A state of Play

Sometimes I don’t know how lucky I am. As a longtime member of the Playback Theatre ensemble we rehearse weekly and recently my partner happened to see us rehearse and remarked ‘it was an evening of just playing’. And I thought about it, and it made me realize that no wonder I sometimes went to rehearsal with low energy and come back completely refreshed.

Ah yes that’s right of course that’s why I go – it’s playful, it’s connecting, it’s fun!

As I mentioned in my last article on ‘play’, performing improv theatre is often about play. Our weekly warm up aims to exercise and engage our playfulness and for me, the focused, serious, over concerned and task driven part of my consciousness slowly begins to release its grip on me. Physical tension is released, laughter comes easily and a wider focus emerges. All of this just by playing games and theatre exercises which often involve moving our bodies.

In my role as a trainer, I see this as well. At some point, often when I can feel the energy diving, I invite the group to stand up in a circle. Usually I feel some resistance from them – they don’t want to change from the comfort and safety of their chair to the unprotected exposure of standing in a circle. Having done so, though, it’s palpable how the energy in the group lifts and lightens. I pause and invite the group to reflect and get conscious of the impact this simple movement has.

Essentially, once the group stands up the payoff is dynamic, we see it in each other’s presence and feel the energy open up and move within the group. People start to smile at one another, their eyes make contact and in their body language is opened and ready to engage. Often this means a change from crossed arms or legs. And we haven’t even started engaging with each other and playing a game yet!

We have moved from a static state of being – sitting, thinking, watching, non-expressive – to a playful being – embodied, expressive, energetic, emotional and present state of mind.  By moving our body, playing and connecting, we’ve changed our entire being.

Thinking about your own life, when and how could you incorporate more of this Play state? What do you feel the impact would be? I invite you to try using the elements mentioned above in different contexts and let me know the difference it makes?

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