In the days and months following the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, immersed in my role as a lead trauma counselor on a team working with survivors and family members of the missing, I felt the stirrings of change within myself that continues to this day. Tragedy feels darker, acts of kindness more transcendent. A heightened sensitivity to the effects of disaster on victims and the healers who rush to their side when things are at their worst is with me always now. An article by a physician doing relief work in Haiti after the recent earthquate published in last week's New England Journal of Medicine resonates to this and adds a haunting reminder of the humanizing power of music:
"After the January 12 earthquake, I traveled with a national disaster team from the Department of Health and Human Servicesto Haiti, where we set up a mobile tent hospital on the sitesof a devastated school and a nearby adolescent clinic. My 2-weekdeployment was marked by sensory overload. There was the hotsun, the humidity, and the swirling mosquitoes. The air wasfull of dust and smoke from burning bodies and burning tires.The smell of diesel fuel from our generator was mixed with thoseof decomposition, garbage, and unwashed bodies. The sound ofwomen and children weeping in sorrow and pain joined the noiseof roosters crowing from 4 in the morning until noon, the droneof the generator, and the throb of rescue helicopters. But at dusk, voices of the earthquake survivors rose in gospel song from the tent city next to our camp and seemed to weave a tapestryof solace. "Annekathryn Goodman, M.D. "Ministry of Touch - Reflections on Disaster Work after the Haitian Earthquake" New England Journal of Medicine, March 3, 2010
Improv is a work-out for the brain, a creativity-and-spontaneity generator and one of the best ways to spend an evening, either as a participant or an audience member. This article sheds some light on why skill-building activities that are hard (like improv and psychodrama, among other things) make us happier. I like it when research catches up to what artists, creatives and non-comformists already know. "No Pain, No Gain: Mastering A Skill Makes Us Stressed In The Moment, Happy Long Term"
Artistic New Directions is a not-for-profit laboratory for development of creative work - improv, stand-up, plays and other projects - with the support of first-class faculty. Learn about ANYTHING GOES on Wednesday nights for works-in-progress, their classes, workshops, retreats and more at http://www.artisticnewdirections.org/
The Pit People's Improv Theater in NYC has drop-in improv ($20/session), economically-priced classes for everyone from beginners to sketch-writers for Saturday Night Live, and shows for $8. Check out their shows and class schedule at The Pit website.
Nicholas Wolff is a Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work and Trainer, Educator, and Practitioner of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy. His training group in experiential methods meets on Wednesday evenings Sept - June.