Improv is the Future of Theatre: panel discussion. Our report!

On Saturday February 17th, Bright Invention Artistic Director Benjamin Lloyd joined an illustrious panel of Philadelphia improvisers and theater artists at Phildelphia theatre Company, to discuss Philadelphia's improv scene, and reflect on the role improv has to play in the future of the performing arts in America. The Panel included Bobbi Block, Artistic Director of Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theatre; Scott Greer, Philadelphia actor; Dave Jadico, Artistic Director of Comedy Sportz; Tara Demmy, teacher at PHIT; and Nick Gillette Artistic Director of Almanac Theater. The panel was moderated by noted Philadelphia theatre critic Mark Cofta. About 50 people were in the audience. Bright Invention, Tongue & Groove and Philadelphia Theatre Company co-hosted the event, which was part of Philly Theatre Week. 

Over the course of an hour, the panel discussed such themes as the differences between scripted and unscripted theater, the experience of the audience at an improv shows, differences between kinds of improv, how improv is used in other theatrical forms (like devised theater), and the effect improv has on performers, audience and students. 

During the Q&A several audience members asked about techniques used by improvisers, and about the future viability of both scripted and unscripted theater in America, from an economic point of view. One woman came from New York state for the panel - and spoke movingly about the transformative effect improv has on her teenaged students. Another young person spoke about the way improv forces actors to abandon the narcissism sometimes ingrained in young actors. 

Watch out for more events in the future bringing Philly's awesome improv community together! 

You can view a video of the panel here:

And here's a slide show:

A Hero's Journey: An After School Residency at Spruance Elementary

This Spring White Pines Productions embarked on an amazing 7 week residency in partnership with HIAS.

HIAS is a Philadelphia based organization which works to "protect the most vulnerable refugees, helping them build new lives and reuniting them with their families in safety and freedom."

HIAS "brings the lessons of HIAS’ history and Jewish ethics and experience" to their "commitment to serve refugees and other displaced persons of concern around the world through the following values: Welcoming, Dignity and Respect, Empowerment, Excellence and Innovation, Collaboration and Teamwork, and Accountability."

Val Harteg of HIAS explains that "The HIAS PA after-school program at the Gilbert Spruance School aims to support refugee youth who have been in the United States or three years or less. The three main goals of the program are to provide academic support through homework help, support English language development through interactive language activities, and encourage social development through peer socialization and community building activities."

We were lucky enough to be connected to HIAS's After School Program via Klementina Budnik of KXB Studio. 

Klementina is a long time WPP teaching artist and has taught animation class at White Pines for several years. 

KXB Studio offers "group & individual classes to people of all ages and abilities" Klementina's "curriculum is designed to provide a complete understanding of how to manipulate creative materials to tell animated stories." 

Klementina and myself set off to create a fun and engaging after school residency which would honor the goals and outcomes of the after school program. Over the course of our residency we led students through storytelling activities (both written and theatrical) which helped create a narrative that we turned into super hero puppet making project. After the students made their unique puppet, each with it's own personality and characteristics, we walked them through the mechanics of animation and voice over recordings. 

This final product "combines animation and literacy in order to author a short story as a class. As you'll hear in the video, several different students wrote and narrated sections of the story, and all 18 students contributed to the sound effects and designed a superhero and/or super villain paper puppet."

Val Harteg articulates the value of our programming as "arts enrichment activities support personal identity exploration and social development. Additionally art-based activities provide a platform for supporting language development. Students learn new vocabulary based on the content of the art projects and discover how to explain their artistic products to others. Linguistically, students are better able to express themselves through the practice of creating and talking about their art. Furthermore, art-based activities importantly encourage critical thinking, a learning goal that spans across school day and after school curricula. Because art projects are unique to the individual and what the individual wants to express, art-based workshops provide a space for even beginner level learners to completely be themselves and to have a voice that is distinctly their own. The hope is that this will develop a level of confidence that will transfer to the classroom and other activities in which the students participate."

We had a wonderful experience working with HIAS and the students and volunteers at Spruance and we look forward to next year!


Announcing: White Pines Access

White Pines Productions announces

White Pines Access

performance creativity delivered to your location!

Private party for Philly Frindship Circle Gala

Private party for Philly Frindship Circle Gala

Today, White Pines Productions announces a new chapter: the launch of White Pines Access!

Using applied improvisation and building long-term relationships, White Pines Access provides a suite of programs delivered at host venues and all based on the following features:

  • In-depth work by White Pines’ skilled actors, teaching artists and facilitators.
  • Individually tailored programs, designed with host/partner organizations, to specifically address the needs and desires of that organization.
  • Creative content based on theatrical improvisation, promoting spontaneity, confidence, teamwork and creative problem-solving.
  • Radical inclusion, making no distinctions or assumptions about any individual’s ability to participate creatively.

White Pines Access programs include: 

Creative Corporate Training. Team-building, collaboration and communication

for companies and organizations.

Creative Corporate Training at Freedom Valley YMCA

Creative Corporate Training at Freedom Valley YMCA

School Residencies. Dynamic in-school performing arts, animation and

creativity programs for any age group.

White Pines students on a field trip!

White Pines students on a field trip!


Stepping Out! Creative programs for adults with disabilities: acting, improv,

and original devised theater productions.

An acting class for people with disabilities.

An acting class for people with disabilities.

The Senior Theater Initiative. Residencies in low-income senior centers,

creating theater from the lives and memories of senior citizens.

Director of Senior Programs Jerry Perna works with an actor at a White Pines senior theater residency. 

Director of Senior Programs Jerry Perna works with an actor at a White Pines senior theater residency. 

Private Parties and Galas. Improv shows, Living Clue and custom-designed entertainment

for your party, gala or event.

A private party for a bat mitzvah reception.

A private party for a bat mitzvah reception.

“White Pines is based on the skills of our resident ensemble, the improv group called Bright Invention,” explains Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd. “As improvisers, we are trained to create theater magic for anyone, anywhere, with no material support required except a place to perform, teach, or facilitate!”

White Pines Access provided support for the Leading for Change Fellowship at the LeBow School of Business at Drexel University. Marybeth Gonzales runs the fellowship and says “White Pines succeeded in building connections between our Fellows through their dynamic team building exercises in fun, insightful ways. Not only were they creative with their games, but also flexible, allowing Fellows to proactively join in and play lead roles. This improved the bonding experience and added to the overall success of the entire experience.  White Pines took our vision and tailored it in a creative way that enabled the cohort to think of leadership in new ways. It was a great experience!”

Grace-Ann Alfiero is a nonprofit consultant and CEO of Arts in Action LLC. She has been assisting with the development of our programs to serve people with disabilities. “I love working with and being around the actors who make up Bright Invention - the actors involved in the Stepping Out program. It's really lovely to see the professionalism and the spirit of community that exists when meaningful collaboration takes place here! There is a special sort of magic that happens within White Pines' programs and I feel forever lucky to have been inspired by it and a witness to it.”

Donna Boyer is the Director of Community Services at Federation Housing, Inc., White Pines’ primary partner for The Senior Theater Initiative. "The Residents of Federation Housing have been so thrilled to have been a part of White Pines' Senior Theater Initiative. They found it to be very interactive and they enjoyed sharing their stories with each other. White Pines and their staff have been wonderful to work with and we look forward to future opportunities to work together."

“As event planners for large nonprofit events, we always look for ways to make our programs engaging, entertaining but also educational,” says Sheri Resnik, creative consultant for Denenberg Communications. “White Pines nailed all three objectives with their talent, spirit and attention to detail at our gala for Philly Friendship Circle. Our audience LOVED them, and so did we!”

“White Pines’ mission is to transform people’s live through performance creativity,” says Lloyd, “White Pines Access is our way of delivering that mission affordably, flexibly and dynamically to multiple partners through multiple programs.”

To learn more about White Pines Access, please contact :

Benjamin Lloyd, Executive Director, White Pines Productions

877-674-8338, ext. 1

White Pines: Dynamic Creativity, Growing Communities, Lasting Relationships.




Artist profile: Alexandra Tatarsky

Alexandra Tatarsky

Alexandra Tatarsky

Alex is a graduate of the noted Philadelphia performing arts school, the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training. From their website: "The Pig Iron School brings together daring and passionate theatre artists from around the globe to train their bodies and imaginations. A physical theatre school rooted in Lecoq pedagogy and ensemble theatre practice, the Pig Iron Theatre School is a space for rigorous experimentation, playful theatre-making, and long-lasting collaboration. Each student's journey is both inward and outward, helping find creative inspiration from within while responding to the world around; its rhythms, characters, impulses and contradictions." 

We asked Alex about her upcoming show for the Cold Hard Love series, Americana Psychobabble:

1.   Where did you get the idea that gave rise to your show?

The spark of the show was lit when the amazing Quinn Bauriedel of Philadelphia’s beloved Pig Iron Theatre Company prompted me to improvise text and movement in response to an image of fingernails painted with the American flag. These nails had a lot to say! And they just kept talking. After one early show, the poet Lewis Freedman (Residual Synonyms for the Name of God) approached me saying, “Surely you know of the mystical importance of fingernails?” Indeed, the fingernails and cuticles are of great importance in the Jewish tradition as a sacred boundary space, a borderland of the body. Fingernails also figure in ritual practice and divination.  Channeling the image of American flag fingernails felt like an act of spirit possession, reaching out to a complicated, grotesque American spirit and asking it to speak through me. 

And so I began performing as the nails in theaters, bars, and galleries and eventually took the nails to Mexico on a travel grant from the School of Authentic Journalism, a fabulous project based in Mexico City that trains journalists, organizers, and artists to collaborate on effectively telling the stories of social movements (they are a wonderful organization to support if you care about thoughtful, engaged journalism and they are fundraising right now for the next school:! Anyway, the organization funded a residency for me to develop more material in response to the despicable racism undergirding Trump’s campaign -- and to perform these bits in a tourist restaurant in Cancun every night of the Republican National Convention, alongside a Trump piñata! I was later invited by Poetry Electric at La Mama ETC to perform a showing of this material on December 19th, which happened to be the exact day the electoral college decided Trump’s victory. It was a delirious night of holding space for feelings, screams, and laughter while processing the election together in a small, dark theater and trying to find the energy and hope it takes to sustain a movement – in the body and in the body politic.

2. What is it about White Pines that made you submit your show to the series Cold Hard Love?

I was excited by the Cold Hard Love series at White Pines because as I was writing this show I was going through a terrible heartbreak! And it seemed to me that heartbreak could be a metaphor for a lot of the political pain in this country and a way to understand what’s behind some of the violence and hateful rhetoric.

When you are in pain, you want to make others feel pain, so you don’t feel so alone in your pain (or at least sometimes I do L). Alone in a hotel in Cancun, I began to study my heartbreak as a research project to try to understand the dangerous things despair can make us want to do.

And every night of the Republican Convention I was observing what appeared to be a lot of very upset, heartbroken people! The parallels between their attitude and mine were astounding: things did not work out as we thought they would! We were betrayed by the people and institutions we trusted the most! And rather than fully feel our rightful anger towards those who hurt us (cough cough capitalism) – because it’s very painful and scary to sever ties with the only thing you know (cough cough capitalism) – we diverted our anger towards those we decided were responsible for causing us pain (you know, “illegal aliens” and “radical Islamic terrorists”). Let’s just say, it’s easier to hate your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend because you don’t even know her than to hate the ex-boyfriend you still love deeply even though he did you wrong time and again.

So all of this is a long TMI way of saying that I was very inspired by Ben Lloyd’s call for pieces dealing with heartbreak and although my personal pain investigation is now cloaked in Xmas lights and absurd characters, it lies at the heart of Americana Psychobabble. I was and am very excited to share this very new and raw project with the incredible White Pines audiences and at a space whose mission statement speaks to me so strongly, a place “dedicated to transforming people's lives through performance creativity… by nurturing the citizen artist, who is committed to using his/her creative gifts in service to communities.”

3. Do you have a funny love story to share?

Oh dear… a funny love story. Let’s see. Welp, one time I fell madly in love with a charming vagrant in New Orleans because as I biked by he yelled out MARRY ME! while peeing on a refrigerator on the side of the road. I thought this was both very poetic and took a lot of chutzpah. I later followed him to San Francisco where we lived for several weeks in a van next to a Chinese restaurant.

4. Give our audience a teaser for your show

Ooh, a teaser! I will be thrilled if someone catches the winks to Artaud threaded throughout Americana Psychobabble and comes and talks to me after the show...

5. Share a rehearsal tidbit: has something funny/surprising occurred as you have been preparing for Cold Hard Love?

The process of working on Americana Psychobabble has felt at times chillingly prophetic as the country consumes and is consumed by a monstrous babbling. Working on this piece with my co-director, the marvelous Meryl Sands, and a brilliant, generous community of theatre-makers in Philadelphia and New York, has truly served as a necessary reminder of the theater’s strange magic to alchemize anguish into energy, to value misery as the finest ingredient in laughter. Preparing for Cold, Hard Love throughout these cold, hard months has made me reflect with tenderness on the role of the hapless clown, the sad, lovesick, rejected, dejected clown who keeps trying despite all his failures. It gives us great to delight to watch the clown continue despite the impossibility of his task. May we all be clowns and never stop trying.

Read reviews of Alex's work by clicking here!

Some pix of Alex in performance!

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Artist profile: Grayce Hoffman

Grayce Hoffman is the author and star of Game. Set. Match. next up in our Cold Hard Love series: Friday and Saturday February 17th and 18th. She is a local theatre artist born and raised in Limerick, Pennsylvania. She recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Theatre Arts and a minor in Psychology. She is currently an apprentice at InterAct Theatre Company and a teaching artist with ASAP Drama. She fell in love with theatre at a young age, and perhaps "should have stuck with it as her only romantic partner," she says wryly. Nevertheless, she is well versed in the trials and tribulations of love, some of which inspired this piece.  

We asked Grayce about Game. Set. Match.

Where did you get the idea that gave rise to your show?

Game. Set. Match. actually started as a sort of diary entry! I came to have so many stories about my Tinder experiences, I thought I should write them down before I forgot some of the juicy parts. People have told me some of the things that happened to me seem like they came straight out of a movie, so I thought maybe they would have theatrical merit as well.

What is it about White Pines that made you submit your show to the series Cold Hard Love?

White Pines seemed like the perfect venue to debut this piece. This show definitely calls for an intimate relationship (pun intended) between the actors and audience, and certainly explores the cold and hard nature of "love" in all its iterations.

Do you have a funny love story to share?

The play is full of them! One that didn't make the cut into the final script is about a man I went out with that I met through a friend. She told me he was in his 20s. He was sweet, we went out a few times. It wasn't until we were making out back at my place that I discovered he was actually closer to my father's age than my own. Oops! He ended up (platonically) spending the night anyway because it was so late he had missed his train home. A word to the wise, twin beds are not made for two people!

Give our audience a teaser for your show!

One man sent me a youtube link as his pickup line. The link was to a song I had never heard before, Makeout by Julia Nunes. Though the man was a dud, I ended up loving the song! Listen for it as the bookends to the piece.

Rehearsal tidbit?

Since starting rehearsal for this piece, it seems as though the men I wrote about have "burning ears." Several of them have reached out to me, when I haven't spoken to them in years!

Reserve tickets for Game Set. Match. here!