John Green on Play

In 2012, author John Green, wrote an guest blog on the theme PLAY. However, his blog describes our HOME so beautifully, we decided to post it again. Enjoy!

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Play’s the thing

Child-1

By Bernie DeKoven

“The play’s the thing,” says Hamlet, “Wherein I’ll catch the conscious of the king.”

“Play’s the Thing,” (without the “the”) on the other hand, is the name of a, well, play. A very playful play. About playfulness itself. So it’s not really play that’s the thing, but playful play.” Think of it as a playful play in which everyone plays, playfully.

The actors are very playful people in deed – all members of CSz Players. They’ll be playing, all right. Games. Playful games. Playful actors playing playful games playfully. Then there’s the storyteller who’ll be telling stories, also playfully, about playfulness.

The stories, which are taken from storyteller Bernie DeKoven’s books and websites, are all about pursuing whatever journey you are on, in whatever stage you find yourself, playfully.

The two experiences, the games and the stories, augment each other, giving each more depth and more relevance. The goal is to help you remind yourself of your capacity for playfulness, and how you can use it to build a better life, a better community, better health, richer spirit, deeper truth.

Bernie has been teaching playfulness for over 40 years. He was one of the co-directors of The New Games Foundation. His two most recent publications are The Well-Played Game, and A Playful Path

The first theatrical performance will take place, more or less coincidentally, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. at Comedy Sportz Indianapolis.

You are so invited to be part of the fun: fun that you’ll be sharing with the actors, with the audience, and, ultimately, with everyone who is lucky enough to meet you.

You’ll find Bernie’s websites here:

A Playful Path
Deep Fun

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.

John Green’s Essay on Play

John Green

John Green

By John Green

When my wife and I first moved to Indianapolis five years ago, we heard multiple times that Indianapolis was the largest American city not on a navigable waterway. This seems a strange thing to be proud of; it’s one of those extremely fine distinctions, like saying that  Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in the NFL with a surname that is
also a noun, just as Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL whose surname is also a gerund.

“Ours is a city of strip malls and parking lots; we have no mountains, no beaches. Our autumn is less spectacular than New England; our winters are too cold, our summers too hot. And yet, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

But many people see this lack of non-navigable waterways as a symbol of Indianapolis’s lack of physical beauty. Ours is a city of strip malls and parking lots; we have no mountains, no beaches. Our autumn is less spectacular than New England; our winters are too cold, our summers too hot. And yet, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

And I used to wish for mountains and beaches, or really any kind of topography. But then my son was born. He’s two now, and one of the many pleasures of having a two-year-old is that they are always playing. Well, or throwing a tantrum.

Henry and I often visit the non-navigable waterways of Indianapolis. Walking down to the river in Holliday Park, Henry notices EVERYTHING. While I fight the urge to look at my phone every ten seconds, Henry a full minute examining a red leaf barely clinging to a tree. He leans against each tree trunk we walk past, trying to determine which are small enough to shake with his weight. He stops walking every few steps to look for rolly-pollies.

“So, okay. We don’t have any navigable waterways, or beaches, or mountains. But you don’t need them to play any more than you need fancy toys.”

When we get down to the White River, he starts throwing rocks into the water. I show him how I can skip stones, which he finds boring, because skipped stones don’t makes big of a splash. He heaves stone after stone into the water. After every splash, he says, “That was a splash,” as if all the other ones weren’t splashes. He can do this dozens of times without getting bored, and when I finally say, “Okay,Henry, we need to walk back to the car now.” “One more, daddy,”he says. “A big one.” He grabs a stone takes both his hands to hold, walks to the edge of the water, and drops it in. “LOOK AT THAT
SPLASH,” he says.

In the winter, we will bundle up and come back to watch the rocks crash through thin ice. In the summer, we’ll be here in shirt sleeves, sweating, scaring the turtles away with the splashes. So, okay. We don’t have any navigable waterways, or beaches, or mountains. But you don’t need them to play any more than you need fancy toys. You only need the ability to pay careful and sustained attention to the abundant beauty that is always–always–in our midst.

A native of Indianapolis, John Green is the New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. He is also the coauthor, with David Levithan, of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He was 2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award, a 2009 Edgar Award winner, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Most recently he has been named national winner of the 2012 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award.

Play – putting imagination into action

Building Blocks

Building Blocks

By George Kelley, Education Director at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck

When you play, you have an opportunity to fully experience something outside of your normal comfort zone.  In play we pretend.  Play is our mind’s way of trying things out, of practicing, of finding out more about ourselves.  This year’s Spirit & Place Festival has a theme of PLAY and will give you many chances to dive into the world of play in virtually every aspect of life.   In its 17th year, the festival will entice you to step into a world that some reserve for children, from November 2-11th.  Each year the festival picks a new theme to explore, and with PLAY, Spirit & Place finds a way to have something for anyone who wants to have fun.

“Play is putting imagination into action, be it putting pen to paper, singing into the shampoo bottle or living out a fantasy vacation, play brings extra meaning to life. “

While some think of play as frivolity, play can be serious business.  We learn through play as we create the world around us, often we go about it unaware of what we are doing.  Play is putting imagination into action, be it putting pen to paper, singing into the shampoo bottle or living out a fantasy vacation, play brings extra meaning to life.  It is the extra shade of color, sometimes even grey.

“I am thrilled to find so many diverse and wonderful ways to express that which I have engaged in from my first day, studied as an educator, wrote about in graduate school and used to both teach and learn.”

Play is a mind builder.  From a toddler building a tower of blocks to a 1st grader writing a form of poetry, to a college biology major growing fruit flies in a lab, each plays at the edge of their knowledge and understanding of their universe and through their action pushes back the frontier of the knowledge adding to it in sometimes glorious fashion.   Science history is full of anecdotes of scholars, who when faced with a puzzle, played their way to an answer.  Ask a physicist working at the Hadran collider how much fun they are having when they smash atoms together to solve the question of where we began.  What better things to play with than the stuff of the beginning?

I have participated in Spirit & Place as a presenter, an audience member, a supporter and a cheerleader.  I have told stories, spoke about Judaism, and welcomed others into our synagogue.  This year however I am thrilled to find so many diverse and wonderful ways to express that which I have engaged in from my first day, studied as an educator, wrote about in graduate school and used to both teach and learn.  Come play with me.  I guarantee you will have fun.