The Cummings Foundation's100K for 100 grant to Improbable Players has made it possible for the Players to reach 10,000(!) young people in their high schools and middle schools with a message of hope and recovery.
Each year Joyce and Bill Cummings donate $100K to 100 nonprofits.Winners of this award - primarily smaller grassroots organizations - are selected through a competitive review process and represent a wide variety of causes. The Players opted to receive their funding over a three year period and received their first grant in 2015..
Bill Cummings (center) with Players Artistic Director and Development Director at the 100K for 100 Awards Ceremony June 2015
players founder to retire
Players' Founder and Executive Director Lynn Bratley announced to the Board that she will be stepping down from her position this summer bringing to a close an extraordinary career of leadership with the company that she launched in 1984 - merging her own recovery with her love of theater to teach people about addiction and the reality of recovery.
Since then over a million people in audiences from elementary school to senior centers, community coalitions to national conferences have been educated and entertained by the Players, pioneers in putting an authentic face on recovery.
The Board of Directors has been undertaking a search to identify new leadership. Improbable Players is poised for great new growth at this time of heighted awareness of advocacy, wider public recognition of the Players' unique intervention, and evidence-based research that their performances and discussions make a measureable difference.
players perform at NYU forum on ethnodrama
Improbable Players presented scenes from END OF THE LINE at the 2017 NYU Forum on Ethnodrama. The two day conference April 21-22 focusd on the aesthetics of ethnodrama, the practice of creating a play script from materials such as interview transcripts, field notes, journal entries, and print and media artifacts. NYU / STEINHARDT
Dennis and Amie in a scene from End of the Line
Lynn joined the actors during the Q&A
end of the line featured on WBUR
"Every time you talk, you lie. I hate you."
theater troupe tells painful stories to get teens talking about addiction
Improbable Players strongly affirm the Surgeon General’s emphasis on the importance of preventing and addressing substance use early in adolescence. Youth who use alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder later in life, compared to those who have their first drink at age 21 or older.
“Preventing or even simply delaying young people from trying substances is important to reducing the likelihood of a use disorder later in life,” said Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
new study measures players' effectiveness
Players urge students, "Ask for help! - none of us got better on our own."
The results of a new survey show that Improbable Players' performance is moving students beliefs, intentions, and attitudes regarding substance use and increasing their perceived confidence in asking for help should they ever have an alcohol or other drug problem.
The pre and post survey was developed by the Players with substantial help and guidance from Dr. John F. Kelly, Director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Recovery Research Institute. Students were asked to indicate their agreement or disagreement with 10 statements by circling a number between 1 and 7, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
StageSource Expo - September 20 - at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama is always a fun, big, noisey affair for the public to learn about theater companies and for theaters to promote their coming season.
Players had a table again this year. Most frequent comment: "So glad you are doing this work - it's so needed!"
It was a great time to catch up with improbable old friends and colleagues and see what everybody is doing this year.
auditioning and training
Planning for the next season begins in August: designing and sending out promotional postcards, holding auditions, training new actors. New actors are welcome to contact the company and set up an audition at any time. Each role in the plays is learned by at least 3 actors.
It's a challenge to ready all the plays and get everyone ready for the season.
american alliance for theater & education
...and then someone offered me a pill.
Players were invited to showcase END OF THE LINE at the national AATE conference on July 29th. "Boston has a complex history of activism; and a distinctive relationship to the arts as it intersects with education, advocacy, community, wellness, and the economy. Theatre practices encourage provocative dialogue about representation, social justice, equity, and inclusion."
...and strong advocates for ending the stigma of addiction through theater and their own personal recovery stories.
end of another great season
The last programs of the season were completed and the prop bags returned to headquarters in Watertown Square.
It was quite a run -125 programs reached over 26,000 people - school age children and their teachers, educators and counselors at conferences, senior citizens and people in recovery centers - and three national conferences!
End of the Line, the newest play, reached 5,000 students with a powerful prevention message.
Our gratitude goes to schools and community organizations who welcomed the Players as part of their wellness programs and to the actors who gave their hearts, their talents and their recovery to help others.
Abby plays the daughter at the last program of the season at the Locke Middle School in Billerica
players present at NYU theater forum
Dennis, Elizabeth, Elie, and Abby
Improbable Players brought End of the Line to the NYU Forum for Educational Theater on April 23 and featured the original cast in the roles they created.
Post performance Q&A with director Lynn Bratley and the cast
youth to youth hosts players in new hampshire
Youth to Youth hosts addiction presentation - "The seventh and eighth grade classes of Dover (New Hamphire) Middle School viewed a performance on substance abuse and addiction. The event was sponsored by Dover Youth to Youth, a peer -oriented prevention program."
players at harvard medical school conference
improbable players presented to the SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH - Treating Students K-12 - conference on Friday, January 29. The conference is convened by Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Heath Alliance. The two-day conference is at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. For more: www.cambridgecme.org.
The Players theme - "using theater to teach substance abuse prevention" was described in both a short power point and a performance.
It's a wrap! Players asked the final question at the SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH Conference: how many of you think you know someone who is having trouble with alcohol or other drugs? Answer: countless hands went up.
erase the stigma
Improbable Players brought Charlie who always says, "This time it will be different. This time I'll just have ONE!"
Players' Director Lynn Bratley was invited to tell her story which begins, "I am a woman in long-term recovery."
Improbable Players played an integral part in Watertown's ERASE THE STIGMA Week October 18th to 25th - "awareness and education for all ages to build hope,health and healing around OPIOID ADDICTION".
The public was invited Wednesday, October 21 to the Watertown High School Gym for pizza, followed by speakers, a film, music. Improbable Players' own "Charlie" made an appearance, whie Middle School students and High School students sawEnd of the Line on Friday, October 23rd in school.
The troupe traveled back to Newport, VT for two days of performances and drama workshops. Here's a story one of our actors recounted:
"A student who had seen us back in April had very courageously come up to us at that first performance and stated that he was drinking/using too much...
That same student approached me after our show this September and said it was the Improbable Players that inspired him to take charge of his reality, stop associating with the bad people that were bringing him down, and he hadn't had a drink or used drugs since we last saw him."
the actors who went to Vermont: Dennis, Chris, Elizabeth, Shahj
leadership team for #youthSBIRT
Improbable Players' educational plays bring an authentic and serious message through theater with young actors who are in long-term recovery.
Improbable Players has been tapped to serve on Addiction Free Futures Project, a national initiative spearheaded by the Children's Mental Health Campaignin response to the opioid epidemic.
The goal of the project is to expand prevention and early intervention of unhealthy substance use by youth. This new effort will combine cost-effective screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment with the power of consumer-led advocacy. The screening is known by its acronym SBIRT.
bringing life experiences to addiction stories
Brian McQuarrie of the Boston Globe writes about Improbable Players' new play, End of the Line
Improbable Players staff was overjoyed to get the news that they are the recipient of a Cummings Foundation #$100K for100 grant.
This $100,000 grant will be given over a three-year period and used exclusively for the Improbable Players to bring prevention performances and theater workshops to young people in their schools and community organizations.
Director Lynn Bratley, Development Director John Folmsbee, and actor Chris Everett
'bad money' put to good use
Lynn Bratley and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley
Improbable Players has received a $5,000 grant by Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley as part of his asset forfeiture community reinvestment program.
The funding will be used to provide free programs to schools that otherwise would not have been able to pay for them.
This is one of several grants that Conley will provide this year to non-profit youth service agencies to fund programs that help Suffolk County kids and teens stay away from drugs, gangs, and dangerous behavior.
In a community effort sponsored by NEKLS/ HealthWorks One, Improbable Players were invited to bring three performances and a workshop to Newport, Vermont. Lesley Becker, event coordinator, thanked everyone for making the event such a great success, and one that brought a clear message about substance abuse and its consequences to hundreds of youth.
Lynn Bratley, Players' founder and director, accepts IRNE awards' milestone recognition at their awards event April 13th
7th grade youth summit
Drugs and alcohol make people give up on their dreams. This poignant observation was one group's choice when asked, "What do you hate most that happens because of alcohol and other drug abuse?"
Improbable Players were invited to teach 4 prevention workshops for 7th graders in the Barnstable/Hyannis area. Students had the opportunity to create their own scenes and stories about their concerns around alcohol and drug issues.
post show discussion at MRT in Lowell
Joshua, Lynn and Allan
February 25 Creative roads to recovery and prevention was the theme of a post-show discussion at the Merrimack Repertory Theater in Lowell, MA. MRT's powerful and moving production, Oceanside deals with themes of addiction, shame and secrecy. Lynn Bratley Director at Improbable Players, Joshua Bennett-Johnson, addictions counselor at Right Turn and Allan Mayo, Oceanside cast member talked about the play and their own experiences as people in long-term recovery.
collaborative prevention project in Lowell
JANUARY 2015 Thanks to a collaborative effort between the City of Lowell Public Schools, the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, and Project LEARN, the Players are traveling to all the middle schools in Lowell, MA to present performances and discussions about substance abuse prevention.
"The Improbable Players have an impeccable reputation for engaging youth in meaningful discussion about substance abuse in ways that really stay with kids long after they've seen a performance. We were thrilled to write a grant to bring them to Lowell." - Susan Linn, Executive Director, Project LEARN.
Dennis, Shahj, Chris and Elizabeth are performing "I'll Never Do That!" in Lowell.
30th anniversary celebration
Improbable Players' 30th anniversary celebration brought together a heart-felt reunion of actors, board, staff and friends through the years - here Adam and Dorothy reprise "Charlie".
For more pictures and remembrances from those who weren't able to attend, go to our 30th anniversary page >
This four day event is dedicated to continuing education and networking in the field of addictions, draws hundreds of regional, national, and international participants, lecturers and faculty. CCSAD combines workshops and seminars on timely industry topics with an unmatched showcase of the industry’s products and services.
Improbable Players was interviewed on the Spirit of Recovery on-line radio November 2013.
The program is, "a spiritual resource for recovering people and their families, providing inspiration, practical tips, and on-line community connections," according to its founder and host, Rev. Anna Shouse.
Archived on the site are interviews with Greg Williams (The Anonymous People), Pat Taylor (Faces and Voices of Recovery), Janet Surry (Bill W. and Dr. Bob), Bill White (williamwhitepapers.com), and many more. Tune in on your computer, smart phone or other device: www.unityonlineradio.org
Setting the Stage for Recovery
"Seeing ourselves in other people's stories is the connection that fosters awareness of the disease of addiction and the hope for recovery - in family members and those with substance or behavioral addictions...Lynn Bratley will be sharing the positive impact that this work has in high schools, adult audiences, and on the actors themselves."
- Rev. Anna Shouse, Ph.D., host of the program
symposium and book signing
A symposium at Lesley University on November 2013 brought together 20 of the teaching artists who contributed a chapter about their work about drama therapy, psychodrama, and theater to "The Heart and Soul of Psychotherapy." (see resources page)
Signing her chapter, "Improbable Players: Using Applied Theater in Addictions Prevention"
The Community Healing team presented their work: addictions prevention, intergenerational healing, work with troubled youth, and working with kids in a bereavement camp.
vision fund grant
Visioning sessions began last spring
The Boston Foundation has awarded the Players a Vision Fund grant to bring together a group of board members, advisory board, actors, friends, donors, teachers - to make plans that will set the stage for the Improbable Players future.
This exciting opportunity will give the visioning team time to wrestle with challenging issues: how should programs change in the face of new social media? How can Improbable Players build a more diverse, creative and engaged company to reach people young and old about addiction and recovery? How can we best reach out and deliver our message through the arts?
Point Webster Middle School's Peer Advocates worked with Players teaching artist, Dennis S., to create scenes that showed, "We get the Point, we are ATOD (alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs) free!"
Here's what the middle school audience thought:
* It was funny and it was better than being lectured in class.
* I love how they all act and how they made their own script.
* They showed that you don't need drugs or alcohol to have fun.
* I learned about ATOD and got a peek on acting..
* It was a fun way to get connected with the outside world.
Asked if Ms.Fenby should write another grant to bring improbable Players back next year and support an artist in residence for "Peers Teaching Peers", 90% of the students said YES!
After the peer leaders presented their scenes, they answered questions from the audience.
american alliance for theatre & education
AUGUST Director Lynn Bratley traveled to Lexington, Kentucky to present Improbable Players' prevention workshop at the AATE National Conference .
Participants voted to act out "I really hate it when someone can't afford to get what they need because all their money has gone to buy drugs."
Each of the scenes were authentic and powerful, and provoked lively discussions. In one scene a sister is horrified to learn that her brother has blown through his entire inheiritance and now wants money from her to pay his rent.
One participant said, "I realized - after being in a scene and watching the others - how much of the addict's energy is taken up lying and covering up their addiction."
Where did all the money go? Tell me!
Lynn with workshop participants
america honors recovery
Maryanne Frangules accepts the award for MOAR from William Cope Moyers
JUNE: Director Lynn Bratley traveled to Washington, D.C. for Faces & Voices of Recoveryand Hazelden’s Center for Public Advocacy's award ceremony. Improbable Players was one of the event's sponsors in which MOAR, a Players' collaborator, received the Joel Hernandez Award for excellence in community outreach.
With Pat Taylor, Executive Director of Faces and Voices of Recovery
players at harvard addictions conference
MARCH Improbable Players wrapped up the two-day Harvard Medical School Department of Continuing Education's Annual Conference, Treating the Addictions with their moving performance about a family and how each of them copes with the addiction that's breaking their family apart. www.cambridgecme.org.