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Showing posts from 2022

Making Strong Choices

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 In improvisation we talk about making strong choices. It's about bringing something to the table. When an actor walks on stage with nothing to give, hoping their scene partner will give them an idea, the scene is already off to a dull start. Every time an actor walks on stage they should come on with character and intent. This is true in both improv and scripted plays. An entrance is your first impression. If the entrance is weak, you'll lose the audience. Making a strong entrance choice involves having an idea of who you are. The audience gives you a suggestion of a location, let's say a funeral parlor. They then give you a suggestion for a relationship, a married couple. You immediately come up with why you think a married couple are in a funeral parlor. For example, you may be picking out your burial plots. So you have an idea of why you are there. Next comes the relationship. You can choose to be a loving couple who wants to be eternally close to each other. Or you cou

Applying Improvisation to Hospitality

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  The Episcopal Church is keen on Radical Welcome. We welcome all, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey, their race, education, social status, or gender or sexual identity. All are welcome.   Radical Welcome goes beyond invitation and hospitality. Hospitality says, “come, be part of us.” Radical Welcome says come and let us be part of each other. The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation, and Creation Care, wrote in Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation , “Radical welcome is the spiritual practice of embracing and being changed by the gifts, presence, voices, and power of The Other.” Radical welcome involves transformation. It is not merely accommodating the other, it is saying, “Come, bring who you are. My arms are open to you. Would you open yours to me?” Growth, transformation, change, these are scary words. We don’t know exactly how the changes will play out. That is the

Can Improv Save the World?

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  Improvisation is a process that uses interpersonal skills to create a mindset through which one interacts with the world. Like our faith, improvisation is a lens through which we view all our interactions. This is a much broader definition of Improv that most people are familiar with. For most, Improv is seen as merely entertainment. Improv takes place in bars and comedy clubs and features a group of people standing in front of an audience and making stuff up to get laughs. That certainly is a form of improv, but it is not it’s entirety. At its core, improv is not about being funny. In fact, if an improviser works at being funny, they have already failed. Improvisation is not comedy, but it can be used in comedy to create scenes on the spot. The definition of Improv is to “compose extemporaneously, arrange offhand, and to make or fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand.” Comedy improv is not making stuff up. Improv is about building on what you have to create something new. O

Holy Playfulness

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  One does not usually think of play when it comes to church. At least for adults, that is. Children are allowed to play in the nursery. If you are in a large enough congregation that is lucky enough to have a gym, then one can play basketball. Many Episcopal churches use Godly Play for children’s church. That is where children learn Bible stories Montessori style by playing with wooden figures representing Biblical characters. But for adults, church is serious business, certainly nothing to play around with. Churches take adult education, evangelism, stewardship, and worship very seriously.   It doesn’t matter if it is liturgical, evangelical, or charismatic; church is serious business. For humans, though, play is very important. Play is part of our human nature. Pretty much all mammals play. Think of cats, dogs, otters, even elephants! Turn into any animal show and you will see them playing. It’s not just our animal nature that comes out in play. Studies show that higher level cogn

Making Lemonade

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  “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade;” is an old proverbial saying, a ground-breaking album by Beyonce, and the essence of improvisation. The phrase is often attributed to Dale Carnegie who used it in his 1948 book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living . He attributed it to Julius Rosenwald, part owner and leader of Sears, Roebuck, and Company.   Prior to this the poem appeared in a 1940 edition of The Rotarian . "Life handed him a lemon, As Life sometimes will do. His friends looked on in pity, Assuming he was through. They came upon him later, Reclining in the shade In calm contentment, drinking A glass of lemonade." The first published copy of the phrase initially appeared in a 1915 obituary penned by Christian anarchist writer Elbert Hubbard for dwarf actor Marshall Pinckney Wilder. The obituary praises Wilder's optimistic attitude and achievements in the face of his disabilities. The saying is meant to encourage optimism and a positive can-do atti

How Many Improv Rules Are There?

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At a recent theater workshop I attended, the instructor told the class, “There are only three rules to improv, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. He said they are: Yes And, make your partner look good, and say the first thing that comes to mind. As an improv coach, I was taken aback. What about the rule of “Don’t ask questions, make statements?” How about the rule, “work to the top of your intelligence?” Then there is the rule to “Follow the follower?”   It made me curious. Just how many improv rules are there? I started going through all my improv books and compiled lists of rules and tips. I Googled improv rules and Google came up with The Five Rules of Improv, the Six Rules of Improv, The Seven Rules of Improv, all the way up to the Ten Rules of Improv. So who determines these rules? Who are the experts? The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual does not give a definitive list. It does, however, provide building blocks for improv. They start with Yes And, move

Changing Your Personality: An Atlantic writer pursues happiness in Improv

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Olga Khazan  The March issue of The Atlantic is their happiness issue. In it the magazine promotes it’s “In Pursuit of Happiness” event in May as well as having articles on finding satisfaction, maintaining friends, and how to become less unpleasant. The article on becoming less unpleasant by Olga Khazan is entitled, “My Personality Transplant.” In it, the author says that she never really liked her personality, and other people didn’t like it, either. She described taking an online personality test of the five major personality traits that pretty much supported what she already knew about herself. She is highly introverted, scores high on conscientiousness, average on agreeableness, and extremely high on neuroticism. Individuals with high scores for neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness. Khazan embarked on a plan to see if she could, inde

The Emptied Christ of Philippians, a review.

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  “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil 2:5-7) The caption of the forward to The Emptied Christ of Philippians, Mahayana Meditations  by John P. Keenan clearly lays out what this book is about, “Divine Self-emptying: A Buddhist Lens on Christian Scripture and Doctrine.” In the preface Keenan tells us this is a study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians using Mahayana Buddhism as his hermeneutic guide “in lieu of the primarily Greek philosophies that shaped Christian understanding in the past.” The Emptied Christ of Philippians is a deep exegetical study of Paul’s letter seen through the eyes of Buddhist philosophy. Keenan compares the Orthodox teaching of kenosis with the Buddhist teaching of sunyata. Kenosis is about Christ becoming flesh in the personhood of Jesus. Orthodox teaching deals with the attributes o

Breaking Through the Covid Cloud

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It really doesn't take all that long to fall into a new habit. Trying something new the first time seems unique and odd. The second time it gets a little easier. By the fourth or fifth time you start to get into the routine. I've read that it only takes seven repetitions for a new action to become a habit. So if you want to get into the habit of a daily walk, it only takes a week.  In about six weeks from this writing, we will have the second anniversary of Covid shutdown. I remember it was on March 12, 2020 that our local theaters and churches closed. That means we've had ninety-eight weeks to develop lots of new habits. We got into the habit of meeting on Zoom. Some got into the cooking habit, particularly bread. Sourdough seemed to be a huge hit during the shutdown. I dabbled in bread but my cooking habit led me to make a batch of cookies every week for the first year.  For a time there we got into the habit of Happy Hour. Each day around 4:00 I would try a new cocktail

What Do We Want to Create Together?

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Peter Block in Flawless Consulting writes that there is no more profound question in consulting than, "What do we want to create together?" I see this as the foundational question, not only in consulting, but for any organization or group. It doesn't matter if the group is a business, non-profit, church, or social club, when individuals work together to create something unique to themselves the whole becomes greater than the sum of it's parts.  As a church pastor for thirty-seven years, I've learned that groups are more successful when they focus on sharing ideas, supporting one another, and building relationships. I've certainly done my share of trying to push for change in an organization. I've subscribed to the popular theory of the "visionary leader." This theory holds the belief that growing churches all had one thing in common, a leader with a strong vision. The congregation would spend countless hours on self-evaluation, group meetings, f