About the Special

What do a two year-old autistic boy in Chicago, a traffic-directing mime in Venezuela, and a 102 year-old cancer survivor in Greece have in common?

They have all been transformed by the power of play.

The results are in. Play isn’t just kid’s stuff; it’s vitally important to our individual and collective wellbeing. And yet we continue to over schedule, over protect, and over test our children, while shrinking our own playtime to the size of a crumb. Can we really suppress our need to play and not pay a deadly serious price? The answer is a resounding NO. The cost of chronic play-deprivation includes depression, mental illness, obesity, ADHD, increased violence, inflexibility, lack of social skills, and diminished imagination, creativity and innovation. We stop playing at our peril.

And more and more of us are realizing it. We’re leaving our cubicles and our suburban kitchens, our high pressure, work-obsessed lives and we’re heading to maker spaces, public pillow fights, and flash mobs. We’re turning parking lots into soccer fields, crosswalks into hopscotch games, and filling potholes with miniature gardens. The signs are everywhere. Play is bursting through the cracks like wild dandelions in spring. And not a moment too soon!

NOW Playing! is a two hour PBS Special about the vital importance of play to our happiness, well-being, and the future of life. It reveals how foundational play is in every area of life.

It will include stories of…

  • Leaders like Antanas Mockus, the two-term mayor of Bogota, Colombia who reduced traffic fatalities by 50% by hiring mimes
  • Video-game players who solved a molecular puzzle that stumped scientists for years and could point the way to crowdsourced cures for AIDS.

…among many others. The film also showcases perspectives from psychologists, neuroscientists, cosmologists, biologists, artists, healers, activists, spiritual teachers, clowns, business leaders, a qigong master, a Yoruba priestess, and a talking parrot, making a serious case for the value of play.

Featuring interviews with (partial list):

    • Wavy Gravy – ’60’s icon, clown, ice cream flavor, founder of The Seva Foundation
    • Brian Swimme Ph.D – Evolutionary Cosmologist, author  The Universe Story
    • Luisah Teish – Yoruba Priestess, Storyteller, Author
    • John de Graaf Ph.D – Executive Director, Take Back Your Time
    • Mingtong Gu – Medical Qigong Master
    • Gordon Burghardt Ph.D – Comparative Ethologist, Professor of Psychology, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology, author The Genesis of Animal Play
    • Sergio Pellis Ph.D – Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, author The Playful Brain
    • Barry Sanders Ph.D – Founding Co-Chair, MA in Critical Theory/Creative Research, Pacific Northwest College of
    • Kerrie Lewis Graham, Ph.D – Professor of Biological Anthropology
    • Edgard Gouvela Jr. – Director, Play The Call
    • Stuart Brown, M.D. – Director, The National Institute for Play
    • Isabel Behncke, Ph.D – Primatologist, TED Fellow
    • Scott Eberle – Editor The American Journal of Play, Vice President for Play Studies, The Strong – National Museum of Play
    • Marc Beckoff, Ph.D – Animal Biolotist, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado