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!

A Small Business Web Designer Who Cares about Our Missions!

Joanne Muckenhoupt is a compassionate, creative, and tech-savvy consultant who is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and small businesses be successful.  She knows that having a professional website is essential and wants to make it affordable for nonprofits or small businesses who are doing wonderful work. For instance, she recently worked with York County Community Action Corporation whose mission is to alleviate the effects of poverty, attack its underlying causes, and to promote the dignity and self-sufficiency of the people of York County, Maine.  Their new website she designed helps them to shine, don’t you think?

She has recently founded FlyNowCreative.com and is working on the website for my new business, Boynton Improv Education, LLC! (No link yet, but soon…!) As a sole proprietor for many years, I needed someone who could help me transform my home-grown online presence into a more sophisticated one.  She really listened to the mission and vision and I can feel and see it in the draft!  Now the draft is in my hands to add content and get to know how to make changes to my site before publishing. I like to be able to navigate the basics and call her back when I need help.

It is a wonderful combo of collaborative process; support when I need it and control when I want it! :).

She’s done graphic design on business logos, two of my book covers, the recent T-shirt for the Out of the PILLbox Players (w/ Robin Masia).  If you are looking for someone who will sit down with you and learn about your mission and vision, empower you, respect your budget, and genuinely care about your success, give her a call!  207.752.6035

Rich Moments of Presence in Mindfulness Meets Improv Class!

Liz Korabek-Emerson and I started our 4th Stronger Together PILL class Monday evening with 10 wonderful participants.  It is a unique combination of mindfulness meditation and PILL improv which we love teaching.   We have a blend of energy and expertise that creates safety, trust, and playfulness within our groups. Liz teaches mindfulness, I teach improv, and we collaborate all along the way!

This past Monday evening we did some warm ups and a little talking about mindfulness and improv processes.  Liz then led some sitting and walking meditations which evolved into some nonverbal group collaborations of stopping, starting, and turning.  These moments where each of us and all of us are sensing ourselves and moving together in quiet simple purpose are quite lovely.  In this space individuals consider their own actions in concert with others.  And the consideration, while it may have intellectual properties, is part of what Liz calls, “embodied mindfulness”.   It is a fascinating place to be with others.

From here we moved into an improv activity that involved one person doing a pose or nonverbal physical motion while another person was called to join in and define what the person was doing.

The 'Yes and...' principle of improv gives us infinite opportunities to share ideas & responsibility! Click To Tweet

We had a great discussion about the tendency to think about what we are going to do rather than stay focused on what others are doing.  Talk about being present, right?

Next we did an activity called “The Story”, adapted from Nancy Hurley’s book, 175 Theatre Games: Warm-up Exercises for Actors.  With attention to group process and creating a safe environment, many activities can be facilitated for anyone who wants to play!

This activity involves the whole group telling part of a story and they must include a person, place, or thing that is written on a piece of paper they choose, but can not look at until it is their turn to contribute. The stories were fun and bizarre.  They included a hilarious theme involving a golden paperclip along with fashionable evening gowns, aliens, pyramids, and a gallon of lemonade.

And in between two rounds of this, we talked more about about the mindfulness-improv connection.  Because this activity keeps part of the story a secret from each person until it is their turn, it  nudges us to be present!  In playful, safe, trusting community, we get to feel it!

The combination of mindfulness & improv gives us infinite opportunities to be present! 🙂 Click To Tweet

BTW…

We think this would be a great workshop for management teams or staff with organizations who want to engage, inspire, and connect their peeps!  Yes, we’re conspiring along those lines for a series or day-long session!

 

 

 

Drop-in Meditation this Summer at Creek Farm Reservation in Portsmouth!

Certified mindfulness teacher, transformational workshop leader, creative coach, (and Out of the PILLbox Player), Liz Korabek-Emerson is providing some outdoor early morning meditation this summer out at the beautiful Creek Farm Reservation!  Get the vibe from this picture and details below it!

Every Wednesday until August 15th
Liz will be offering an outdoor drop-in group at this beautiful location in Portsmouth.

“When the Human Spirit Needs Protection…”–Margaret Wheatley

What a couple of tough news days for those of us who want to be compassionate towards others, prevent violence and bullying, seek truth, treat our earth as sacred, and promote respectful, empowered relationships between men and women, old and young, black and white, straight and LGBTQ, Muslims and Christians, etc.   Oppression, in all it’s various forms and for whatever reason, seems to be a popular plan of action these days.

Not at PILL!

PILL improv is about sharing power, playing together in trust & respect, & supporting each other! Click To Tweet

We have a few simple rules to ensure these values are maintained and in the process, our humanity thrives.  Plus we laugh a lot!

We are an ‘Island of Sanity’ in Portsmouth, NH.  As visionary, Margaret Wheatley offers in her book, “Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, and Restoring Sanity:

When the human spirit needs protection the warriors will arise.

The human spirit needs protection.

May the warriors arise!

Maybe you’d like to join us for a summer PILL class? You’ll discover the most insane “Island of Sanity” you can imagine.

Come and fortify your human spirit! Our human spirt!

“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”!

“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!

Take a PILL & Laugh a Lot! Summer Classes 2018!

There are two exciting PILL classes to choose from this summer!

Stronger Together! The Extra Strength PILL

4 Monday Evenings – 6:30-8:30 pm
July 9th-July 30th         $75

This class is a unique and fun combination of presencing with improv and mindfulness! If you are looking for a way to be in the moment, make new friends, and experience divine play, this dynamic workshop is for you!  Lead by Beth Boynton, RN, MS and Liz Korabek-Emerson, MFA of Korabek Training.

Register Online or email Beth-bbbboynton@gmail.com

Take Another PILL!

3 Monday Eves – 6:30-8:30 pm

Aug 13-27th       $40

We’ll jump right into the divine play of improv! A level II class for those who have already swallowed a PILL or have some improv experience and are looking to play without performing. You can expect a little side-coaching, more complex activities, and lots of laughter!  

Led by Beth Boynton, RN MS.

Register Online or email Beth-bbbboynton@gmail.com

Also, I’ve done a couple of single sessions with various social groups that have been a lot of fun.  Email me if you’d like to talk about such a PILL for your friends and family!  They are mostly for fun and connecting.

 

Help Seacoast Artist Kickstarter Project -Ten Piscataqua Photographers!

 

Phillip Augusta and I have known each other since High School.  He is a familiar face in Portsmouth and has enriched the community, our community over the years with a variety of art-related projects. Currently he is involved with a group of artists and creative professionals who believe an arts community is stronger and richer when it has regular exposure to its creators. That’s the idea behind their series of books—

...to provide a way for the community to discover & celebrate some of the incredible local talent, one book at a time. Click To Tweet They are starting with ten photographers and plan to follow up with painters, sculptors, writers, and other artists.

They need to raise $14K to pay for printing, binding, and shipping the first thousand copies of the book and to throw a modest book signing party after it comes off press this summer. Please support all involved by pre-ordering a first edition copy of the book, or selecting one of the small archival prints some of the photographers are generously offering, or simply donating to, or becoming a patron of our project.

Glimpse the “Photographic Feast” in a short video and learn more about this Kickstarter project.