What I Learned @ My Own Assertiveness in an Improv Game: Death in One Minute

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I was having coffee with David LaGraffe recently and we were talking about the core values in teaching and learning improv.  I’ve taken classes with him over the years at Lights Up Improv and have learned so much and had lots of fun.  David is a gifted teacher and is part of the reason I’m so convinced about the value of applying the principles of improv to us in healthcare. (Next class starts 7/16/2015 in South Portland, ME and I can’t wait!).

david lagraf

 I teach improv as an opening to the possibilities of one’s own genius. –David LaGraffe 


Anyways, he reminded me about a scene we did together a few years ago called “Death in One Minute”.  Basically there are two participants that have 60 seconds to start and end a scene with one participant dying.  We were supposed to be husband and wife on a boat.  We started the scene and within the first 10 seconds he fell to the floor and was dead. (Not really but for the scene!).  I raced to his rescue screaming and trying to revive him.  And I continued to try frantically for the remaining 50 seconds.

In the debriefing that followed and again during our more recent coffee, he gently nudged me to think about other possibilities.  I could have done a little reacting, and then take the scene some place that I created:

“Free at last, the poison worked!’  She takes out her cell phone ‘Jim, he’s gone.  Meet me in 20 minutes at the dock.  I’ll cover him with the tarp and you jump on.  I’ll need help with the body….”

“Poor David, he should have remembered his medications, but you know I was tired of reminding him.  All those years of 119px-(Woman_in_Hat_Rowing_a_Boat)_-_Google_Art_Projectcooking and cleaning for him….I’m sure I can make it to Greece and start the fine chocolate shoppe I’ve dreamed of…”

“Oh my, I’ve never tried driving this boat.”  She takes the steering wheel and shifts sharply to the left and screams and falls while David rolls.  She over corrects to the right….(for all I knew this may have revived him!)…

this place of opportunity and hesitancy is a very rich growing edge where I learn what holds me back Click To Tweet

In that 50 seconds, anything was possible.  But I had stayed in this mode of reaction rather than bring my own ideas forward. OMG!  I so get it now. And this place of opportunity and hesitancy is a very rich growing edge where I have and continue to learn what holds me back, to safely take more risk, and appreciate how hard it can be.  We laughed about the memory and this shared understanding about how deeply powerful this work can be.  Assertiveness is not easy and I’m happy to celebrate “Stop the Silence in Healthcare” day with this story!

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11 Responses to What I Learned @ My Own Assertiveness in an Improv Game: Death in One Minute

  1. Pingback: Brainstorm Invitation: Silo-Prevention Idea for Healthcare Professionals’ Education!

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  4. Marsha Ann says:

    This is a great story on taking risks Beth, as I probably would have had the same reaction in your improv. I also didn’t know it was “Stop The Silence in Healthcare Day.” Thanks for bringing an awareness to this issue!

  5. I had no idea there was a “Stop The Silence in Healthcare Day,” but I did find it interesting so many people were sharing and tweeting about it in social media today! And, I enjoy learning about healthcare concepts through your innovative strategies with Medial Improv. Bravo!

    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      Thanks, Rachel! It is exciting to hear about all the sharing and tweeting about “Stop the Silence in Healthcare Day” I learned about Mike Ackerman’s work because he read something on my blog and reached out for a phone conversation. (Rebecca Swinson’s article-link below) and I met her on a LinkedIn group discussion and she accepted invite to elaborate on her comment as a guestblogger! Great examples of how social media can transform healthcare, don’t you think?

      RN States “No regrets” after reporting concerns about patient safety, even though….http://bit.ly/1Khtp02

  6. Elizabeth Scala says:

    It sounds to me like you went into ‘nurse mode’ rather than using your authentic self to create your response. I love this post because it reminds me of what I am encouraging nurse professionals to do. To use non-nursing skills, techniques, and concepts in their practice. To think beyond the ‘hat’, so to speak.

    I started cracking up laughing when I read your post, Beth. And your teacher’s ideas of covering up the body and meeting your long lost lover on the docks for a fancy get-a-way into the sunset… oh wait, did I just imagine that? LOL

    Thanks for a great article. It showed me how much fun I would have practicing a little improv myself! And how Improv is probably right up my alley… being myself!

    Enjoy the day 😀

    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      Wow, interesting observation, Elizabeth. I did go into ‘Nurse Mode” and we could have a really fun philosophical conversation about how this ‘mode’ is part of my authentic self and NOT part of it. Not only that, but how is this part of me (authentic and less-so) related to my career path as a nurse!!! OMG right?

      You would LOVE it, I think. I’m starting a new 8 week session in July and can’t wait. (Thursday eves 7-9, starting 7/16 for 8 weeks. Just in case you are around these parts b/c David is always open to bringing a guest!)

      Oh and by the way, those are my ideas in the post, but I only came up with them much later….when writing the post! LOL! Next time though, I’ll be closer to my authentic self in the moment! Maybe! 🙂 Anyways, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and I appreciate your comments and insights!

  7. Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

    Absolutely, Donna. Thank you for sharing it with your colleagues. I’m happy to connect with other practitioners that I know of and to offer intro sessions that are affordable for SONs and independent nurse consultants! 🙂

  8. Donna Carol Maheady says:

    HI Beth, This is such an interesting topic. I shared with nurse educators’ groups. It could be an interesting approach to teaching nursing students.

    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      Absolutely it could be, Donna. I think undergrad courses or a one day workshop could be very powerful for nurses and students of all healthcare studies. In fact, I see it as a ‘silo-prevention’ strategy!

      Thank you for sharing with your colleagues and just so you/they know, I’d be very excited to collaborate on program development directly or indirectly. Let’s get it into nursing schools! A few medical schools are already doing it! (Katie Watson, JD has been teaching a humanities elective for medical students at NWUFSOM for over 10 years. I was fortunate to be in her first Train-the-Trainer program in 2012). Anyone interested in more info, please contact me: beth@bethboynton.com

What are your thoughts?