- Using Intermodal Psychodrama to Personalize Drama Students’ Experience: Two Case Illustrations
J. L. Moreno (1889–1974), the founder of psychodrama, argued against legitimate theater, asserting it is a “rigid drama conserve,”1 a finished product of the preceding creative process. In particular, Moreno protested against the centripetal manner in which actors of legitimate theater assimilate a role from a written play: an external material, the written play, assimilates into the center, the actor. Moreno viewed such process as an imposition, for it is “not genuinely creative, but re-creative.”2 In line with this notion, Moreno decisively distinguished between the rehearsed art of “dramaturgy” and the extemporaneous art of “creaturgy.”3 Moreno also dissented with the scarcity of spontaneity in Stanislavsky’s prominent acting system of that time, in which, in Moreno’s view, spontaneity was limited “to the re-activation of [past] memories loaded with affect,”4 to “liberate the organism of the actor from clichés and make him as free and creative as could be for the task ahead.”5 According to Moreno, this intertwining use of spontaneous improvisation with rehearsed drama conserve involved Stanislavsky’s actors in a “deep psychological conflict”6—a state of being torn between the two dichotomous dimensions of dramaturgy versus creaturgy.
To deconserve and revive the rigid theater of his time, in 1921 Moreno established the Viennese Theatre of Spontaneity, which later became the Therapeutic Theatre. It is only after Moreno immigrated to the United States in 1925 that his experiments with audience participation developed into the therapeutic method he called psychodrama. Morenian psychodrama is a group action method, an “art of the moment,”7 in which participants act out [End Page 70] their problems and possible solutions. In Moreno’s own words, it is “the science which explores the ‘truth’ by dramatic methods,”8 characterized by spontaneity, creativity, unreality, and “feelings of surprise, of the unexpected.”9 Correspondingly, Moreno asserted that in contrast to the centripetal role assimilation of actors of legitimate theater, psychodrama participants assimilate a role centrifugally, for the role is enacted from the participant’s center, his or her inner world, outwards to the exterior.10 Though Moreno decisively separated spontaneous drama from written and rehearsed drama, this paper presents two case illustrations to demonstrate the implementation in an acting class of intermodal psychodrama, a technique that utilizes psychodrama and other artistic modalities to deepen and personalize students’ process of building a role, nevertheless, from a written play.
The underlying rationale for implementing therapy-oriented techniques in acting class stems from the comprehension that “drama is a means of both understanding and learning. The therapeutic and educational aspects of dramatic play overlap.”11 In fact, during the 1940s and the 1950s in Britain, “spontaneity, creativity, self-exploration, and personal growth were the goals of drama in education, rather than acquisition of theatre skills and presentational outcomes.”12 In line with this notion, and as opposed to speech and drama educators of that time, pioneering drama educators Peter Slade13 and Brian Way14 perceived Drama in Education (DIE) as a developmental tool aimed at promoting children’s personal growth and not at producing theatrical performances for an audience. Similarly, Dorothy Heathcote, another celebrated DIE pioneer, perceived DIE to be aiming not at a product but rather at changed students, “changed in that their areas of reference are widened, their growth as people is furthered, their understanding of humanity is extended.”15 The aforementioned stances consider drama and theater as two oppositions, where “drama is seen as having to do with the experience of the learner [that is, process oriented] whereas theatre is about communication with an audience [that is, product oriented].”16 Similarly, drama educator Gavin Bolton attributed to the difference between dramatic playing and performance two contrary intentions: “the intension to be, to submit to the experience of an event [that is, drama/process], and the intention to describe, to communicate an event to someone else [that is, theater/product].”17
Nevertheless, the intermodal psychodrama work described in the present article is conceptually and practically situated along the poles of the drama/process/being-theater/product/describing continuum. Conceptually, the underlying premises...