urge to stop too soon as sometimes a little percolating time allows people to get more comfortable with the process.  This can lead to surprising twists!
    • Unfortunately, the ice-cream was melting all over me.
    • Fortunately…

Where this story goes is anybody’s guess. Maybe she’ll be covered with green sticky ice-cream and be mistaken for an alien who is captured and brought back to Mars!  In any case, every one will be part of the story’s creation!  A new shared experience, even if it is a silly one!

If you try it, let us know how it went!

Thankful for People of PILL!

Happy Thanksgiving to all the People of Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab – PILL!  You are such beautiful, loving, and divinely playful people.  I am grateful to each of you for trying something new and bringing your wondrous personalities and kind humanity to every class.

Each of you PILL people and the divine play of improv affirm the goodness and spirit of humanity! Click To Tweet

Over the past 2 plus years you have made me laugh, hysterically at times.  At PILL rubber bands and knitted socks come to life, shoes fly over kings in their thrones, eggplant and applesauce become mouth-watering delights, while eggplant and lemon juice a cure for gout.  Oh, and one little girl who was called to the principle’s office is forever etched in my heart.

You have inspired and influenced my improv teaching skills in a big way.  And some of you have provided video footage that has engaged healthcare professionals all over the USA and maybe abroad.  I even had the biggest blessing of having my son, Curran work with us in a filming session.  The video for the longest “Emotional Meeting”  is a teaching treasure trove and major personal joy.

I had extreme pleasure and much learning in our Stronger Together classes with Liz Korabek-Emerson.  I am grateful for our collaboration.

So thank you all for being part of PILL.

Don’t forget to do a little Danish Clapping today!