PLAY Audio version <a href="http://ripr.org/post/i-believe-play" target="_blank">www.ripr.org</a>I believe in the power of play. You wouldn’t know this just to look at me. I'm a pretty serious person. Most of the time I wear a serious expression and have a serious outlook on the serious problems that face the world. The truth is, I haven't always thought of myself this way. I once went on a date with a woman who, when she came to my apartment and surveyed my possessions, remarked, “I think you're the most serious person I've ever met.” At first I thought she was joking, but then took it all quite seriously. Some years ago I moved from New York to an artist community in Rhode Island because I had long wanted to live among other artists and thought it was time to do it seriously. To support myself, I took a serious job and worked in a serious office during the day. But years earlier, while in school in the Midwest, I met a guy who later became my best friend, and even later became a minister in Tennessee. He rode a bus from Iowa City to San Francisco dressed head to toe in a hand-made rabbit costume. He did it to impress a girl. It was an outrageous stunt, spontaneous, public, and weirdly disarming. I realized then how important this kind of play is to my life. After settling in Providence, I started a summer event called Woolly Fair in the same spirit that moved my friend to board that bus as a rabbit. At first it was a variety show with musicians, poets, and actors taking the stage to perform for an audience, but soon the event evolved to incorporate fake nations competing in fake sporting events – Tricycle races, The Bad Date Obstacle Couse. People began showing up as outrageously costumed characters. One year we had a man who had never cut hair arrive as a barber, set up an old-fashioned barbershop, and give deranged haircuts all night. A talented seamstress I know reinvented herself as a kissing booth operator with a heavy Long Island accent. Quickly the event became a stage with people in attendance becoming actors in the show. I believe that if people are allowed to invent something out of themselves, for an occasion such as Woolly Fair where there is nothing at stake other than people at play, then new bonds are formed, the divisions that separate people are demolished, and the self expands. I believe this kind of play reinvigorates the human spirit, especially when times are tough. I’d go so far as to say that this kind of play is a vital form of citizenship in a world that shouldn't take itself too seriously.