The Marriage of Work and Play

By Julie A. Stewart, Writer and Urban Farmer

The 17th Spirit & Place Festival has me thinking about my dad. Most nights found him in his workshop, refinishing furniture. He worked full-time as maintenance man. In winter, he shoveled snow, and in summer, he worked in the garden until dark. He did not take us swimming or ride bikes or play board games.

But he did make cakes.

When my dad was 16, his mother died. He quit high school to apprentice with a baker, going to work early and coming home to help with chores and the younger children. Later, he earned his GED, joined the Marines and got a job at St. Mary’s hospital, where he worked for over 40 years fixing anything that broke. He took side jobs for extra money. He made silver dollar pancakes on Sunday mornings and handmade Shaker boxes for the church bizarre. But his greatest works were his cakes.

“He did not take us swimming or ride bikes or play board games. But he did make cakes.”

For our weddings, white cake with buttercream frosting and raspberry filling, decorated with sugared grapes. Tiers of chocolate cake with handmade sunflowers or roses, created days ahead of time and laid out on wax paper to set. Cakes frosted to match the bridesmaids’ dresses.

He made chocolate roll cakes filled with whipped cream for my birthdays and sheet cakes for church dinners. There were egg-shaped cakes on Easter, decorated with each of our names and small cakes presented to each grandchild on his or her first birthday. Grinning, he presented his masterpieces like a kid with a mud pie. For him, baking cakes was the perfect marriage of work and play.

“It is our choice to see life as work or play.”

With my own children, I am lucky to be able to build sand castles on the beach. We go for bike rides to the library and play cards or watch movies in the evening. Still, my daughter’s and my favorite way to play is to bake a cake. She pours over cake design books, carefully selecting her choice: cupcakes for her teacher, made to look like red apples, cupcakes made from a pumpkin which we bake and scoop out the flesh, and a heart cake of her own design for Valentine’s dinner.

It is our choice to see life as work or play. I thought of this a couple of years ago, when I heard writer Michael Perry talk about rebuilding an old truck for fun. This year, many of us made an effort to attend the Spirit & Place Festival events. At the end of a long day of work, it was the frosting on the cake.

Just Play- with or without.

By Saima Hassan, Director- Director Development and Communications, OBAT Helpers Inc.

Nothing irks me more than seeing my two children glued to the computer or television on a perfectly beautiful day. If a day like that falls on one of those rare days when my calendar is without a dot, I try to do whatever I can to prevent an electronic device from being in front of them, for miles. At other times, when I can’t play a more participatory role, I beg and cajole them to ride their bikes or just go out, run around and play. They are lucky to have the choice to play indoors or outside or to play at all.

“Some of these kids just don’t have time to play as they have to help their parents earn a living. But some others do play.”

The theme for the Spirit & Place Festival 2012 was “Play.” My role at my workplace, OBAT Helpers, a nonprofit, involves helping hundreds of children, thousands of miles away, in a third world country survive and thrive. For these kids, television and computers are not within their realm of thinking. They would be happy just to have something to eat or to be able to go to school or just have enough clothes on their bodies. My thoughts are usually focused on numbers, how many meals we need to provide, how many classes need to be constructed, how to find donors who would be willing to pay for their books and stationery. I never gave a lot of thought to what these kids do after school. Do they or can they play?

“These kids show that rich or poor, our spirits need some time for play.”

Some of these kids just don’t have time to play as they have to help their parents earn a living. But some others do play. They play cricket on the streets, with bats made out of  pieces of wood and balls made out of old rags; marbles in the dirty, narrow alleys where they live; they dress up dolls which look as grubby as themselves for a mock wedding ceremony. They try to make playgrounds out of the main streets, wake up early to beat pedestrian and other traffic so they can get a couple of hours of play time.

These kids show that rich or poor, our spirits need some time for play. Let’s make sure we all do!

Freedom to Play

Gypsy Girl 1971

Gypsy Girl 1971

By Irene Bublik

Growing up in Buenos Aires during one of the most controversial and violent times in the country’s history was not an easy feat. Political turmoil, domestic terrorism and a violent and loud silence pervaded my childhood. Nationwide curfew was daily currency and for us, children, the streets were an uncertain and dangerous space.

Luckily for us, we still had our imaginations to run wild. And wild they ran. The schoolyard was the place where we would become wild princesses, distressed queens, brave sailors and…well… loud and opinionated people.

But I don’t want to digress, so please forgive me. I was asked to write about playing, so here I go.

Being raised by intellectual, unconventional, professional parents, I was taught early on that nurturing your imagination was the safest way to preserve and grow your inner child. And keep it young. Forever.

“I could create those exciting characters, imaginary friends who knew no danger, who conformed to nothing and to nobody and who were loud, tempestuous, brave and courageous beyond modesty and common sense.”

At 10, that seemed a rather ambitious task, after all, who dwells in the uncertainty of the future, the perils of growing up and the dangers of a silenced spirit? Who indeed, if not children raised in the midst of a repressed society?

That’s when I developed my love for the performing arts. My parents began sending me to the Escuela Labarden, where I was exposed to some of the most creative and unconventional minds of that time.   On stage I could be anything I wanted, and then some more. On paper, I could create those exciting characters, imaginary friends who knew no danger, who conformed to nothing and to nobody and who were loud, tempestuous, brave and courageous beyond modesty and common sense.  I became Cecilia, Mariquita, Penelope, Sofia. I fought injustice, animal cruelty, bullying and hunger in Biafra. I defeated kings, fell in love with martyrs, fought tyrants and taught bulls to resist abuse. That one was not very romantic, but I always loved cows and bulls.

“This November, let’s all embrace our inner playful souls. Let’s make this new edition of the “Spirit and Place” Festival our playground!”

And then I grew up.

I am finding my way back, though. I am re-learning how to play and although the rules have changed, my spirit remains untamed and I am excited looking at the road ahead, a road that is populated by dear friends, a free country and this wonderful and welcoming community of creators and fearless artists.

This November, let’s all embrace our inner playful souls. Let’s make this new edition of the “Spirit and Place” Festival our playground!

Would you play with me?

Peace.

Irene Bublik is a native of Argentina, transplanted to Indianapolis after living in Israel for six years. She is also a Spanish Linguist by trade. She’ll be playing the role of “Dixie” in the upcoming production “Ashes to Ashes“, showing at the Indy Fringe Theater Nov 8th – Nov 10th, 2012.

The Playful Side of a Dish

 

Neal Brown

Neal Brown

By Neal Brown

There are few things I love more than developing a new dish.  And while it can be, and usually is, a lot of work, it is also one of the more playful exercises we chefs do as part of our jobs.

The thing I really enjoy the most about the inception of a new dish is a practice called “flavor bouncing”. You start with a base ingredient and work outward with complimentary and seasonal ingredients to create a cohesive dish.

“Chefs work very hard, and there is a lot of pressure to create a perfect dish each and every time.”

We do this in a graphical fashion similar to “mind mapping,” where you basically connect the components by their ability to PLAY well with the other ingredients. So, in this case, if I want to use Wild Atlantic Cod as my featured ingredient, I then look at what is in season, and that compliments the flavor of the Cod.  In this instance, I use Butternut Squash, Kale, Cauliflower, Chard, and Mushrooms. While any of these things could and do go with Cod, I also have to think about what will appeal to a broad base.

“The creative process is the greatest form of play that we chefs have. It is what inspires us and pushes us to constantly create.”

Once I have the seasonal ingredients mapped out, I then begin to play with different ways to treat the ingredients. In this case, I have decided to use a vegetable peeler and thinly slice the squash to create Butternut Squash “pasta,” thin noodles of squash that will resemble papparedelle pasta. Not only will they look like pasta but because of the starch content, they will also behave like pasta, helping to thicken the sauce when cooked. FUN RIGHT!?

Mapping the seasonal ingredients

Mapping the seasonal ingredients

This is such an important part of being a chef. But it is also really, really satisfying. Chefs work very hard, and there is a lot of pressure to create a perfect dish each and every time. The creative process is where we can create a dish for ourselves, before we go through the editing process to make it approachable for the people that we serve.  The creative process is the greatest form of play that we chefs have. It is what inspires us and pushes us to constantly create. Creating is my ultimate form of play, and it is what keeps me up at night, and gets me out of bed in the morning.

Neal Brown’s bio is available here.

Character Creation

Chris Stanton

Chris Stanton

By Chris Stanton, Writer and Designer

You may not know it to look at me now, but I was one of those kids growing up – the outcast, the social pariah.  I’d been the new kid too often to be anything else.  By the time we finally settled down, I had no interest in playing by the cool kids rules.  In fact, I embraced my inner (okay, in my case outer) geek wholeheartedly.  And one of the ways I did that was playing Dungeons & Dragons.

“While I was proud of being different, that didn’t mean it was easy. For me, part of the appeal of D&D was getting to play someone that wasn’t me at all.”

While I was proud of being different, that didn’t mean it was easy.  I was teased a lot, and bullied.  So for me, part of the appeal of D&D was getting to play someone that wasn’t me at all.  And I don’t just mean non-human, though I played Elves more often than not.  I was a Thief, a Fighter, or even a Priest.  I got to go on adventures, be the hero.  It was a chance to explore sides of me I’d kept hidden, safely couched under a layer of pretend.  I was free to be coy, saucy, super-serious, or even downright mean. I looked at it as a chance to act, without the terror of going onstage.  Sometimes I didn’t do so well, but other times I rocked.  And it really helped me get out of my shell.

It also changed my life in ways that I never would have expected.  I met my now ex-husband playing D&D.  We’re still friends, and we have two amazing children.  And there are a few other folk I gamed with over the years that I still see, though not as often as I used to.

“It was a chance to explore sides of me I’d kept hidden, safely couched under a layer of pretend.”

Over time I realized that creating back-stories for the characters was another huge appeal of the game.  I spent time I should have been studying or note-taking doodling on my papers, or scribbling out character notes.  If I could incorporate the game into a project, I did.

That hasn’t changed.  My favorite hobby now is writing, and the story I’m currently working on is based on Dungeons & Dragons, and includes a race of lizard-folk I created well over a decade ago.

And I don’t do this alone. I found a wonderful new community – a writing community.  We play with words instead of dice, and a lot of it is, sadly, online instead of in person, but it’s just as fun as D&D ever was.

“I’ve been labeled a lot of different ways over the years: artist, singer, writer, bi chick, voracious reader, goofball, gamer, annoying big sister, entertainment trivia queen, comic book nerd, horror nut, Trekkie… the list is endless, as I am incredibly proud to let my Geek Flags fly. My favorite thing to answer to, however, is Mom.” – Chris Stanton

Play-Time in Indy!

Spirit & Place Festival Director Pam Blevins Hinkle

Spirit & Place Festival Director Pam Blevins Hinkle

By Pam Blevins Hinkle

An original board game about homelessness, a series of super-sized sidewalk games all over Indy, a pumpkin-flinging contest for families, a film on faith and football, a recital of improvised arias, a documentary about senior athletes, a comedy act by a rabbi and Muslim, a tour of Indy’s best play spaces … these are among the dozens of programs that will explore “PLAY” during the annual Spirit & Place Festival, November 2–11, 2012.

“This is your chance to explore the silly and serious dimensions of play, to participate in new conversations, to play with new ideas, places, and friends.”

The 10-day festival opens this weekend with signature events that feature urban art expressions, French composer Pierre Bastien (builder of mechanical instruments), as well as songs and stories from Scott Russell Sanders, Phil Gulley, Krista Detor, and Carrie Newcomer.

The following week explores PLAY through audacious performances, provocative discussions, art exhibits, and more. From architecture to jazz, game history to art therapy, video games to drumming, there’s something for all ages and interests … and 75% of the events are free.

The festival closes with the 17th Annual Public Conversation, Sunday, November 11, 5:30 p.m. at The Toby, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Bestselling author and internationally acclaimed game designer Jane McGonigal, stand-up comedian and Baptist minister Susan Sparks, and Grammy-winning cellist and former Hoosier David Darling wrap up the festival with a bit of comedy, a dash of music, a quick game, and a fantastic conversation on the role and power of play in our lives.

Fred Rogers said, “When we treat play as seriously as it deserves, we feel the joy that’s in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a difference in our lives.” This is your chance to explore the silly and serious dimensions of play, to participate in new conversations, to play with new ideas, places, and friends.

Get more information and join the conversation online spiritandplace.org, on Facebook, Twitter (#SPIndy), or by calling 317-278-3623.

Pam Blevins Hinkle is director of The Spirit & Place Festival, a community project managed by The Polis Center, an independent unit of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Exploring a different theme each year, the festival brings together curious people, clever ideas, and collaborative organizations to spark creativity and action that builds strong, more inclusive communities.

To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question

Polina Osherov with her daughters

Polina Osherov with her daughters

By Polina Osherov

“Mommy, mommy! Look!” My 7 year old, plucked at my sleeve impatiently, holding out the newest of her “adventure books”, usually a few sheets of 8.5×11 paper folded in half haphazardly, the cover backwards. “I’m working on a new book!”, she explained enthusiastically. “Mmmmhhmmm”, I responded non-committally, half-turning my head in her direction, my eyes glued to the laptop screen, fingers continuing to fly across the keyboard. It was 7:30 at night and my inbox still had 40 unread email messages. A typical evening in my household.

“How could I possibly explain to my lovable blue-eyed princess that for me work was play and that playing games, of any kind, bored me to tears.”

“It’s about me and Lauren and Annika and we’re fairies we go out to fight the bad guys!” my daughter continued oblivious to my apparent lack of response. “Well, first we’re fairies, but then we turn into ninjas,” she amended in the same cheerful tone. “And we have these cool looking ponies. They look evil, but they’re not really evil. It’s to scare the bad guys.”

“Cool…” I responded, trying to sound interested, but not succeeding. “Do you like my picture?” Natasha continued relentlessly. I ignored her, attempting to come up with an artful refusal to a request for my photography services with a too tight a deadline. I typed a few more words barely noticing the sudden silence. The silence extended. I breathed a sigh of relief, assuming that my budding writer had decided to continue her project, but it was suddenly too quiet. As most parents of small children will tell you, complete silence while your children are supposed to be engaged in play is usually a bad sign. I looked up. My daughter was sitting on the couch across from me, staring at me sternly.

“Mommy,” she said quietly, “ why are you always working?”

A combination of guilt and irritation welled up inside me. How could I possibly explain to my lovable blue-eyed princess that for me work was play and that playing games, of any kind, bored me to tears. Card games. Board games. Computer games. Forget about it! A friendly round of darts or cornhole? Count me out. Building LEGOs? That’s more my husband’s domain and I wouldn’t even know where to start.

I sighed, took a deep breath, stood up closing the laptop on the unfinished email, “Always working?! I am not!” I said teasingly, holding out my hand to her. “Let’s go play!”

It’s good to love what you do, I reasoned with myself trying not to let guilt prevail as I mentally crafted a response that would satisfy my daughter’s question. Still, nothing I came up with could do it justice. “Mommy doesn’t know how to play.” wasn’t going to fly, as I had on occasion exhibited unusual exuberance with my daughters that said otherwise. “Mommy is no fun.” was not entirely true either. “Mommy’s brain is too busy thinking about other stuff.” Now, I was getting somewhere. “Mommy has lots of really interesting things she’s working on that feel a lot like playing.” There it was, but I was concerned that my daughter would not understand or worse, misunderstand. I wanted her and her younger sister to get as much playing in as they could before life got serious and grown-up responsibilities took over. And I prayed that they would both discover their life’s passion early on, so that when they did have to “go to work”, that it made them so content that they would consider it “play”.

I sighed, took a deep breath, stood up closing the laptop on the unfinished email, “Always working?! I am not!” I said teasingly, holding out my hand to her. “Let’s go play!”

Polina is a Russian-born, Indianapolis based commercial photographer specializing in fashion & portraiture. She is also the editor of patternindy.com and editor-in-chief of PATTERN PAPER, a magazine uniting creators and consumers of fashion right here in
Indianapolis. Learn more about Polina and her work here.