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Tao: the way, primordial essence, or fundamental nature of the Universe

Play: an activated natural state of connection, engagement, curiosity and wonder

I know that there is a playful and creative artist inside of each and every one of us.  We don’t need to add anything in order to let our artist out, as we can simply let go of what gets in the way by activating our natural sense of play.  Play connects us with effortless creativity.  As we play from a place of connection, curiosity, and focused exploration, we develop the quality of our play, rather than the quantity of our impulsiveness.  We refine our play as we discover the joy of taking others in fully and in truly responding in an embodied, connected, and wondrous way.

The Tao of play is about facilitating the process of connecting with our internal aliveness and expressiveness and supporting it to come forward.  It is a way of practicing feeding our playful tendencies and of getting out of the way of the natural act of play.  As we create safe and inviting structures within which to play, we allow the qualities of playfulness to fill our bodies, seep into our minds, and affect our entire being. 

Scores, which are a prescribed set of movement and interaction parameters, give us the focus and clarity we need in order to fully commit and discover what can emerge through us.  Authenticity becomes your guide as you allow your heartfelt impulses to generate meaningful, silly, profound or evocative interactions with your playmates.   As the work is about authenticity, the results are often beautiful, profound, and healing. 

The best definition of acting I know of is that acting is being real in imaginary circumstances.  We create our imaginary circumstances together through gentle acts of inviting our creative selves out to play.  There is no need for your clever mind to prove anything, as you discover that all you need to do is commit, discover, let go, and play!  This work can be challenging to our ego, as it clings to looking good, tries to get it right, and protects itself.  It can also be effortless, as we simply connect to that tender authentic part inside of us and through movement, awareness, breath, sound, and words gently allow it to unfold in our presence.





“I have never taken an improv or acting class before, and took Todd's Tao of Play class as a way to get over some of my shyness around strangers.  It was an amazing experience facing my fear of being the center of attention.  The environment was both very supportive and wildly creative.  Todd is great at making the class therapeutic, and he is great at teaching improv skills that free you up to play and explore, as well as to support the people around you.  Our class had a spectrum of students from absolute beginner to a very advanced teacher of improv, and we were all completely engaged and in synergy by the end of only 6 classes.  The skills that we learned will stay with me and I will continue to learn from them.  The class seemed firmly rooted in fundamental Taoist concepts that are applicable to acting and to all of life.  The class was powerful and freeing.”


What was valuable for me was that I got to explore my comfort/discomfort with myself in movement and with connecting with others, as well as build my willingness to be surprised, foolish, successful, a flop, and allow for spontaneity.  I'll remember the fun, humor, the kindness of the group, and especially Todd's enthusiasm and laughter.  I would definitely recommend this class to anyone wanting to explore movement, play and spontaneity.


“This class helped me become less much self-conscious and more comfortable with free-form movement and sound.  It also provided me with a stellar grounding method. I've been experiencing a hyperactive/unbalanced nervous system due to illness...yet I frequently found myself yawning after a short period on the floor, the definitive sign that the parasympathetic nervous system has kicked in. 
Through this class I learned that people can be kind, accepting, supportive. This was a comforting experience in a difficult period of my life.   I recommend this class to any person looking to introduce more spontaneity into their life and/or art.  The class is all about spontaneity and uninhibited expression, and most of us benefit greatly from increasing that.“

Todd Phillips is a huge proponent of self-expression and human development through play! He has been performing and teaching with Um…Gee…Um Improvisation since 1997, making up skits, musicals, and stories on the spot. He has been the Musical Director for many years, and has also functioned as Artistic Director. What Todd loves about improv is that it requires us to walk boldly into the unknown and be fully present in the moment of discovery while taking risks, listening, cooperating, and letting go of survival strategies.

Somatic integration and embodiment are key areas of interest and focus in Todd's life. He believes that shifting habitual protective bodily stances and physical reactions is fundamental in allowing us to be expressive, creative, resourceful and spacious beings. He is dedicated to the study and practice of somatic integration, full-bodied awareness, and release through practices such as contemplative movement, Real Play, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, movement improv, Feldenkris, contact improv, authentic movement, and dance.

Todd has been studying the Tao since his days at UCSC in the early 80’s, where he led sections on Taoism for a comparative religions class and part of his oral exams for his history major was on comparing the Tao Te Ching to the Book of Genesis.  Last year he completed a 4 year course in Spiritual Principles at Inner Light Ministries, and loves to explore the connection between the unfolding of our unique gifts, the interconnected web of all that is, and play! 

Todd has been blessed with the opportunity to study with many wonderful teachers including Julie Oak, Nina Wise, Keith Johnstone, Barbara Scott, Rebecca Stockley, his Um…Gee…Um partners in play, and MANY more.


Currently there are no classes scheduled for Tao of Play. Please check back here or contact Todd for more information about upcoming classes and events.

In my classes my intent is to support everyone to participate in engaging our playful nature.  Each class begins as a quiet, directed exploration, with an integrative healing aspect.  As we connect to our creative selves we move into generating and creating art though connective and structured explorations of form, movement, juxtaposition, intensity, reflection, shape, our felt senses, and other focused awareness’s.This work has had profound implications for my life, as it gives me a place and space to percolate all the energies that are inside of me in a way that integrates and expands me.  As I am less bound by mental constructions of who I’m supposed to be, I feel the freedom to explore all that I can be in an authentic and liberating way.  I am honored by all of the teachers I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow with and to hold space for this work to emerge through all of us.  Building trust and community is a natural part of this “work”, and I invite you to discover the joy, creativity, connection and humor that is part of the natural essence of who you already are!

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