Today we’re featuring a guest post from the multi-talented InterPlay leader Kate Arms-Roberts, who will share insights on creativity and on what the heck InterPlay is.
Picasso spoke of taking a lifetime to learn to paint like a child. There is a developmental pattern common to many creatives. Early in creative development, interest and inspiration combine playfully and exuberant early works are created, without regard to technique. At some point, the budding artist becomes conscious of a desire to improve and some form of technical training begins. Studying the technical elements of craft can transform creation from play into work. Creation becomes serious business.
All my life, creative imaginings have exploded from me – as stories, poems, dances and plays. Somewhere along the line, I learned that art-making can be taught, that there are techniques dancers, writers and actors should master. And, I applied myself to learning the techniques or dropped the art form. There was no middle ground. The joy disappeared. And, the product was less interesting to the audience. I needed to put play back into my creative life.
In my quest, I found InterPlay, a boon to recovering serious creatives everywhere.
InterPlay is a fun way of integrating all the parts of your life, a sanctuary for those who seek to be spontaneous, affectionate, open to truth, playful and real. The foundations of InterPlay are simple improvisational practices using song, story, silence, dance and community and a set of principles that can be applied to any moment in life.
My first exposure to InterPlay was a class called Dance and Social Action. Class started with a brief physical warm-up that involved nothing more challenging than bending from the waist. We were invited to “walk around the room,” then to break up the walking with some stopping. After some walking and stopping, we were invited to run if we liked. Then, the instructor said, “I’m going to put on some music. I invite you to play with walking, stopping, running and each other.” Little did I realize that my life was about to change.
I learned early how to be a good student, how to follow directions. So, I dutifully walked, stopped, and ran. And I observed.
What I saw freaked me out.
There were people in the room spinning, linking arms and twirling, leaping, sitting on the floor, and more. What were they doing? Hadn’t they heard the instructions?
When the music was over, we were invited to “notice what that was like.” What I noticed was my mind screaming, “We were only supposed to walk, stop, and run. What about all those people who weren’t following the directions?” Another student voiced my thoughts and the teacher responded, “How did that make you feel?” I felt jealous and angry and confused. And, subtly, in the presence of this teacher who did not condemn those wild movers, something in me started to melt.
It turned out that the people who were playing wildly were the experienced InterPlayers; it was okay to play with breaking the rules; part of the point of the class was that having fun and playing in our bodies is a powerful form of social action.
And so began my journey with this fabulous tool for engaging with play for play’s sake.
InterPlay forms bring out people’s creativity playfully. Any technique you have can be put to use in the InterPlay forms, but technique is unnecessary. I have witnessed people who never thought they could move discovering a dancer inside themselves, professional dancers celebrating the sheer ability to move their bodies without the confines of choreography, people who struggle to find words improvising achingly moving poetry, and poets who agonize over every syllable of their published words revelling in the freedom of creating a poem that dissolves into memory with the speaking of it. And I have found my own voice.
I am a storyteller. I use written words and performances to create art. The storytelling forms of InterPlay loosen me up. When I struggle to make the words tell my story, Babbling in a Made-up Language releases me from the pressure of precision. When I am running over with ideas, I Could Talk About is a form that gets the ideas out without requiring me to do anything with them; I just have to list them. If my body is stiff or my words are stilted, I can shake things up by telling Big Body Stories that involve movement or dance as well as words.
Improvisational play deepens my connection with the source of my creativity and loosens the stranglehold my internal editor can have over my work. It is fun and my work benefits. I can’t lose as long as I keep playing.
Kate Arms-Roberts is a writer, actor, director, and InterPlay leader. She writes about writing, play, and life at www.katearmsroberts.wordpress.com and tweets about play as @MorePlayful. Her latest venture is www.amoreplayfullife.com, a web-based resource encouraging play in all forms.