Revealing Performances

Recently, I’ve been getting feedback that I look really comfortable on stage. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I think it shows that my dedication and practice to improving my improv skills is working. I can play a character, listen, make up stories and do object work (mime) while on stage. I want to be comfortable performing. However, when I received this feedback I was actually really scared and not satisfied with my performance at all. I didn’t enjoy myself. So what am I doing when I’m enjoying myself and feeling at ease on stage and off? I’ve been wondering about this for a couple months.

I started improvising at a drop in class that I only attended once or twice a month. My first big “a-ha!” moment came when I realized I could simply play with whatever I was experiencing in my body. I didn’t have to make something up. If my belly felt tight, I could clutch at it and bend over. If my hand was shaking a little, I could shake it more. If my head felt light, I could lay down. I realized that my choice to say yes to my experience and then add to it by making it bigger was an offer and a gift to my scene partner. It was also a gift to myself. My experience would immediately begin to shift once I revealed and began to play with it. Then I would feel at ease.


So when I’m feeling ease, I’m revealing some genuine part of my inner experience, I’m allowing my impulses and I’m playing with what’s here now. If go through a whole scene not doing those things, my fear persists and it’s generally slow and clunky. I might be listening to my partner’s words, responding with a logical story, staying true to my character and the scene might be good. But it won’t be great. In great scenes the improvisers are playing and truly enjoying themselves. The audience can tell when an improviser is having a really good time. It’s contagious.

Somewhere along the way I let my skill override my in-the-moment experience. More specifically, I let my head-centric skills take over. I’ll never have enough skill to outshine the power of being with my experience. That’s why I do improv. That’s what it’s all about and I think this applies to any occupation, hobby or relationship – AKA, life. As I learn to tell better stories and create more compelling characters, I want to always keep my experience, including my experience of my partner and the space, as the primary fuel for my creativity. My skills are there to support and embellish my experience.

Feeling at ease on stage will come with allowing myself to be seen. When I allow what’s on the inside to be witnessed, I relax. Even if it’s just a little bit to begin with – the shaking of my hand, the crinkling of my brow or the bounce of my step. I consciously choose to show the audience what I’m experiencing. The thing is, they can already tell I’m scared or excited or angry, but when I choose to ‘yes, and’ my experience and incorporate it into what I’m doing – everyone, not just me, gets to breathe a sigh of relief. It’s the magic move of improv and comedy. The audience knows that you know what they know. It creates a resonance and in that space the next thing can emerge.





Play as a way to dissolve self-criticism

Hello Play-enthusiasts!

I’ve been quiet for a while as I’m in the midst of co-leading a five week series: 5 Reviving Play Moves to Reinvigorate Relating. We’ve been exploring some of our most gnarly characters. Characters who help us get through or get in our way… I’ve got a bunch of ’em! My Angry Cleaner gets the house sparkling when she doesn’t want to face her anger. My Broken Record is really good at telling my son the same thing over and over again without getting heard. My Unlovable showed up the other night and she really just wants to FEEL. And then there is my Open Arms character who enjoys welcoming new people and appreciates new playmates.

None of these characters are bad. They all have a direct line to our essence, who we truly are, but some of them got attention in the form of approval and some of them got attention in the form of disapproval. Another name for them is persona (you might know them by other names), which literally means ‘mask’. We learned to put on these masks as we grew up discovering what gets us the attention we need and what doesn’t. Because we all require attention to survive.

They all worked at some point in our lives or we wouldn’t still be playing them out. But now that I’m an adult, seeking out approval and trying to avoid disapproval through these personas feels unfulfilling. I never truly get what I really want. So I try NOT to put on these masks and I wish they would just go away. That doesn’t work, at all. I might end up thinking I’ve replaced them with something better, like the Mindful Mother who “never” gets angry, but inevitably they come back around. That’s because each of these characters have a message for me. They are here to invite me to discover, “what do I really want?” What part of me have I yet to welcome. What feeling am I keeping myself from feeling by wearing this mask?

We can’t answer those questions when we look at ourselves and our personas through a critical lens because again, we are looking at ourselves with approval or disapproval, the same environment in which they were created.

“Approval/disapproval is keeping you from a direct experience.” – Viola Spolin, the mother of modern improv. It keeps me from a direct experience of myself, of others and of the world around me.

But we can invite our personas out to play. We can give them a curious attention. When we step into authentically playing with our personas, we dissolve our self-criticizer and step into the field beyond right and wrong. This is sometimes so “far out there” it can be difficult to even imagine. And that’s why improv is a magnificent place for us to start practicing. The field of improv that I intend to create is beyond right and wrong. It’s a place of pure creativity and we get there in incremental steps. We make a few agreements beforehand between players to set the context of the game and give us a foundation on which to play and then we let our creativity stretch and run.

If you’re ready to let your creativity loose in a full-body play experience, then I invite you to one of the follow events:

Sunday, March 31st, I’m leading a half day playshop where you will learn to melt your fear, engage your body’s intelligence and improvise your way to creating what you really want in life. I bet a persona or two will come out to play and we can discover what you really want together. I’ve extended the early bird deadline until March 28th so sign up today for Play It Out! Intro to Manifesting Through Improv. $37/person.

Monday, April 22nd, you can experience a free improv class with me! This will be a laid back, all-are-welcome, improv play session focused on creating fun in that field beyond right and wrong. Free Improv Class in West Seattle.

So, will you come out to play?


Dhira and Open Arms

How to Fail at Playing in Your Relationships

Playing: It seems like such a simple thing. We did it all the time as kids. We watch our dogs make it look easy. Playing seems like a natural thing that we should be able to do in our relationships. At its basic level, playing is an exchange of energy back and forth, like tossing a ball. Should be simple, right? So why do we suck at it sometimes, and other times it goes swimmingly? Here’s how to fail at playing, especially in relationships.

  1. Don’t face your partner. Turn away from them. Look at your phone. Find something else to busy yourself with. Okay, now that they’re completely not expecting it, try to tell them something exciting about your day. See how that toss lands.
  2. Close your body. Cross your legs. Cross your arms. Cross your eyes. Anyone who’s ever played sports knows your BODY has to be ready to play. It has to be organized to receive and to throw playful tosses, whether those are actual balls, or words, or looks or anything at all. Try catching a ball with your arms crossed!
  3. Be more committed to being right than to playing. If you’re a parent, you see this ALL the time. One kid knows the RIGHT way to play and the other kid isn’t doing it that way. Game OVER. Adults have our own version of this and it’s the fastest way to call off the game.
  4. Only be willing to go so far... “Okay, I’ll play your little game, but if you do <insert that thing that will happen>, I’m outta here.”
  5. Analyze yourself, your partner and the game. “She’s not following the rules! Oops, that was dumb of me. I wonder how I look? He looks bored. How long is this going to last?”

Does any of this feel familiar to you because it sure does to me. If you know me, you might know that I’ve played sports all my life, that I play all the time with my 7 year old and that I’m even in a performing improv ensemble. I’d say I’m a darn good player. But you know what, I also know to FAIL big time at playing. It’s something that’s challenged me in my intimate relationships and I’m beginning to grok WHY. The times I’ve tried to play with my partner and it’s failed is because I’m doing one or more the things listed above. Here are some moves to try on instead:

  1. TURN TOWARD your partner
  2. OPEN your body posture
  4. Get CURIOUS
  5. CHOOSE to give your attention

How to FAIL at Playing in Your Relationships (1)

This is the foundation that all play moves thrive in. For me, even the first simple (yet not always easy) move of turning toward my partner immediately opens up the possibility of connecting and playing. I find that something that I might have taken as a criticism (even if he was joking) I receive differently. I actually notice myself smiling when I don’t “think” I want to!

With that foundation laid down, we can get to the juicy, creative play moves. Play-enthusiast and Creative Resilience Coach, Kristina Turner, and I have created a class series for you to re-energize your relationships. 5 Reviving Play Moves to Re-invigorate Relating is for you if you want to

  • Bring play and silliness into ANY of your relationships
  • Rev up your creativity
  • Feel more alive in your day-to-day interactions
  • Discover how to play through anything in your way of authentically expressing

Each week in this five week series, we share and explore how to change up the action and find satisfaction in our real lives as we dip, wade or dive into 5 Reviving Play Moves. We look forward to splashing around in the pool of our collective wisdom and foolery. Wanna come play? The first class is FREE!


  1.    BEFRIEND the characters who run your stories! Make play-space in your relationship to interview personas you each adopted long ago. Discover what they really want now. Sign up here for just the first free class.
  2.   BREATHE and open to wonder. Hmmm…I wonder which opening will be the most fun to explore next.   Hmmm…..I wonder how my defenses want to play with you.
  3.  BODIFY what’s going on inside you. Drop the words. Express your thoughts and feelings in sound and movement.
  4.   MAKE IT BIGGER! Exaggerate and embrace your own quirks, goofs, fears & desires. (Invite your whole self out to play!)
  5.   CHANGE ONE THING. Before the conversation gets seriously dull or repetitive, change up your Pace, Posture, Propensity or Purpose for being in this conversation!

If you’re ready to play and you’ve received my toss, it’s your move! Sign up today for the whole series before it fills up!

Until next time… Play on!


© Dhira Brown, Play It Out Improv, and Kristina Turner, Creative Resilience Coach in playful cahoots with The Hendricks Institute,


Improvifesting: A portmanteau of improv and manifesting, meaning to create what you want through improvisation.

What if manifesting what you really want in life was as simple as Yes, And? Those two little words pack a big punch in the world of improv and they can make a big impact in your life, too. Let’s take a fresh look at this thing we call “manifesting” through the lens of improv’s Yes, And.

These days, many see manifesting as synonymous with bringing into reality something in your life, usually something you didn’t have before that you wanted, for example, a relationship or a new job.

So I wondered, how do we manifest what we really want? Is it through our thoughts, visualization, writing, actions? I began by writing as if I had already created what I wanted, visualizing and sensing into what would happened and how I would feel. I generated a lot of success with that. My first blog, Imagination Realized, has lots of examples of how I used visualization to create magic in my life. One time I actually ended up in a dancing competition!

While this method was effective, I began to notice that it’s missing the Yes. I’ve learned that I need to say Yes to what I’m currently creating before I can move on. Why? Because there are feelings caught up in there. There is powerful energy waiting to be released to fuel my next move. There is truth that will inspire and guide me. I choose to face that I am always manifesting. So whatever I’m currently creating is due to my manifestation powers whether I like it or not.

And that’s where, if I’m only using my head, I can get really hung up. I can spiral down the rabbit hole of self-loathing and beating myself up for manifesting situations I don’t like. It makes sense to me that I would rather try to skip over this part. However, the price of skipping over this part is stuffed feelings and recycled drama. It’s maybe even getting what you think you want, but not really receiving it and not enjoying it.

So how can we make this part friendlier? How do we make it fun?

By adding PLAY.

When I’m facing into something I don’t like that I’m manifesting in my life, I know I’m not ready to move on until I begin to play with it. The most effective and quickest way I know to open up to play is to magnify or exaggerate with my whole body while I express. The magic happens when I go all the way with it using movement and sound.

The other place that I would get hung up with manifesting is knowing what I wanted. Yikes! I focused so long on what I didn’t want, how am I supposed to figure out what I actually want? Again, I could easily get stuck up in my head and give up.

But with the Yes, And approach to manifesting, playing with saying Yes to what I’m currently creating inspires what I really want. I allow my whole body to play through to discover what I want, rather than using my head to make something up that sounds good. This is the And part of Yes, And. The word, manifest, actually means to show plainly through action or appearance. For instance, His courage manifested itself through the look on his face. So by this definition, if you’re looking to manifest love in your life, then you must discover your unique appearance and action (movement) of love. As they say, be the love, but you can’t just throw it on like a mask over your pain. That’s why giving space to… Yesing… what is, is the first step.

Then what? Then I update my moves!

Body intelligence pioneer, Katie Hendricks says, “The quickest way to change your mind is to change your body.”

So again I invite my whole body to demonstrate how it moves in that space of creating what I want. When I’m creating love and kindness in my relationships, how am I moving? How am I breathing? Where is my attention? Then I move, breath and notice in that space for a while.

I can now go from complaining about what I don’t want, to playing with and accepting it, to discovering what I truly want in about five minutes. It takes practice and it’s totally possible.

Finally, I wonder, “what is the simplest action step that I could take to demonstrate my commitment to creating what I want?” It could simply be practicing my new move everyday for a week, or some communication that I need to make might pop into my head. I allow my action to be easeful and organic versus making something up.

If this sounds like a practice you’d like to experience first hand, I’m hosting a playshop where I will assist you in Yes, Anding something in your life. I have two Play It Out Playshops coming up: Sunday, January 20th, 12:30-4pm and Sunday, March 31st, 12:30-4pm.

Check out all my events at!




Second Circle: A Practice in Presence

Like me, you might have heard coaches and teachers say things like “be present”, “stay in the moment” and “don’t think”.  While I know what they mean in concept, presence is something that must be experienced, rather than taught. Returning to the moment might be a different journey each time depending on where I am. Unfortunately, I don’t think these well-meant words are helpful for people who haven’t had much experience with practices in presence.

That’s why whenever I learn a new practice that helps me cultivate presence, I love to share it. Today, practicing with my improv ensemble (check out our shows!), our coach shared First, Second and Third Circle energy and how they affect our ability to presence.

We walked around the room as a group noticing the doorways between each other and walking through them. In First Circle we looked down, briefly looking up to see others and then looking away. Our shoulders were forward and down. Our energy inward and thinking thoughts like “am I doing this right?”, “why are we doing this?” and “this is dumb”. An inward monologue ran while our bodies went through the movement of walking. We then jumped to Third Circle. Our chests puffed outward and our eyes searched beyond. Our stances got wider, too, but it was energy forced out, intended to take up space. Thoughts like, “hey, I’m looking good”, “look at me!” and “Oh yeah, I got this” rolled through. We looked at each other and our environment, but didn’t see or hear anyone or anything.

The our coach invited us into Second Circle. We relaxed our muscles. Our arms rested lightly at our sides, and hips and legs directly under our frames. She invited us to open our jaws slightly because she said that science is discovering that is the best position for listening. We imagined ourselves with antennae all over, receptive to the people and things around us. We began noticing details in the room. We saw our teammates, heard the sound of their shoes on the carpet and could smell the scents in the room. One thing we didn’t discuss, but I would include, is that we must include ourselves in our noticing. Noticing our breath, and the sounds and movements we make. We are part of the Second Circle. Here’s a video of Patsy Rodenburg, the creator of the Second Circle method.

What I love about this practice is that we had permission to experience First and Third Circle before Second Circle. First and Third Circle aren’t “bad” or “wrong” and can be something we choose. I know that I will be in First or Third Circle many, many times. This practice invites me to know what they feel like in my body and to notice the subtle shifts when I go from one to the other.

This reminds me of another practice in presence called Loop of Awareness by Kathlyn Hendricks. Loop of Awareness is the simple shift of attention from out to in and in to out. It’s noticing a tree blowing in the wind, then noticing your heartbeat. Noticing the breathing of your puppy and then noticing your own breathing. For me, Second Circle is like Loop of Awareness. It’s practicing circulating attention. Ultimately, when I’m present, I am aware of myself and my surroundings at the same time. In Third Circle, I’m stuck with all of my attention pushed out. In First Circle, I’m stuck with all of my attention sucked in. There is no circulation. Second Circle and Loop of Awareness are two practices that are tangible things we can do to cultivate presence.

I practiced Second Circle during a Nia (workout) class where we were free style dancing around the room. At first I didn’t even notice that I was in First Circle, focused inwardly, afraid of looking awkward and hoping no one paid me much attention. Then I was dancing my best moves, thinking how cool I must look and hoping that others noticed me. When I “woke up” I realized I had been alternating between First and Third Circle. I relaxed my body and my gaze. I began taking in all of the people in the room and appreciating them for being there. Once I was in a space of seeing others in appreciation, I let my body move however it wanted and connected with the other dancers. As Viola Spolin, the mother of modern improv, advised, I allowed myself to “see and be seen.”

Improvisation of any kind requires us to be in the moment and that means we must become masters of how we direct our attention. If you’re curious to experience Second Circle and other practices in presence through improv, join me in my next improv 6-week class series beginning Monday, January 21st, 2019. I’m hosting a free sample class in West Seattle on Monday, January 14th. It’s at the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse in West Seattle from 7-9pm. Drop in and let’s play!

Improv and Anxiety

A while ago I began surrounding myself with people who love improv and how it relates to their everyday lives. I have the pleasure of speaking with those people about the benefits of improv frequently. One of the things that came up recently was how improv helps relieve symptoms of anxiety.

One of my friends in LA leads an improv group specifically designed to help people with anxiety. Anxiety is fear continued over a long period of time – fear habituated. So why would putting someone in another fearful situation help them ease that fear? Here are my theories, and they have nothing to do with pushing through our fears.

First, we set a new context in improv where it’s okay to mess up. In fact, screw ups often lead to the most creative and funny situations. Improv teaches that there’s no way to “do it wrong” because everything in improv is accepted and played with as is. Most of us live in a head space where we are always looking for what’s right and what wrong, striving for the former, while trying to avoid that latter. We would rather hide instead of risk being ‘wrong’. Because the duality of right and wrong is so entrenched in our brains, I like to play with doing it wrong instead of just telling people that there’s no way to do it wrong (because no matter how many time I say that your brain will still want to find the right way to do it). We can actually have fun practicing ‘doing it wrong’ and interrupting our old programming.

My second theory for how improv eases anxiety is that we practice being in the moment. Most anxiety arises from something that happened in the past or something that might happen in the future. Practicing presence releases us from the past and future. I teach that all the inspiration you need for your scene is right there, in you, in your partner, in the space. There is never a need to try remember something from your past (though that might come up intuitively), or predict the future.

From these two new ways of being, we allow ourselves to express freely (without the right/wrong filter) in the moment. We STOP hiding. And wow, is that ever a relief. When I think I need to hide something about myself I immediately feel scared. Even though improv is about making stuff up, it’s not about hiding anything. It’s about letting through whatever comes up in that moment.

It was through my personal transformative play that I discovered the complete solace of knowing that everything I need is right here, always. I go back to improv because it is a practice that reminds me over and over again how true that is.

I’m offering three upcoming opportunities to experience improv and get to know each other: Mondays, Nov 19th (in 1 week)Dec 3rd and Dec 17th at the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse in West Seattle. I don’t do a la carte classes very often, so this is your chance to come to one class and sample my style. Next year, beginning in January, I’ll offer another class series for those of you ready to jump into an extended exploration of improv.

Dhira Brown
Improviser, Facilitator, Coach
Celebrate what is. Play out what’s possible!

Beyond Right and Wrong

What takes you out of a scene?

I asked myself this question the other day. I wondered, what causes me to lose presence where some part of me is no longer aware of what’s happening in the moment. One of my improv teachers called it “leaving the room”.

I’m doing it wrong. That was the first thing that came to me. Whenever I think I’m doing something wrong, I scare myself and retreat in some way.

They’re doing it wrong. When I judge by scene partner missed some rule or made some improv faux pas I again get scared and lose a moment, or many moments of presence.

I need to do it right. Ah, yes. If only I could do it exactly right then I’ll never do it wrong and the above scenarios won’t happen. Intellectually, I can giggle at the absurdity of this and yet, unconsciously, I do it frequently!

I don’t know about you, but this right/wrong story has been running my life for as far back as I can remember and not just in improv scenes. The beauty of improv is that we set a new context beyond the story of right and wrong. We say, “there’s no way to do this wrong”. Of course our brains laugh and we secretly try to do it right anyway. Which is why I enjoy purposely playing it out “wrong” first, just so our brains see that even if we do it “wrong”, it’s okay.

So the next question isn’t, “How do I always stay present in my scene?” Ha! No way, forget it. I drift off trying to think of a clever thing to say, or remember what just happened so I can make a neat connection. Or I wish I hadn’t just said that thing I just said. The real question is,

How do I reliably get back into the scene? When I noticed I’ve “left the room”, what can I do to reenter with ease?

Notice my body, a sensation or feeling. This is the number one way I get back to NOW. My body is always experiencing in the present moment so I join it by noticing something happening in my body. Often I’ll simply feel my feet on the floor.

Look at my partner, make eye contact. When I take in something about what my scene partner is doing or how they are standing or their facial expression, I bring myself back to the present and connect with them.

Interact with space. In improv we call this “object work”: Interacting with some imaginary object in space. It’s funny because the object isn’t actually “here” and yet all of your focus must be on that space at that time in order to truly interact with it. This one took me some time, but has become a reliable way for me to ground myself in my scene.

When I do these things, something magical happens… I find my inspiration, because inspiration is in the moment.

Improv is not about being clever, knowledgeable or quick-witted, it’s about being HERE.

And it’s a damn fun way to practice being here if you ask me. Let’s practice together.

I would love for you to join me this October 8, 15, 22, and 29th for an improv course in West Seattle. We will meet from 7-9pm at the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse near the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. RSVP today!

Play on!


“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”   -Rumi