Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Improbable Players Inc

  • Watertown, MA
  • www.improbableplayers.org

Mission Statement

Improbable Players educate the public about substance abuse prevention through performances and theater workshops - presented by actors who themselves are in long-term recovery - that help people recognize situations in their own lives and seek the help they need.

Main Programs

  1. Performances
  2. Theater Workshops
Service Areas

Self-reported

Massachusetts

Improbable Players is a touring theater company with troupes in Boston and New York. Both troupes travel locally in New England, the Tri-State area and nationally.

ruling year

N/A

Principal Officer since 1984

Self-reported

Ms. Lynn Bratley

Keywords

Self-reported

Arts in prevention, educational theater, applied theater, substance abuse prevention, alcohol and other drug prevention education,

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EIN

22-2950758

 Number

5207681483

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

orming Arts (Aer)

Alcohol, Drug Abuse (Prevention Only) (F21)

Secondary/High School (B25)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

As live theatrical events, their message is visceral, intense, personal, and credible. By viewing plays that demonstrate the common patterns of addiction in daily life, through true and recognizable stories, audience members can easily identify situations in their own lives that are similar to those of the ordinary and likable characters in the play, whether the substance abuser is a friend, a family member or themselves. The plays demonstrate that substance abuse has a devastating effect on the lives of both the user and those around them, and that anyone can ask for help and be helped. A review by a Guidance Counselor at a Boston middle school: ""The 'I'll Never Do That!' play is a unique and accessible play that provides students and staff with information about alcohol and drug use and its effects. Given the growing demands for services, interventions and preventions, I rely on the Improbable Players to give an engrossing presentation making the connections between drug use, alcoholism and its negative impact on an individual's and family's well-being. ""We were fortunate to have the actors facilitate follow-up small group discussions/question-answer sessions. Our students appreciated adults telling their real life stories and answering all their questions by providing a personal perspective…I have been a guidance counselor for over 30 years and this theater troupe is one of the best I have ever brought to a school.""

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Performances

Improbable Players offer performances for many audiences - from elementary schools to colleges to national conferences - but the primary focus is youth in schools and community organizations. The plays dramatically reveal the consequences of choices often faced by young people on a daily basis through true and recognizable stories, and they can identify behavior patterns from their own lives. After each program the actors step out of their roles to reveal their own life experiences in one-minute stories. A question and answer session follows. Teachers and counselors are introduced and local resources are announced. * "I'll Never Do That!" A family must deal with alcoholism. * "Running on E" How do you help a friend who is becoming addicted? * "Stages" Short scenes about alcohol and other drug abuse * "Passing It On" HIV/AIDS prevention * "Hitting Rock Bottom" Dating violence and alcohol/drug abuse

Category

Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

Other Named Groups

Poor/Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent, General

Budget

$1600/play

Program 2

Theater Workshops

Improbable Players offers participatory theater workshops about substance abuse prevention for all ages. Each workshop weaves curriculum strands from health and theater. ""Gotta Act"" workshops explore and create material out of improvisations from participants' experiences, and teach fundamental acting skills: students create scenes and stories about issues in their community that they face. This method of groups working to solve community issues is called sociodrama. Workshop participants learn about the classic roles that people play where there is substance abuse and how to do a simple intervention. Youth can give voice and action to their solutions to drinking/drug use. Student learning is documented through their scenes, monologues, journal writing and feedback forms. A how-to guide for using drama in prevention education is available. This teaching manual and student learning workbook aligns the curriculum frameworks in health and theater arts and provides lessons and ideas for evaluating participant work for the benefit of the community and for funders. Improbable Players does in-service training workshops for teachers.

Category

Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

Other Named Groups

Poor/Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent, General

Budget

600/wkshp

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    Improbable Players uses performance art and applied theater methods to accomplish its mission to carry its messages of substance abuse prevention and the reality of recovery through plays improvised and written from the authentic stories of the actors, all young people in long-term recovery. Improbable Players set the stage for learning through theater performances: audiences pay attention, they have fun, and consider what they're learning to be relevant to their lives. These improbable players— Provide inspiration and encouragement to people who are trying to stop, by telling their own stories of change and providing information about where to get help. Support those who have decided not to use—""Stay with your choice: you can have a great life without drinking or drug use." Tell their stories and emphasize the negative consequences of our use and abuse-- if being drunk or high was so marvelous and fun, they would still be using: the Players don't glorify their painful past. Are not ashamed to be in recovery and have changed from being destructive to becoming people who make a positive contribution to their communities: visible, valuable, vocal. Help eradicate stigma against the addict—the Players are seen as courageous survivors, and people pay attention. Remind audiences that a person does not have to be an addict/alcoholic to have devastating life-changing/altering experience because of using or drinking too much (car—or any other kind of accidents, unsafe sex, pregnancy, crimes committed under the influence). Are honest about how they still live with the destructive consequences of their use: health problems, family and relationship breakups, opportunities lost. Remind audiences that not everyone who wants to get clean and sober can—it can be difficult to stop, and recovery isn't guaranteed. Recovery requires commitment and support. Teach what it means to be addicted, how drugs are tenacious—in order to support those who live with and love an addict (parent, sibling, boy/girl friend). Support children of alcoholics with hope that the people they love might get help, and provide information about where they might go to get help.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    PERFORMANCES: Improbable Players offers several different plays all with the theme of substance abuse prevention. Each is 45 minutes long and is followed by a Q&A session between actors and audience. Each play is accompanied by its own Discussion Guide for group leaders to use with small groups after the plays, and contains pre- and post writing prompts and more information on the subject. Improbable Players use theater because it increases awareness and can portray complex emotional issues in a safe environment. People can talk about characters when it is difficult to talk about their own behaviors. Characters provide a common reference point: the audience can refer to characters and situations in the play and compare them to their own experience. Theater gives a voice to people and issues: Improbable Players actors must be clean and sober for one year before auditioning. Their personal stories of addiction and subsequent recovery have a deep impact on audiences. THEATER WORKSHOPS are interactive and participatory. Improbable Players' teaching artists guide participants through creating scenes and stories about the group's challenges around alcohol and other drug abuse in their own community through sociodrama. Theater builds skills in practicing new behaviors: role play workshops allow individuals to practice behaviors in simulated reality. If one behavior doesn't work, another can be tried without real consequences, while the group gives support and suggestions. Theater explores individual development: people can safely learn how to act through exercises, scenes, theater games, and interactions between people where there is never any expectation of performance. Players' teaching artists follow a curriculum, Improbable Players, Using Theater in Addictions Prevention, developed by the company over the years that weaves curriculum strands of education about alcohol and other drug abuse prevention with strands of education about acting, directing, and staging. Theater brings people together for a common, shared event: it attracts an audience, keeps people's attention, communicates the message, makes a long-lasting impression.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    The organization was founded in 1984 by Lynn Bratley, M.Ed. in Theater Education, Tufts University, who is also a woman in long term recovery. Her original vision of intervening in the lives of young people before addictive patterns could be strongly established has shaped the company over its 30 year history. Actors are accepted into the troupe following submission of their resume, an interview and an audition. They must have been successfully clean and sober for at least one year in order to apply. They receive extensive training in the plays, customer relations, how to adapt the stories of their life experiences to the age of their audience, and how to facilitate effective discussions. Those who express interest are further trained to teach theater workshops. All work part time for the Players and have other jobs in acting, teaching, or music while all remain active in their recovery communities. Improbable Players' teaching artists shatter stereotypes about people who are alcoholics or drug addicts and present a compelling case for audiences to think twice before turning to substance abuse. Serving as positive role models, the diverse troupe of actors demonstrates that the problem crosses all class, racial, gender, and age boundaries.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    Improbable Players is committed to an authentic representation of the universal themes in substance abuse and recovery that cross all barriers of age, class, race and gender. Each year the Players perform for approximately 30,000 people throughout New England, the New York area, and nationally, primarily for middle schools and high schools, but also to colleges, conferences, hospitals, prisons, recovery centers, professional and community groups. The Players reach all income levels, geographic locations, and racial/ethnic backgrounds including the physically challenged and hearing impaired. Continued recognition in the addiction/substance abuse prevention community reinforces Improbable Players' commitment to excellence and innovation in serving the public. Over the last five years the Players have performed at the Harvard Medical School Addictions Conference and taught a theater workshop at the 2014 Cape Cod Symposium for Addictive Disorders. The Players has a continuing relationship with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which lists the troupe as a Creative Teaching Partner, chosen because ""the company's life experiences bring authenticity to their work"" along with ""the strong credentials of the teaching actor/artists"". The Players are committed to raising their profile and growing their scope of influence beyond their historic performance numbers and audience size and will gauge success in part by the ongoing and growing support from the private foundation and reception of the communities they serve.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    Improbable Players has a 30-year track record of successfully working with schools and communities to enrich and supplement their health education curriculum efforts: their performances and workshops have long been recognized as a valuable component of an integrated, comprehensive prevention strategy. The Players have carried the message of substance abuse prevention to nearly one million middle school, high school and college students over its history. Improbable Players stands at the edge of tremendous opportunity, with the growing national movement of recovery advocacy. Unfinished work includes setting up new troupes in other cities and making a high quality documentary about how the Improbable Players use theater to teach recovery.
Service Areas

Self-reported

Massachusetts

Improbable Players is a touring theater company with troupes in Boston and New York. Both troupes travel locally in New England, the Tri-State area and nationally.

Additional Documents

Funding Needs

Funding to support the mission: presenting performances and discussions to motivate young people to think and talk about the impact of substance abuse on their lives, friends, family and community - and to see there are real possibilities for change. This the heart and soul of the Players' work. Play A Part Fund: helping schools welcome Improbable Players' programs regardless of their ability to pay. Second Chance Fund: providing the opportunity for talented young clean and sober actors to work with the Players, developing and touring new scenes and stories about addiction and recovery.

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External Reviews

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Financials

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THE IMPROBABLE PLAYERS INC
Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Improbable Players Inc

Leadership

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Principal Officer

Ms. Lynn Bratley

BIO

Lynn Bratley, Founder, Artistic Director - M.Ed. in Theatre Education from Tufts University, and a BA in Creative Drama from University of Washington, Seattle. She is the Founder (1984) and Artistic Director of Improbable Players where she develops new performances and workshops about substance abuse prevention with actors who, like Lynn, are people in recovery. In 2003 Tufts University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences presented her with their Outstanding Career Achievement Award, and in 2011 Washington Park High School, Racine, WI inducted her into the Hall of Fame.

STATEMENT FROM THE Principal Officer

"I started a theater company to change the world one person, one audience at a time. In my experience, theater is a powerful way to teach and learn—it captivates, educates and motivates, and one vivid scene is worth a thousand words. The theater's mission: to educate people about a devastating public health problem - the impact of substance abuse on our families, our communities, and ourselves. I named it ""improbable"" because the all the actors are in recovery and the plays come from their stories."

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Mr. Joe Kelleher

Gavin Foundation

Term: June 2009 - July 2015

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

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BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?