The Magic of Play

Mike Funergy– Student Story

For several years, Mike Funergy has been fascinated by experiences that help people to rediscover their ability to play. From organizing flash mobs, offering free hugs to strangers, doing improv comedy, laughter yoga or facilitating interactive art projects at music festivals, Mike has always loved being able to engage people with games.

“Play is a powerful force that many adults have forgotten,” Mike said. “I see how people’s faces light up when I play with puppets in public or go down the street with a flash mob. It changes people.”

Mike spent several years working as a host on a cruise ship where he became comfortable getting people to participate in games and saw the positive impact that play can have. Since then he has continued to facilitate transformational theatrical experiences in a variety of settings.

“Each experience empowered me and taught me more. I started looking for something that combined all the unusual things I had been doing. At first I wasn’t sure where to take it. How could I move these hobbies in a direction that could lead to a career?”

Mike discovered the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy and immersed himself in the program. Unsurprisingly, Mike’s favourite modalities were the ones that involved an element of play.

“You can create play in almost anything,” Mike said. “But I was surprised, in a very positive way, by visual arts and music as I had a preconceived notion about them. In Expressive Arts we operate by finding a lowest common denominator; you don’t have to be a professional musician to be able to play with sound. It became accessible and fun.”

Mike recently graduated from the Expressive Arts Therapy program and wants to continue his goal of helping people play.

“The more we retreat into our phones and devices, the more I see the need for this kind of work, even if it’s just fun goofing around, I think it has a place in society.”

Mike sees himself as a facilitator rather than a therapist and hopes to bring the therapeutic properties of what he does into group settings around Vancouver, including the downtown eastside, community centres and in the corporate sector.

“The best part for me is seeing what happens when somebody says yes to participating in an activity. There is a tipping point where their hesitation gives way to curiosity. That moment is where the magic happens,” Mike said.