Directing Play and Players from 5-95 years young

Hello! Welcome to my blog for PLAYers. Below, first, a pic of two teen students, enjoying one of two improv play classes I was hired for, courtesy of a grant from Petaluma Rotary and Cinnabar Theater --a grant to work with COTS kids, whose parents were without homes at the time... A challenging and wonderful welcome to back to the Bay Area where I began my love affair with Improv in 1978. Second, here's a shot of me in front with my wonderful senior troupe/class mateys from L.A. Pierce College. "Second Childhood Players" reveled in two years together --and several classmates are still at it.


Improv Play Show for parents Fall 08


Second Childhood Players in L.A.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Improv for Grown-ups


I'd Like to Teach the World to Play

By Marcia Singer, MSW


“A playmate is anyone, anything with whom you are alive and light-hearted.

Trust life, express freely, know you belong, and Play with the Moment.”  -MS


             I’ve spent much of my writing life on important but overlooked or unpopular subjects, but none more perplexing than Play. Seldom does anybody take the subject "seriously" enough to study, write about --or publish.  At least, not where adults are  concerned.  And yet ostensibly, everyone wants more of it in their lives.

          To be more exact, people say they want more “fun.”  Fun and Play are not exactly equivalent. Play is the greater category, with fun being contained within play, but not vice versa. Play can be quiet and gentle, loud, boisterous, daring, pensive, solitary or rousing en masse. "Fun" doesn't describe all of play's moods, modes and guises.

          In any case, our society is at war with itself about work versus play, equating the former with being responsible and mature, and play with being irresponsible or frivolous and childish. All too often play either falls by the wayside or is reduced to frantic efforts at having fun. “I work hard, and I play hard,” goes the adage.

          True play is never hard. It’s the smoothest, easiest, gentlest and most awesome way to engage in an activity, and to really connect with another that I’ve experienced. True play, authentic play is a grace. You and your playmate, your friend have no animosity. There’s trust, innocence--and power. Resourcefulness.  That’s because play is fearless and open to ideas, movements, innovation. Play activates creativity. It’s juicy. In a real sense, it’s sexual too--meaning it’s fiery in a pure, engaging, energy way. It turns you on about being alive. Most sexual activity lacks  play, sadly, as does every other great arena for passion, because sex play requires honest connection, intimacy, letting our insides join together, too.  Real play dissolves time and space, and makes ready friends out of players.

          All the more reason to play, to get everyone learning how to play together. To make peace together out of the joy, the laughter--even the tears that play brings up in its wake of remembering what’s been lost.

          Yet even I, a so-called expert, often have to psych myself up to risk initiating play outside the boundaries of my official playshops. I must risk the intimacy or risk the failure, as if I’m scared to fail in so sacred an endeavor. (Ever notice that “sacred” and “scared” are almost the same thought?  And “scarred” a close third?)

          I am scarred, weary and gaunt with hunger for deep play, for high play. For play with my own species. I turn to the wind, the animals, the rustle of the leaves for playful companionship, and they immediately Understand. But my human friends so often turn away from the Presence, the Spontaneity that original play demands...

          I envision myself playing for peace. Playing for Life, playing for Joy, for Healing, for a sense of belonging. Play transforms “be longing” into “belonging.”  It encourages the personal demons to come out to be included, appreciated, hugged, celebrated. Play brings out the personal genius in each one of us, and the joy of being alive. It’s sheer light-hearted freedom of impression and expression, shared with Other.

          I’d like to teach the world to play: I don’t think this is a frivolous idea.  Rather one whose time is due.

Monday, February 2, 2015

HAPPY 2015 -! Are you PLAYing?

Hello again!  Really enjoyed teaching an Improv class for WIndsor Raven Theater in fall of 2014, greasing my theater play wheels, and my instructor/director chops.  I will post some photos to share the fun --but at the moment, the uploads ain't uploadin.'

New Direction?  To share my fascinated passion with how well improv and creative play works with the residents I visit at senior living communities and nursing homes --who are memory impaired.  With a little prompting, some of those with dementia or alzheimer's become fabulous playmates. Others, with a kind heart, bolstered sense of humor, and infinite willingness to "improvise," can be led to smiles and ease, rather than fears, sadness, depression, withdrawal.

I am keen to share what I've discovered.  Here is an article just published in the local Council On Aging monthly, called Sonoma Seniors Today.  It's in the January 2015 issue, page 6. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Player’s Self-Evaluation Quiz (c) M Singer 2000


This exercise allows you to explore some of the qualities of play and assess your relationship to them. It is meant to stir thoughts and feelings, challenge growth, and help you enjoy life more thoroughly. Respond with a YES or NO to each statement. Suggested answers/points are at the end. Please be honest with yourself and don't worry about your "score." Use the results for self-guidance.

1. I frequently indulge in leisurely activity in unstructured time. YES NO

2. I usually wear a watch even if I don’t have an appointment to make. YES NO

3. I exercise primarily to keep fit rather than for the fun of it. YES NO

4. I am a “toucher,” and often spontaneously give and get hugs. YES NO

5. I enjoy playing with kids or pets on their terms. YES NO

6. When tending the garden, I take time to smell the roses. YES NO

7. I am in touch with my feelings most of the time and welcome them. YES NO

8. I can invent stuff on the spur of the moment: ideas, amusements, action steps. YES NO

9. I would prefer a 40-hour workweek to a 40-hour play week. YES NO

10. I work hard and play hard, taking both very seriously. YES NO

11. A good ballgame is enjoyable regardless of who wins or loses. YES NO

12. I have at least one pastime I indulge for its own sake, goal free. YES NO

13. When I see playground swings, I might indulge myself with a to-and-fro. YES NO

14. I can turn any board meeting into a playground. YES NO

15. I have experienced carefree lovemaking and recommend it. YES NO

16. Family settings are the best place for me to “let my hair down.” YES NO

17. I enjoy friendly joshing around with perfect strangers. YES NO

18. I can relax others who are stressed out with my creative imagination and wit. YES NO

19. I go to social or networking events seeking playmates. YES NO

20. I tak 20. I take time every day to pleasure at least one of my senses –consciously. YES NO

21. I prefer efficient showers to leisurely bubble baths. YES NO

22. Playing can be fun but it is really more appropriate for children than adults. YES NO

23. I like to disguise my personal discomfort by making people laugh. YES NO

24. I can name at least three life skills that regular playing provides. (Name ‘em.) YES NO

25. I have experienced how playing with someone or something makes us friends. YES NO

26. I am lonesome and feel like I don’t belong much of the time. YES NO

27. Sometimes I really enjoy picking out my clothing and getting “dressed.” YES NO

28. I find that there are very few people to play with. YES NO

29. I prefer predictable activities where I have more control over what happens. YES NO

30. I experience playing as a very spiritual time and connection. YES NO

Each playful response counts as 1 point. Tally your results accordingly.

1. YES A definition of playing.

2. NO True play has an unhurried, unstructured time frame/feeling.

3. NO Play has no goal.

4. YES Touchy subject: playful touch is kind, friendly.

5. YES Be willing to trust unknowns.

6. YES Aaaahhhhhh...

7. YES True play embraces life as safe, everything as “friend”—even emotions.

8. YES Free, wild imagination characterizes play.

9. NO Thank goodness!

10. NO "Serious" and "hard" are not players' terms.

11. YES Even a “bad” ballgame can be enjoyed by a player.

12. YES Glad to hear it.

13. YES Go for a swing, even if just in your imagination.

14. YES Tell me your secret –and hurrah for you!

15. YES Never lose it.

16. YES Even if they disapprove, "being yourself" is the best policy.

17. Play is a perfect way to make a friend out of a stranger.

18. YES Keep it up, the world needs you.

19. YES "Networking" is only play if you are completely unattached to "results."

20. YES "Sense"-ual pleasure is a major key to reduce stress, increase well-being.

21. NO Gain an extra point for adding music, candles, and so forth.

22. NO We never outgrow its benefits.

23. NO Play's “safety” allows us to drop the persona masks and feel acceptable.

24. YES Give yourself two points!

25. YES A hallmark of being a player.

26. NO Best remedy is to remember how to play.

27. YES Turn any ordinary activity into conscious playtime.

28. YES –NO: "Yes" gets a point if you understand the pain and fear that most people have around their loss of play mode, and "No" gets you a point if you initiate real play with them, anyway—bless you!

29 NO: Spontaneity, love, and fearlessness are hallmarks of authentic play.

30 Yes :Play blesses Spirit with kindness, enthusiasm, and wonder.


Soon after arriving in the north bay from L.A., Cinnabar Theater presented me with an opportunity to direct a few children from a Petaluma homeless shelter program --in playing Improv games.  It was hugely rewarding, and hugely challenging, since most of the boys are "ADHD" and I am getting older!!


The PLAY of RECOVERY: This "13th STEP" leaves us fit for Life
By Marcia Singer, MSW, CHt  (c)2004

"Conscious recovery of the playful child within is both a means and a joyful end to the journey." -Marcia Singer

When was the last time you "played?" You know, did something enjoyable with your whole heart and soul, got so involved that you forgot what time it was, just having fun? If you are like most people, it's probably been way too long. And if you >re currently struggling with an addiction, you=ll have especial trouble trusting spontaneity, an essential component of natural play. Yet the powerful connections among losing our facility for playing, finding our authentic selves and recovering Ajoyfulfillment@ have barely been explored.

We live in a society of stressed out, "deadly serious" people, habitually attempting escape from registering life=s heartache, pain and shadows. Addiction is the name we give to the habit of avoiding disquieting feelings or thoughts on a regular basis, as well as to our particular anesthesia or distractions of choice. The Recovery movement in the U.S. is an enormous grassroots effort to heal the shame and debilitation associated with addictive lifestyles, and restore people to healthier, happier lives. Happy people are naturally playful, indulging in, childlike, unadulterated, free hearted self-expression that helps keep us fit in every way Bin physical, mental, emotional, sexual-creative and spiritual facets of our being. Remembering how to play is a context in which to remember who we Are.

I have found over the past ten years as a therapist who works with healing addictions, and as a woman who has suffered from her own, that the skills, connections and insights offered in Play retraining offer a powerful, natural means to heal. My own discoveries came out of a branch of recovery called inner child work. This process focuses on uncovering within the adult a vulnerable childlike self which has been unconsciously hidden or pushed away for protection. Unfortunately, these attempts to protect and control also interfere with joy, trust, spontaneity, creative breadth or depth, vital energy and intimacy with others. These qualities of the "free" or "divine" child are also qualities of authentic play itself. And yet the utilization of play as a tool specifically for rehabilitation and for soulful restoration in therapy programs has yet to be exploited.

The idea that Play can be our "13th Step" in recovery is an exciting one: now we can imagine ourselves "playing through" our fears with courage and heart, until we are free enough at last to engage the world as Friend. Everything that has been interfering with our aliveness and confidence in our own inherent value will arise in play recovery --the same stuff associated with any addictive or compulsive pattern we've been running.

The process of recovering play shows that distrust deeply underlies addictions. Whatever deep hurt, shame or anxiety we experienced as children that took root in us as an expectation to distrust life, ourselves and others, also keeps us from playing, because true play requires a free, trusting heart. Envisioning ourselves as players underneath it all gives a wonderful, compassionate twist to the work of soulful recovery.

Our 13th Step program begins with admitting we are in need of healing, and proceeds with a compassionate, in-depth examination of our hidden inner needs and current outer actions. We may discover our innate connection to a Higher Power by "playing through" the fears we encounter along the way with courage and increasing faith in positive outcomes. Finally we are "in play" with Life itself, with Spirit, and the joyous possibilities of living a soulful, fulfilling life.

The recovery movement embraces hundreds of thousands of men, women and young people learning to value themselves, empower their dreams, and change unwanted behavior. Changes may involve habits relating to health, relationships, sexuality, work, sense of purpose, worthiness or recreation styles. Whether it's the abuse of drugs , an eating disorder, unhealthy sexual or co-dependent relations, anger displays, pack rat syndrome, smoking or even compulsive neatness or jogging, recovering our right to free hearted, innocent self expression has an immediate positive effect on dissolving the anxious distrust beneath the addictive patterns.

Some of the most wonderful playmates and actively spiritual people I know are former 'addicts.' We understand that addictions and compulsions are unconscious, often-desperate attempts to "fix" a lingering, shadowy sense of impending doom --a sense of disconnect with what is good and meaningful and promising in being alive. Remembering how to engage as Friend, how to live with an open heart and mind contains the practical and spiritual fodder needed for the journey of Recovery.

Whatever the addiction, there is a "13th Step" possibility: Play mode. Playing can be both both a means and an end to resuscitating the ageless child within us and to assuage the longing for the uplift of creative spirit, and the longing to belong.

Step out of identifying with being a defective, disconnected human being. One day at a time, become a Player for Life. Although we may live in an addiction-based society, as each of us recovers the art of true Play, we may mentor others around us in the joy of being alive again.

AFFIRMATION: I put my whole self back into Play, and with faith and courage, open to recovering the joy of being unflinchingly, overwhelmingly alive.

(873 words) Reprinted from Step To Recovery, March 2004.

Addendum to Humor Chapter! Ooops

DE-LIGHTENING UP Game (AKA "The Toon Up"). What are you dead serious about? What can't you find any humor in? Your job? Your son's marriage? A friend's physical pain? The lack of peace in the world? Today you can elect to be a Norman Cousins or Patch Adams—an ambassador of delight and self-styled alchemist of positive changes. Begin by proclaiming today, "Humor Day." Create laughter in your life and spread it around.

Read the funny papers, use the library or bookstore to find jokes or cartoons, or check out comedy videos—the more outrageous the better. Loosen up. Stand in front of a mirror and make ridiculous faces at yourself; then, find a kid and play "Mirror," taking turns making and mirroring funny faces. Feel how good it feels to stretch your face and smile muscles. Try out a dumb riddle or "knock-knock" joke on a grumpy cashier, even if you get a groan in return (or less).

Practice until all the animosity leaves you and you really start to feel better, even good. Now take a look at that situation to which you brought only anger, heartache, or "poor me." Breathe into the Bigger Picture and take a snapshot. Got it? Can you see a ray of light there where there seemed to be none before? Feel how compassion, even creativity, can flow? Find some kind of gift in the situation. Yes. You are now "deLightening up." Continue to practice every day until perfected. Catch a heartfelt humor condition and infect everybody you can: at home, at work, at the supermarket—in the mirror.

Treat yourself to a "toon up" on a regular basis. We'll all be so glad you did.

(1063 words)

Marcia Singer, MSW is a Love Arts educator, shamanic healing artist, and hands-on Hypnotherapist (ABH#1743). Reach her at about private sessions, classes, trainings. “Humor” is excerpted from her book manuscript The Tao of Play is being represented to the industry by Hurley Media/Leigh Publishing..