WHAT SPRINGS TO MIND when you hear the word “play?” Maybe it’s the cheerful summer sound of children in a swimming pool. Maybe it’s taking in a tennis match from the comfort of your air-conditioned living room, or heading onto the court yourself. Catching a Broadway show? Baking a birthday cake? Sipping a cocktail? Doing a crossword puzzle? Meeting friends for karaoke? Watching a sunset?
You might also think about the multiple roles we take on in life, whether with our family, in our communities, or at work. Parent, child, friend, mentor, teacher, colleague, confidante. “One man in his time plays many parts,” as Shakespeare wrote.
Play is what we’re celebrating this month, and we’ve given a lot of thought to the many ways we do it and all that the word embodies. One thing we’ve realized? We tend to think of play as the opposite of work: a reward for our efforts, a break from the demands of so-called “real life.” But it isn’t that black and white — or rather, it shouldn’t be. Play can be a release or a respite from something serious, sure. But we always have the choice to infuse more levity into all that we do, to find a little more pleasure, to have a little more fun. This spirit of exuberance and exploration is what keeps life interesting — and keeps us on our toes.
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Opportunities to play are returning, and we’re embracing them with a renewed eagerness. We’re going out, meeting up, and seeking more joy, more quirkiness, more of the unexpected. This month, we bring you playful conversations with artists and creators, and visit places and spaces where play rules. We check in with soul singer Leon Bridges as he prepares to tour his new album; follow the cast of the Broadway play “Jagged Little Pill” as they get the show back on its feet, and hear from tennis legend Rosie Casals about her work to level the playing field. We step into artist Jayson Fann’s human-sized nests, interview custom guitar maker James Carbonetti, and take you on all the rollercoasters at Dollywood. We ask RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour where to find the world’s best drag and cabaret venues. We showcase the playful designs of global tastemakers (because why should kids get all the fun-looking furniture). And we look to the experts themselves for tips on how to play: kids.
After stepping into our world this month, you may find yourself thinking a little more like we do: maybe play isn’t a distraction from real life. Given the chaotic sandbox we're all currently living in, maybe play is the healthy default, a necessary state of mind.
Kendrick Brinson Photographer
Kendrick Brinson’s portraiture and documentary work explores the fabric of community through the connections, landscape, and personality that makes these places unique. She has covered diverse subjects, including up-and-coming rappers in Atlanta, retirees in an age-restricted community in Arizona, and the residents of her father’s rural hometown. After living in Los Angeles for 8 years, Brinson recently returned to the South with her husband, photographer David Walter Banks.