JOLIET – At age 75, Julie Haverty of Frankfort still believes in play dates and doesn’t mind driving to Joliet for one.
Haverty belongs to InterPlay, a worldwide social movement that reintroduces adults to the wisdom of play. A local group meets at Grace United Methodist Church in Joliet. Nancy Pfaltzgraf of Mokena, who retired in 2012 as pastor from Plainfield Congregational UCC, leads the group.
Pfaltzgraf was Haverty’s universal dance teacher, and Haverty enjoyed learning dances belonging to different faith traditions, as well singing or chanting in the language of those traditions.
So when Pfaltzgraf said InterPlay had changed her life and highly recommended it, Haverty was in.
“I think most of us need a lot more playfulness and fun and spontaneity and joy,” Haverty said, “and all those things can happen with Nancy.”
Pfaltzgraf said she discovered InterPlay in 1995 while on sabbatical and took a semester-long class with Cynthia Winton-Henry, one of InterPlay’s co-founders.
InterPlay made her feel more alive and less stressed, Pfaltzgraf said. The goal is not to “fix” participants but to provide tools to enhance daily life and to cultivate an openness to life, whatever life may offer.
“It’s a powerful way to experience the integration of body, mind and spirit, and a playful, joyful affirming community,” Pfaltzgraf said. “It helps me to know who I really am, to discover my voice, share my story and just be who I feel I’m created to be, all while having fun.”
In the process, Pfaltzgraf learned what she called the “ethics of play.” Pfaltzgraf agreed with George Bernard Shaw, who once said, “We don’t stop playing because we are old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
The ethics of play, Pfaltzgraf said, states that humans are meant to create joy, wisdom and beauty and that they are to create them playfully, spontaneously and in the moment.
“It keeps us flexible, spontaneous and in the moment and mystery,” Pfaltzgraf said. “In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Jesus talks about becoming like a child to experience the realm of the divine.”
The “forms” used in InterPlay are simple practices, Pfaltzgraf said. One warmup activity is a series of walk-run-stop-change direction instructions performed to music. Another is to babble nonsensically to a partner for 30 seconds.
Variations gradually become more elaborate as participants loosen up.
“You change partners each time you do it so you get to know the other people in the room,” Pfaltzgraf said. “Little by little, you share more of who you are.”
Pfaltzgraf stressed that no set of instructions must be followed. If running is challenging, then walk. If arm swinging is challenging, then wiggle fingers, Pfaltzgraf said.
“You are the authority in what your body can do,” Pfaltzgraf said.
The group is open to new members.
Ages vary, but the Joliet InterPlay attracts more women than men and more people older than 60 than younger people because the group gathers during the day.
However, Pfaltzgraf added, college students have attended, and she is open to teens, as well. She had tried an evening group to attract young adults as well as working adults, but she didn’t have the attendance.
“Any age can come,” Pfaltzgraf said. “Having toddlers would be hard, but school-age children are fine.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: InterPlay Joliet
WHEN: 1 to 2:30 p.m. April 7 and 9:30 to 11 a.m. April 9
WHERE: Grace United Methodist Church, 1718 Avalon Ave., Joliet