Workshop: The Play Party Retreat with Saara Rei (2017)

TO PLAY: to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Example: “The children were playing by a pool.”

Synonyms: amuse oneself, entertain oneself, enjoy oneself, have fun, have a good time, relax, rest, be at leisure, occupy oneself, divert oneself, play games, frolic, frisk, gambol, romp, cavort, caper.

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Playing is most often associated with something that children do. But if we think about what playing really is (i.e. engaging in activities for enjoyment and recreation), then we can’t deny that adults play as well, or at least that they should!

A play party is then a party where (in this case) adults come together to play. But how do we come together to play together? Answering this question for ourselves is what this retreat is all about.

In this workshop, we will use techniques from theater, dance, BDSM, tantra, and ritual play to come together as a group to form two play parties of our collective, playful desire.

We will first focus on group cohesion, spending time becoming familiar with each other, understanding each other’s boundaries and how we can relate to one another as a community with the common goal of making a space where we all feel vulnerable, exploitative, and safe to be ourselves at our fullest.

We will dive deep into our most genuine selves, as well as explore using rituals, costumes, alter-egos, and masks to see how we can bring out, minimize, and exaggerate certain qualities within ourselves and see how our interactions with others in the group change, as we change. We will go both inwards and outwards, learning more about what we each desire for ourselves and about how our desires relate to the desires of the others in the group.

We will also explore exhibitionism and voyeurism, consent culture in a play party context, and how to use verbal and nonverbal language to promote the space we have collectively created.

Slowness and sometimes even stillness will be essential skill that we will gain more comfort in throughout the retreat, to allow interactions to unfold, and for the play to flow without the use of force or expectation.

We will discuss performance and how performance, sound, and setting can be used to affect a space, and the people in it.

Overall, the intention of this retreat is for all those participating to come out of it with the tools they need to go home and confidently play! We also hope to plant the seeds of the play party culture we know and love, and have so deeply been influenced by, of Berlin’s Schwelle7.

The day-to-day breakdown of the retreat will be something along the following:

On Thursday evening we will focus on landing together in the space, spending time becoming familiar with each other and how we can relate to one another as a community, with the common goal of playing together in a way that everybody in the room can feel safe, vulnerable, and explorative. Our first point of contact will be nonverbal communication, to see how we can meet beyond everyday talk. Slowness and stillness will be keys to seeking and allowing interactions to unfold.

On Friday, we will build up to our first play party. We will spend time exploring group dynamics – feeling into ourselves and how we can relate to others in the room, and understanding each other’s boundaries as well as our own. Consent culture in a play party context will be a constant topic of conversation, and how to use conversation and words to promote the space created while honouring your own boundaries. We will dive into rituals, costumes, alter-egos, and masks to see how they can be used to relate to others in the group and to explore different aspects of ourselves that perhaps usually don’t get so much space in our daily lives.

On Saturday, after experiencing our first play party the evening before, we will have time to reflect on our experiences, and see how deep the rabbit how will really goes. We will then spend the day learning different ways we can go even deeper into what we want to experience by using physical tools, typically associated to BDSM and fetishism. In the evening we will have the opportunity for a second iteration of the play party, which will give us an opportunity to apply what we have integrated from the day and the play party the evening before.

On Sunday, we will explore exhibitionism and voyeurism, to be seen, and how to take up space (or the contrary). We will discuss performance and how performance can be used to effect a space, and the people in it, and end the day with a performance-oriented role-play space. Celebration will be a big theme of the day – celebrating what we have learned and created together during this retreat.