Full Aliveness is on the other side of Performance Anxiety. –

I was asked to perform at a New Year’s Eve gathering. (Thank you Ron Jones & Doug Baird for inviting spontaneous story-tellers, performing artsists, even cab drivers to share “theater of absurdity” stories.

It had been a while since I performed as an improvisational teller of tales. I’ve been focused more on teaching how to. The thought came up, “I have no idea what I’m going to say or do. What if I get out there and I go blank?!” That’s a scarey thought, one which, if I continued to entertain that line of thinking, would lead me into the black hole of frozen, self-conscious terror. And that thought did come up as I was performing, in the middle of spinning a story, my inner “critic” looked at what I was doing and, for an instant, wanted me to be elsewhere. YIKES! I knew I had to keep my focus on anything but evaluating myself at that moment. I switched to feeling my body in space, I allowed my body to lead me to feel a connection to what my heart would like to say to others, if given the chance. I then remembered my committment to speak the “truth,” whatever that is for me in the moment. My teacher, Phil Bennett taught me Stanislaski‘s precepts, to use my gifts as an actor in service to my fellow human beings. I coached myself to keep focused, slow down, feel what I was feeling and leave space for my Source of inspiration to speak through me. I forgot to worry about me. “I,” the ego Me was no longer important. What was important was giving to my audience something that was just coming to me in the moment, without judging it. I continuously gave myself permission to just free associatedly spin a story.

I’ve learned, by throwing myself into that state of “not knowing” so many times now, that I will land – somewhere and I don’t have to know ahead of time where that will be. The inner “critic” wants to be sure it’s going to be “good,” so better pre-plan it – right? But I’ve learned to let go of needing it to be “good.” In fact, in a creative process, “right” or “wrong” will block you up – so drop that worry. Drop the oars and let the boat float. My training in Improvisational Theater has helped me learn that I can step out into the “unknown” and trust that something will come to me – I WILL land on my feet. I will NOT die. My job is to use the tools I now teach to just get out of the way of magic happening.

On the other side of that debilitating, freeze-drying fear is FUN! I grow wings. I get to PLAY!

I want EVERYONE to have that experience. Little children have it, and we were all playful, fearless children once. And then – you all know the first time someone mocked you or put you down for doing or saying some-thing. You probably said it with naive spontaneity, but you quickly learned to cork that bottle. Usually, parents and siblings came first to keep you in line, then you learned to work for “good” grades from teachers and acceptance by peers. We are sold impossible life-styles and physical beauty standards by advertising, the media and on…

It worked. You (and most everyone else) accepted the safe role of conformity. You didn’t even notice when the wing-clipping took place. Most Americans would rather die than ever experience looking “bad.”

That is SO 2013! It’s a new year! People are done living with lies. There are folks who want the whole enchillada life has to offer us and are looking for places where hot sauce is being served. We live in a time of huge personal and societal transformation. Modern prophets have said, “Evolve or self-distruct!” I say, the next stage of our evolution of becoming conscious, human beings on this planet is to reclaim our rightful expressive power, our unique creativity and our capability to be fully who we can be. After years of fear and shame-based conditioning, humans need a safe place to come out and experience who’s been hiding for years. With a good coach, and I am one, Improvisation gives us a safe, light-hearted, playful “pretend” reality. Spolin’s Theater Games provide profoundly transformative focused exercises to do just that. In a Theater Games work/playshop we try new possibilities, taken risks and, with the support of the group, gained confidence we take back into our lives. It’s invaluable! In this Theater Games world we are asked to abide by one simple ground rule: no on gets hurt. Pretty basic.

My work is to spread this stuff around. In my little way, I am working to create a future I would pass on to the next generation. I give people an experience of the benefits of shifting to a “WIN/WIN” paradigm. It IS the next stage of our evolution to recognize we’ll all do much better if we work together. Viola Spolin, the creator of Theater Games, who was one of my teachers, called working as an improv ensemble, being “Parts of the Whole.” In an improv Everyone looks good. Your success is mine, too. Without the critical, judgemental voices that spoil the fun, we get a free-flow of everone’s creative juices. At this point in history, we need all the creative, “jump outside the box thinking” we can get.

Now there is a new interest in activities that develop our creative, intuitive thinking abilities as a needed balance to the analytical, logical, intelligence that is so prized by current “civilization.” We were born with a full package of right & left brain faculties, but along with training in Math and Science, we must include Art, Music, Dance and Drama classes to exercise and develop our intuitive capacities.

Einstein said –

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” –Albert Einstein

Are you ready for a change? It’s 2014 y’all!!! This is our wake up year. I am SO ready for The NEXT STAGE! If you are too, if you resonate with these ideas, please contact me. I’m looking for you, too.

Marcia Kimmell
aspiring to be sillyzen

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I feel drawn to work with veterans who are re-adjusting and returning to life in the normally crazy world. Improvisational Theater Games has been a healing place for me and others who are survivors of trauma. My idea is to work with a group, give them the skills to become an ensemble, capable of performing improvisationally created theater around “issues” we are dealing with in our lives, having fun, while getting our stories out there. Improv is a perfect medium for taking pain & problems for use as grist for the creative mill, at least the way I do it. But the group I envision must also have in it people who might ordinarilly take a workshop with me, who have not gone through the experience of an actual war, yet have their own heroic survivor journey to explore.

It’s become a reality! I have a group of people who have just started an improv theater workshop with me on Tuesday evenings at the newly formed Veteran’s Community Media Center on Market St. across from FLAX. I LOVE THIS GROUP!!! I think this is a really cool idea. The right people are being drawn to it. We play.

We laugh a LOT!

There’s room for a couple more people of the “civilian” catagory. I want people to know about it and magnetize other people who would love to get into a newly forming improv group, directed by a brilliant, highly experienced teacher/coach/director, who happens to be me.

Interested? Let me know.

For over 40 years I’ve played & led improv Theater Games that I learned from their creator, the great innovator, Viola Spolin. It has often occured to me that if everyone knew how to play Theater Games, the world would transform. People would blossom into their full, creative potential, groups would learn to be mutually supportive and we would live in peace. That’s the next stage of human evolution.

I’m looking for people who want to play in that game.

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BIO – MARCIA KIMMELL, Theater Artist & Innovator – 2017

Marcia Kimmell has over 40 years of experience as an actor, director and teacher. She currently teaches and directs at OWH Television Studios in Oakland, CA.  She is producing a new topical, magazine style, “good news” show, WAKE UP OAKLAND!!! As an actor she has played such diverse roles as LADY MACBETH, the COWARDLY

LION, as well as the role of WINNIE in Beckettʼs absurdist “HAPPY DAYS,” a tour de

force for her.

Kimmell is a professional story-teller, combining experimental, improvisational theater

training with personal story, couched in metaphors found in fairy tales and myths. She

teaches and performs an entertaining form of improvisational “Story Theater” she has

developed that draws characters and plot from archetypes, as well as actorʼs sub-personalities and personal life, heroic journeys.

Another special area of theater that Ms. Kimmell has developed is the creation of

original theater pieces. With solo actors or with an ensemble of players she helps

develop powerful theater pieces drawn from the personal stories and issues in the lives

of the actors. Most notable of these works is “LEFTOVERS, the Ups & Downs of a

Compulsive Eater,” co-created from psycho-dramatic improvisations with Deah

Schwartz and Anne Wilford. The three improvisational actors played LEFTOVERS to

sold-out houses on the West Coast and had a run off-Broadway, NY. A video of

LEFTOVERS is available (www.leftoverstogo.com).

Kimmell is originally from Chicago where, at 10 years old she started in a professional

acting school for children, doing musical theater. As a teenager she was trained in

improvisational Theater Games at the Second City by the great innovator and creator of

Theater Games, Viola Spolin. considered the “mother of the improvisational theater

movement.” In her twenties she worked with Spolin again in a training

program for professional Theater Games coaches at the Spolin Theater Game Center,

in Los Angeles. She came to San Francisco to study at the American Conservatory

Theatre, where she later became a teacher. Kimmell has been Artist-in-Residence in

several public and private Bay Area schools, including School of the Arts High School,

SFUSD. For five years she was the Drama Specialist for the City of San Franciscoʼs

Recreation & Parks Department. She has been adjunct and guest faculty at various Bay

Area colleges and universities where she has trained actors, film directors, drama

therapists, educators and animators.

In 1979 Kimmell founded The Next Stage Training Programs, her school, where she

continues to work with a wide range of people, from professional actors and film

directors to total beginners. She combines Stanislavskiʼs “System of Psych-physical

Actions” with Spolin Theater Games in her method of teaching, coaching and directing

that enable actors to find playful, inspired, psychologically rich choices. Her training

empowers people of all ages to express themselves with confidence and creativity. The

Next Stage is focused on the development of human potential, using improvisationally

based acting training as a playful medium that enables people to grow to the “next stage”

of their development.Image

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Video – “LEFTOVERS, the Ups & Dows of a Compulsive Eater” Screening 6/2

The SF Integrative Health Networking Meetup is hosting a screening of a video of LEFTOVERS.  See one of the last, live performances by the co-creators, Marcia Kimmell, Deah Schwartz and Anne Wilford.  Using psychodramatic improvisation and writing, the three women created a theater piece for their own healing process and discovered, from overwhelmingly positive audience response, they’d hit a nerve.  

If you can relate to this issue and the addiction to perfection, please join us on Sunday, June 2nd, 4:30 PM at 

bodyFi Studio, 2310 Mission St. (at 19th St.) San Francisco.

For more info., donation & to RSVP (space is limited), go to:


A discussion follows the video.

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Video of “LEFTOVERS, the Ups & Downs of a Compulsive Eater” 6/2

Come to a special screening of the video of LEFTOVERS, a three woman show about compulsive eating & recovery.  See why this heartfelt, entertaining and insightful show played to sold-out houses on the West Coast and made it to an 11 week off-Broadway run!  It has been a healing experience for countless people who have seen it over the years.  Discussion follows the video.

Where: bodyFi Studio 

            2310 Mission (at 19th St.)

When: Sunday, June 2nd, 4:30 PM

Donation: Between $10 – $25 (sliding scale).

Hosted by the SF Integrative Health Network Meetup http://www.meetup.com/SF-Integrative-Health-Network/events/117015992/ and Theater Residencies, Inc.

For more info. go to the Meetup or contact Marcia Kimmell marciakimmell@sbcglobal.net.

LEFTOVERS was co-written by Marcia Kimmell, Deah Schwartz and Anne Wilford, using improvisation, psychodrama and writing.

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Theater Games Disarm Your Inner Critic


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Why THEATER GAMES have to be “sneaky.”

In my improvisational Theater Games workshops I have learned that, as a coach I have to sneak up on people to disarm them from the inner voice that is making sure they don’t make a fool of themselves. Most people would rather die than look bad.  So that voice doesn’t just go away.  It has become an ever vigilant part of the mind, protecting us from harm, but also stopping us from ever taking a risk or just being spontaneous.  What we give up is knowing who we would be if we let go and just lived life like the big improvisation that it is.

Young children are naturally playful. They don’t have to be “taught” to be spontaneous – they/we come hard-wired to learn that way, as are all primates.  Little kids, playing are not concerned with the outcome.    They are just having fun.  When we were children we just loved the trial & error method.  It came naturally.  If something didn’t work – so what?  Try something else.  We were open to many possibilities in any moment.  We were natural players.  Then we fell from our natural state of innocence.  We learned there is “right” way and a “wrong” way to do things.  As children we learned to want good grades, approval from adults and acceptance by peers.  To do so we must do the “right” thing.  Of course, that’s the end of our playful approach to learning, 

Most of us get to our adulthood with years of conditioned training to primarily use our intellectual capacities in our daily problem solving.  We look before we leap, think before we speak and always check any ideas or behavior before we let them come out.  We must make sure that we never do or say anything that MIGHT make others laugh at us or put us down.  In social situations, when we want to be “ourselves,” meaning relaxed and spontaneous, many people loosen up a little with the help of a drink or drug of choice.  This has it down side.

The way Theater Games helps people get past the self-conscious, inner “watcher” in the mind is to give the mind a job to do, or a game to play.  The mind is so engaged with playing the game that there is no time or mental space to also be watchful.  So the “player” is busy playing, not working on looking good.  That mental focus is simply forgotten for a moment.  Without that inhibitor, we play, as we did as children, freely, spontaneously, even learning when something doesn’t work without pain.  Since there is no mistake, we keep playing, living through moments of “not knowing,” (OMG!).  But we land on our feet.  We survive, realize we had fun, and gain confidence to keep trying silly games that open up our playfulness and build trust in our fellow players.  In a Theater Games workshop we practice being in that state of playful spontaneity we had, naturally as children.  We aren’t really learning it for the first time.  We are getting permission to use it again.  There is a  basic rule in a Theater Games group that no one will get hurt.  Knowing that, we can ease up on one reason we were taught to think first.  I create a safe place to take risks.  In Theater Games we get to practice being our uninhibited self because in a sneaky way, the focus of playing a game has taken up our mind space.  

I have found that the best way for people to really see how this works and if it will work for them is to see and play Theater Games.  I love teaching them and am available to come to groups that value authentic relating and mutual supportive creativity among their members.  There are many applications of the games and exercises I know.  I have worked with businesses that want to foster team-work and innovation.  I have shared Theater Games with educators who want to create ways to engage students and get them to focus their minds in a non-authoritarian learning experience.  Spolin Theater Games are also employed in Drama Therapy and any healing process that develops full body/mind/spirit connectedness.  This weekend I provided some of the entertainment for a huge birthday party.  I was pied piper for 40 or so people to play together and BE the entertainment, instead of sitting and being a passive audience.  It was fabulous! 

Coming up this August I will offer one-day “intensive” Theater Games workshops, both in San Francisco and in the South Bay.  If you like my philosophy, are intrigued and want to see who is there when you let go and play, give me a call or an email and I can tell you more about where you can experience this form of empowering play.  It’s larger than acting training. It’s life training.  I call it “The Next Stage.” 

In the spirit of play –

Marcia Kimmell,

Founder and Artistic Director

The Next Stage



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