Category Archives: Play

Embodied, theatre, movement, dance, nonverbal, music dialogues

Improvising Breakthroughs in Difficult Conversations

Written by . Filed under Act, Learn, Play. Tagged , . 1 Comment.

How can we engage in difficult conversations in a way that is productive, satisfying, and even FUN?

How can we open ourselves to learn something new about the other person’s perspective?

What is the difference between a response and a reaction?

DwD-Lauren

Lauren Stein presented an interactive, experiential exploration of “difficult conversations” at November’s DwD, engaging about 30 people in playful ways to approach these conversations – expressed as speaking and listening to concerns about criticism, personal emotions, relationships, money, and fears. Using the tools and experiences of improvisational theatre, Lauren showed us how to slow down conversations to separate reactions from responses. The goal of experiential learning was to identify and use internal information, both intellectual and emotional, to construct respectful responses rather than triggered or knee-jerk reactions.

Lauren emphasized the  philosophy of “Yes/And” as a relational tool, a way to stay on the same side of the other person, even if we disagree about a particular issue.  The exercises – from opening circle to improvisational conversation theatre – all reinforced the importance of an open and curious attitude.

From the very start, the OCADU Auditorium was buzzing with discussions, from the introductions, to paired exchanges into questions, to exercises exhausting the imaginative space of asking questions.

Some participants were asked deep questions and discovered things they did not know about themselves. People learned and took home new games for conversational exploration, such as the Curiosity Game and the Questions Game (based on the idea of asking your partner about anything you’re curious about). One couple even reportedly resolved a personal dispute just by using the improv principle of “Yes, And.”

Hobeen-Peter

The final exercise involved volunteer demonstrations of improvised conversations between participants acting out scenes drawn from their own feeling states.

Here two DwD participants, Hobeen and Peter improvise an emotional exchange between a worn-out boxer and his coach, both struggling with the will to win and the meaning of the match. Lauren skillfully set up the pair to adopt postures and positions, wait for the impulse, and to create the context and conversation as it emerged.

Lauren reminds us that sometimes the highest we can achieve from a difficult conversation is to understand the other person’s point of view and remain respectful.

 

About the Host

Warrior Woman-sm

Lauren Stein is director of Laurentina’s Improv Club, where she performs and facilitates improvisational theatre experiences. She has taught and performed all over the world, including Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Ireland, and Switzerland. With a Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy from European Graduate School, she helps people awaken their creativity and overcome life’s hurdles through play.

Creative Leadership for Climate Change

Written by . Filed under Play, Think. Tagged , . No comments.

Creative Leadership for Climate Change at the Intersection of Art & Neuroscience

By Kelly Okamura and Don Officer

Except for a few stubborn holdouts most of us are convinced climate change is something serious to be concerned about. But where do we start? At week’s end we barely have energy enough to sort out the blue boxes and the green messages.

This is the big issue governments and interest groups must contend with individually and will again collectively at the Cop21 climate change summit this year in Paris. Our guest presenters this March have been exploring ways to meet that challenge and are hoping to showcase a few at the upcoming summit.

Scott Baker and Ross Curtner of Adjacent Possibilities led the DwD participants on March 11 in a mindfulness-oriented dialogic session that built on personal engagement. During the evening they demonstrated several ways to concentrate our skills and capacities in a group setting.  At the summit their team plans to use wearable EEG technology to assess participant mindfulness.  At March’s DwD we discovered how effectively the practice could focus on what matters to any group.

raisin-man-dwd-adjpos-md-IMG_7111

Our session began with a classic mindfulness practice: imagining a raisin. We pondered the qualities of raisins and recalled personal memories of raisins.  Then we experienced a raisin through guided practice. The raisin exercise led to partner work dialogue on climate change. Impressions were articulated, recorded and plotted on a grid divided into abstract-concrete, and engaged-disengaged quadrants.  Everyone shared in open session before splitting again into groups of four to consider the big question, “How might we most meaningfully engage mindful participation on climate change?”

tippy-toes-dwd-adjpos-rc-IMG_7148

The consensus was we had participated in a successfully led, thought provoking dialogue offering new ideas, new “adjacent possibilities” as we contributed to the Paris project.  I left with my own insights on engagement with “wicked problems’” that seem to offer no openings or purchase.  I wish the team success in Paris.

 

ABOUT THE HOSTS

How do we experience climate change? How does the nature of our experience influence our ability to take action? How might insights from art & neuroscience inform our leadership on the issue?

March’s DwD  was hosted by Ross Curtner and Scott Baker of Adjacent Possibilities.  Drawing inspiration from systems thinking and game design, the session provided participants the opportunity to prototype the mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics of renewed relationship with this complex issue.

At heart, Ross Curtner is a facilitator, curator and purveyor of purposeful play. Putting these passions to work he’s lead strategic planning retreats for cleantech investment and business development groups, designed leadership experiences for arts foundations, consulted for government and recently, co-founded Adjacent Possibilities, an agency which connects artists and entrepreneurs to enable new approaches to complex challenges. An alumni of MaRS’ Studio Y Fellowship, he previously worked at The Stop and Community Food Centres Canada. When he’s not scheming of creative ways to address big issues, you can find Ross exploring Toronto’s forests with the PINE Project. @RossCurtner

scottross-sm

Scott Baker was raised on wind-licked west-coast of Vancouver Island and has since been working at the intersection of climate policy and civic engagement with the Canadian and European Green Parties, Leadnow, and Tides Canada. Currently Scott is a StudioY Fellow at MaRS Discovery District and the co-founder of Adjacent Possibilities.

 

The Wisdom of Movement, Song and Story: A DwD Workshop in InterPlay

Written by . Filed under Play. Tagged , . No comments.

Last February 11, Rehana Telpara guided a smaller group of DwD session participants in hybrid forms of reflective play call Interplay. Rehana introduced herself as an InterPlay leader in training, with more modesty than necessary led us through a series of exercises that awakened the playfulness in everyone there. Emotional interactions occurred and we left more relaxed, connected with one another and aware that we had shared an experience with everyone in the room at a meaningful level.

We began with a series of gibberish vocalizations that engaged us all in uttering and attending to what initially seemed out of context, content free nonsense. Seemed, but wasn’t really. Rehana who is clearly one of this world’s genuine seekers, brought us face to face (literally) with the simple truth: whenever someone interacts, however loosely, with another, communication happens.

Following reflection, we moved into movement in pairs, suspending an imaginary beam of energy between each other while carefully moving. This activity continued into a journey around the room inspired by the music being played. We moved from this activity into more personal explorations through floor based movement. We then convened and had a dialogue about the experiences, which sparked a number of interesting reflections by participants, making connections to personal events and fields of psychology some had been exploring. We finished the session with the group harmonizing our voices, an activity that had a spiritual quality, and ended the session beautifully.

During the session we learnt of Rehana’s own journey to Interplay, through a trip in the Himalayas where a gentle woman named Neesha described this systematic, yet spontaneous approach to basic dialogue that connects without confronting the other. Again, as the DwD website announcement explains, we need to recover that ability lurking mischievously dormant in all of us: “to laugh, savor and relax.” Interplay’s own website, www.interplay.org gives a fuller picture of the process we sampled at DwD.

In InterPlay, we pause to notice our physical experience. One thing we notice is that affirmation (versus critique) produces more of what we want! We often invite people to witness others or to be witnessed as they practice an InterPlay form. In InterPlay, witnessing means, first, noticing my own physical experience as I watch and listen and, second, affirming the person I have witnessed by telling them my own physical experience in just a few words or images. There are two reasons for this: 1) Most people find at least one of the forms we teach to be pushing the envelope of what they think they can do. When they are witnessed doing it and affirmed doing it, they begin to experience themselves as actually able to do it. If that were all (achieving some internal sense that I am able to do something I could not do before), it would not be enough, but it isn’t all. I have seen over and over again how people actually blossom in this process. They seem magically to create works of beauty and power that were unimaginable earlier. 2) Equally important, the witness has an experience of his or her own.  Tom Henderson, “How Interplay Can Help Your Organization”

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves” – Carl Jung

 ABOUT THE HOST

rehana

Rehana Tejpar is a mother, dancer, theatre artist and community arts facilitator dedicated to staging stories of social importance, and evoking community dialogue. Using popular education, Theatre of the Oppressed and Art of Hosting techniques, she has been designing curriculum and facilitating leadership programs with young women, children and youth in Canada, Kenya and India for the past 10 years. Since 2011 she has been playing with InterPlay and is currently a leader in training. She is an active performance artist in dance-theatre and is currently working on Eventual Ashes’ Ocean Carving: A Performance in Water, to be performed in the 2015 Rhubarb Festival.

Rehana and her colleague, Agnotti Cowie have scheduled a three day “untensive,” they call “Unlocking the Wisdom of Your Body: Toronto InterPlay Art and Social Change” March 27 – 29, 2015. For more information, contact: rehana.tejpar@gmail.com

Action Methods and Dramatic Expression: Finding your Role in Community Engagement

Written by . Filed under Act, Play, Think. Tagged , , , , , , . No comments.

November 2014 DwD hosted over 25 participants. After introductions, Stephen Sillett cleared the space and everyone got on their feet and we positioned ourselves on a simple Spectrogram, an highly versatile Action Sociometry method. Think of the Spectrogram as a graph on the floor, in this case, one end represented being very comfortable participating in the session and the other end representing, not at all comfortable. We were invited to stand in the position that best represented how we felt at that moment. We then starting a drama activity, with the whole group milling around the room, shifting our attention from the spaces opening up on the floor and stepping into them, to the other bodies in the room, and finally to greeting other participants as they moved around the room. We continued milling, and started to follow 2 people in the room, we then attempted to place ourselves equidistant between the 2 people we were following, then slowed down until the group came to a stable arrangement. This was a interesting activity, with shifting in dynamics. After the activity, all the participants reflected on the experience by again positioning themselves on the Spectrogram and then observing any personal or collective shifts regards comfort levels.

We next experienced some exercises from the world of physical theatre, looking at how personal and social space relates to perceptions of power, and how we interact with that in non-verbal ways. While exploring these activities, participants were asked to stay alive to the experience, and reflect on how it may relate to engaging people in community conversations.

Part 1. Shared inquiry: How can we involve people more fully in Community Dialogue?

Participants split into break-out groups, and a shared inquiry into what it might mean to bring the “whole person” into community dialogue began. The inquiry raised questions about definitions of the “whole person”. Does this refer to the physical and mental aspects of a person? What other aspects, could/should be included?

We then formed a large circle, and shared some points raised in the shared inquiry. Here are a few:

  • How cultural aspects of the person always exist during our engagement – either visibly or invisibly.
  • Values are always present at some level during our community engagement.
  • Challenges exist in online communications, as this limits how much the “whole person” can be engaged in group conversations.
  • We always marginalise certain aspects of ourselves when we engage, and this changes in different contexts.
  • A state in which the “whole person” is engaged, can never be fully attained.
  • Body scanning and meditation practice, can help bring the body into the space, and deepen engagement.

We ended this part of the session creating a Locogram, another Action Sociometry exercise (see The Living Stage for more info.). Participants engaged the exercise by reflecting on a particular situation, during which they were trying to deepen conversations. They then positioned themselves relative to a central point in the room, having done this we created body images to convey our thoughts and emotions from recounting that experience. This exercise was not unpacked, as we needed to take a break and prepare for part 2 of the session.

Summary: Part 1 of session helped participants experience:

  • Approaches that build community trust and release communication barriers.
  • Multiple perspectives regards how we engage with each other.
  •  Two simple yet powerful, Action Sociometry methods

Part 2. Strategic Action Fields

While the first part of the session worked through established methods, the 2nd involved Interactive Scenography, an innovation that Stephen and ADCID have been working on in their InFusion Lab sessions. For this part, participants were invited to take a performative journey, into a single Strategic Action Field (SAF) of their choosing. This was a personal journey, with others present and simultaneously creating their SAF at the same time. There was no external audience for this performative act, everyone was participating in the creation and exploration process. Participants created their field, explored it, and looked to discover what this may mean to them. Photo elicitation and fabric was used to help each participant to individually enter into a dialogue with the space, and generate a landscape of understanding. This was a shallow dive into what would normally be a longer, even multi-day process.

The goals for this final activity was more open. One outcome was that the activity provided an experimental insight into working with this emerging process. Another was to give a sense of ADCID’s approach to complex work across Fields of Strategic Action, and spark insights among those present. Stephen would like to thank all those who took the plunge into this activity, and appreciates all the feedback received after the session from members of the DwD community.

saf1-585x548x2

saf2-585x282x2

Background: Through his years of practice in international development and collaborating with local community-based organizations, Stephen and ADCID  have found these processes very useful. They have been used to shift the relationships and dynamics that local Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) have with marginalised populations they serve. When working on projects in Africa and Canada, Stephen finds this depth of group inquiry to be particularly relevant to long-term, capacity focussed projects..

About the Host

ssillett

Stephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change in Development (ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, he is exploring approaches that engage community members in conversations, consciously orientated to maturing visions of the future. Research interests include the facilitation of non-verbal and spatial meaning-making practices within group workshop and the creation of interactive performance. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

ADCID’s community-driven approach, has evolved over 10 years in rural South Africa through:

  • Peer Influence workshops in Schools across Ingwavuma, South Africa – supported by Health Canada
  • Water and Sanitation project in rural South Africa supported by Oxfam Australia . Large-Group community dialogue and reflective Inquiry process using Socio-Drama Topography.

ADCID has also been focussing on 2 areas of engagement with communities in Canada.

  • CrossGEN: Connecting across Age and Culture. Connecting newcomers with long-term residents to form networks that can inform service provision and innovate ways to deepen interactions in our public spaces. Supported by Ontario Trillium Foundation.
  • Imagining Possibilities a project with communities with communication and complex physical disabilities to participate in a community arts journey and engage with others through story creation and performance. Supported by Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council.

Where is Home? Leadership & the Soul of Placemaking

Written by . Filed under Dream, Play. Tagged , , . No comments.

June’s Unify Toronto dialogue hosted leadership educator, facilitator and Juno-nominated pianist Michael Jones, inspired by his forthcoming book: The Soul of Place: Reimagining Leadership through Arts, Nature, and Community. The book is expected shortly, and will be available for August’s Design with Dialogue (8/13) as Michael returns to OCADU with a second session for the book launch.  In the meantime, his brief brief article titled Recovering the Soul of Place:  Reflections on Place-Based Leadership is available.

soulMichael’s approach to placemaking is radically different than the current trend in urban planning and city-building. His book and view is a platform for community leadership grounded in the essential humanity of understanding place, nature, and creativity.

We are shifting from the industrial age and the age of information and technology to the age of biology. We are now asking, “how do we create spaces for life?” “How do we align our thinking with how nature thinks?”  He asks us to create places as living systems inspired by biology and interconnection.

We explored the four patterns in Michael’s book that underlie the soul of place:

  • Homecoming  – Where is home and how do we find our way there?
  • Belonging  – How can the connective tissue of life-giving relationships align us with the essence of nature and how nature works, connects, and thinks?
  • Regenerativity – What does it mean to make the invisible visible, to contribute to the conscious evolution of life?
  • Carnival – How can we gather together on the square or in the commons, bringing together diverse energies, democratic spirit and upturning the old for the new?

 

The event was uniquely facilitated to engage multiple modes of experiencing and presencing the patterns. Michael Jones told stories about his experiences in embodied leadership and his musical learning journey (“Who’s going to play your music, if not you?”).  He played several pieces while participants listened, contemplated, moved or held small group dialogues. Our gathering hosted dialogue around the four themes and patterns. An integrated sketch by Patricia Kambitsch formed a visual story of the experiences and dialogue in the room.

Placemaking-sketch


“By looking at place not only as something to return to but also something to grow out from –orienting us to the future and not only the past; and by realizing that a place is not an object or a thing, but a power and a presence, we can partner with place in a way that is itself deeply transformative, opening our hearts to the experience of beauty, aliveness and possibility.” – Michael Jones,Recovering the Soul of Place

About special guest Michael Jones:

Picture

Michael is a leadership educator, dialogue facilitator, writer and Juno-nominated pianist/composer.  His most recent book, The Soul of Place, is the third in a series on Re-imagining Leadership.  Others in the series include Artful Leadership and the award-winning  Creating an Imaginative Life.  Michael has also been a thought leader with the MIT Dialogue Project and Dialogos and other prominent leading edge universities and centres. He has co-chaired several place-based initiatives and spoken on the leader’s emerging role as   placemaker in a variety of forums including The Authentic Leadership in Action Conferences (ALIA), The Society  for Organizational  Learning (SoL) and many others. As a pianist/composer Michael has composed and recorded fifteen CD’s of his original piano compositions and performed as a solo pianist across North America  as well as Korea and Japan.  He has been integrating his music in his leadership and dialogue work for over twenty years.
See www.pianoscapes.com to learn more about Michael and his work.