Among reactions to George Washington University's "Creative Alternative to Burnout" adult-play session (cosponsored by the George Washington University counseling center and the Potomac Art Therapy Association):

"I came as a burned-out person," says Nancy Galbraith, 54, special assistant in poetry at the Library of Congress. "I've been a single working mother for a long time, and I was experiencing the effects of the empty-nest syndrome. For me, the workshop was an energy renewer, a reminder to allow time for play.

"It is not a frill, not a luxury, it is essential. It's in you to play. All you need is the invitation, the people, and the permission."

"Oh, it was fun," says Bruce Ritter, 48, University of Maryland career consultant, who made his debut as "the human garbage disposal." He whirred, munched, minced and sputtered as life-size, protesting vegetables--screaming celery stalks, slivers of strangled carrot and shreds of whining onion--were fed into his churning blades.

"I loved it. I hit the floor, turned on automatically. Someone claimed a role as a stalk of celery. Everyone else just fell into their roles naturally after that.

"Getting outside of the boxes of our own frames of reference," says Ritter, "is an empowering decision."

"Who would have believed," says art therapist Wendy Maiorana, 43, "that I'd have been a celery stalk being eaten by a garbage disposal and have the time of my life. That I could suspend my head and in a sense get into that kind of thing and let go."

This kind of playfulness, says Maiorana, helps "you to discover you are many more things than you think you are. There is a lot more to you than ever hits the surface."

"I was a little apprehensive about doing it presenting the fairytale in gibberish in the beginning," says Bruce Garret, 31, a recreation therapist at Alexandria's Mt. Vernon Hospital. He became a 6-foot, snoozing, snoring, sleeping "Snow White."

"But there was a certain amount of security in knowing the other people would not be judgmental and I could experiment with something that could be fun."

David Vickers, 35, a graduate student in art therapy, was so taken with the day that he has decided to organize an informal adult play group. "We want it to become an ongoing thing."