Archive for the ‘activity’ Category

Behind the Scenes week continues here at Improv-a-Mama with one of my favorite parts of a performance — pre-show!

Since early on, one of Un-Scripted’s ensemble members, Christian, has pushed us to connect with the audience before the show starts.  We mix and mingle and talk to folks as they come in and are sitting down. As a shy person, my first reaction (and 2nd and 3rd reaction) was “No!”  So I  had to do some work to get to “yes” and now nine years later, I love this pre-show time.

This mingling with the audience  is the beginning of creating together for the evening.  As performers, we have a chance to set expectations about the show (our style of improvisation as theater without a script is different from much other improv that folks have seen), get the audience thinking about the kind of suggestions we’re going to ask for, answer questions and really, just make a personal connection.

Sometimes it is thought of as a time to “get the audience on our side.” I do think that it does serve that function;  a roomful of people that has met you and connected with you is more likely to join into the communal imagination of creating a show than sit back and heckle. (Really. A connected audience is waaaaaay less likely to say, “proctologist” when asked for a suggestion while an unconnected audience almost always will.) However, I believe there is a deeper and more powerful something going on than trying to get people to like us and that is  an experience of community.

Yes it is a temporary community. It is a community of a few hours. It is a community of the performance for that evening. Still, it is a community and that feeling of being a part of something is valuable for all of us, especially in our modern society where increasing numbers of people report being shy and feeling isolated.

Improvisation is a communal art form;  we as performers are impacted by the audience as much on a kinesthetic level throughout the show as we are by their suggestions to inspire us at the beginning.  Just as improvisors warm-up before we go onstage, the audience needs an opportunity to warm-up to the experience.

I feel like I’ve had a successful pre-show if I’ve not only conveyed important information about the show, but also learned something about audience members and drawn them out to tell their stories. In recent weeks, I spoke with a woman who was a child prodigy on the piano. She performed at Carnegie Hall as a young teenager and played with many of the greats and she came to chose a path outside of the arts so she could have a more balanced life.  A man in the audience told me that he had an identical twin and he had moved across the country to California after high school to have room to establish his own identity.  Audience members’ stories tend to stay with me in a vivid way. Do I use them in the show? Usually not consciously but I’m sure my unconscious is chewing on those images and drawing inspiration from them.

Two weeks ago, an audience member asked me what I do to get ready to be onstage? Did I have any rituals or routines?  I was stumped for a moment and then I realized how important this preshow was to me, and I could simply answer, “Doing this.”  We talked about it for a few minutes and it was fun to bring the community of the moment to the surface and enjoy that together.


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Full credit to Teacher Tom for this… See his blog posts here and here for inspiration and ideas for how to give little people the opportunity to work with hot glue guns. Things went pretty much as he described, she was so intent on her project that when she did touch the too hot glue, she reacted only briefly and got back to work.  My main supervision ended up being around making sure it was put down safely and adding more glue sticks.

LP was excited for her chance to use the hot glue gun.  Here she is waiting to begin with a selection of materials to glue (randomly grabbed from our art boxes):

And she was off:

She was focused and seemed blissfully happy putting lots and lots of glue on the box as her main exploration although she did take time to experiment with spreading it out:

and weaving a spider web with the dried glue strands:

Here’s the “cake with anchovy frosting” final product:

One thing that is great for me about a project like this is that it challenges me to control myself and give her space to discover the possibilities.  I had visions of building sculptures…LP wanted to build glue piles and dots and squiggles.  The important thing in this moment was to say “yes” with my behavior to support her creative exploration and to allow her to use her spontaneity to explore rather than be directive and product oriented.

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I have a confession.

I love blue painters tape.

This feeling started slowly…a roll of painter’s tape for an emergency diaper fix, to cover a few electrical outlets and quick hang up some family photos for baby LP to see.  It quickly grew… blue tape, LP and I, we can do anything together. Need a spoon? I can make you one.  Need in indoor swing for a stuffed animal? We can do that. Puppets to entertain on the plane? Check. Tape pictures on the floor or wall? No problem.

When LP and I went visiting family for 3 weeks in the fall, we went through a full roll of tape before the final weekend. It was the major source of entertainment on planes and trains and also got a major workout creating circle paddocks for her horses. ImprovDad was meeting up with us for a family celebration a few days before we returned home and my SOS to him when he asked if he could bring anything was “blue tape!”

The blue tape creations are getting more wild and wonderful as LP takes more and more control of them.  She’s just starting to get the hang of ripping off pieces on her own.

Recent blue tape creations at our home:

Bandages for Raz:

A costume for Violin Case:


Labels for the herb pots in the garden:

LP has been on a labeling kick with blue tape.  Below is the photo of Feather’s House (Feather being the space heater who lives in our old computer desk when she’s not in use), complete with its own name and a blue tape mailbox.

Got your roll of blue tape ready? Need some ideas to get you started? Check out:

“Spider Web” on Tuesdays with Daddie — this post also has the best description of painters tape ~ “Its like a roll of duct tape married a stack of post-its and they had a blue baby.” So true!

“Masking Tape Portraits” on Art Projects for Kids

“The magical, multifunctional properties of painter’s tape” on Parent Hacks

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Our DVD player gave up the ghost a few weeks ago…so this week, LP & I were able to start exploring its insides.

I was not a tinkering kind of kid so I’ve actually never taken anything like a DVD player apart before. I figured that there were couple of different joys to be found in the experience from seeing the mysterious insides to finding new uses for the pieces and parts.

So I spread out a sheet to protect the floor, grabbed a few screwdrivers and we went to work.

Most of the screws were quite small and hard for LP to even attempt on her own.  I did about half of them on my own and loosened the other half to where she could work them out with her fingers.

I think much of the deconstruction process was a bit more fun for me than for her.  She left me to finish up finding and taking out the 100 million screws while she bopped between playing with various things in the same room and coming back to explore the pieces and parts. It was interesting to watch how certain pieces certainly triggered her imagination.

And when a girl has found pieces like this, what else can she do but cook up some ukulele candy?

I think the insides have a lot of life in them as playthings and I’m very curious to see what LP transforms them into next time.  While I have ideas for art projects, I’m waiting to follow her lead and discover what ideas she cooks up next. (And hoping, of course, that she doesn’t put the ukulele candy in my ukulele!)

This post is part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101…always lots of fun and interesting ideas to explore there!

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LP’s Indoor Garden

My spring gardening fantasies remain just that, fantasies.  Day after day of rain has left our tiny patch of space completely water logged so even when the sun does return, we’ll need a few days before we can plant anything.  LP & I have tackled some rainy day weeding but that’s been the extent of our garden action. I’ve got soil and seeds ready and waiting…and waiting.

I’m excited to be adding a significant amount of workable garden space with a new 3×3 grow bed. It has been here, hanging out in its box for a few weeks now.  Yesterday, I took it out and set it up for LP to play with inside.

I also had some seed catalogs with beautiful pictures for LP to rip or cut pictures from to “plant” in her garden. (She mostly choose the ripping as you can see.)

So there it is…one indoor garden, complete with tiny dogs. Good for an hour or so of rainy day fun.

This post is part of the HUGE line up of playful links at Childhood 101 this week. Click over to get some inspiration for fun.

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We Play: Birthday Treasure Hunt

Our Little Person turned 4 on Monday and as part of the celebration we set up a birthday present treasure hunt.

We started the day with a couple of birthday books to unwrap and read snuggled in bed. Then I offered her the first clue card and she was off to find her first present.

The clues were very simple (on the green couch, inside her play kitchen and so on) and part of the challenge of a few of the clues were to figure out what the drawing was! (I admit, my drawing of the window curtains does look more like our shower curtain). It added a fun extra layer to the day and also was a good way to spread out the presents.  She (and we) played with each thing after opening it and took her time before asking for the next clue.

I look forward to making it a birthday tradition! It will be especially fun to create more challenging clues as she grows older.

This post is a part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101. Click on over and see what people are playing this week.

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I had ideas for LP’s 4th birthday celebration, oh yes, I had many ideas for a party. I’d been thinking about it for awhile and was much inspired by se7en’s approach to birthdays — especially this one. So we’d pick one of her favorite book, invite some little people-type friends over and so on.

LP wanted to have a party with her dog friends.

I had hesitations.  And even though I realized those hesitations were mostly about me, it was hard to get over them and say “yes.”

LP is only recently becoming interested in socializing with other kids and doesn’t yet have many strong ties to other little people.  We’ve been attentive to giving her growth opportunities and we’re so fortunate that she’s in a preschool setting that lets her go at her own pace in joining group activities and gives her support in interacting with other kids. Even though I’ve seen such growth in her abilities, especially the past two months, all my worries about her social skills bubbled up.   I had to calm them down and just enjoy helping my creative, animal-loving girl have the birthday celebration her heart desired.

So a puppy party it was.

Her guest list was four dogs (three were able to attend). She chose a different dog pictures online for each dog and colored them in while I printed out text to attach for the invitations. We made a trip to the pet store for dog treats and had some of LP’s favorite foods for the dog’s people to enjoy. (ImprovDad and I were lucky too that we’re good friends with all of the dogs’ people.)

I made a playlist of dog songs on the ipod (I’m particularly fond of “Dog Train” by Blues Traveler and LP wants to hear John Lithgow’s “I Got Two Dogs” over and over again).  LP sorted the dog treats and a squeaky ball intoeach party favor bag.  And then, we waited for the dogs.

Parker & Lulu


It went better than my wildest hopes.  LP was over-the-moon happy.  As each of her three canine guests arrived she got more and more excited. She perched on the coffee table so she could see the dogs at all times.  (And we were lucky that these were the best behaved dogs in world.)

After cake for the people, we took a walk around the neighborhood and LP delighted in the chance to walk the dogs.

A happy day was had by all.  And I had my wish fulfilled too when we shared a belated birthday playdate with (human) friends yesterday too.

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