Welcome to this Edition of SOCIO
Kia ora te whanau o AANZPA
As the days shorten, I’m reminded of Keats’ “To Autumn”:
Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run.
Many of you will have enjoyed food from your garden or made good use of the plentiful fruits and vegetables of this harvest time. Life has now settled into the new normality of living with COVID-19 and watching the clusters that come and go and sometimes impact on us with levels of lockdown. I hope you are all weathering it well!
Ali Watersong and I are travelling in the very south of New Zealand – a delayed trip from 2020. We are enjoying crisp mornings; beautiful sunrises; howling, biting southerly winds and sleeting rain !! Very elemental down here.
I hope you have made time to associate with one another in your psychodrama bubbles and enjoy each other’s company in person, on the phone, via FaceTime, SnapChat, Messenger and Zoom. How quickly we have adapted to these new ways to connect!
For this edition, I approached AANZPA members and asked them to reflect on the centenary of psychodrama. Please enjoy the offerings below.
With thanks to Don Reekie, Lynette Clayton, Jenny Postlethwaite, Viv Pender, Zsofi Kigyossy and Christo Patty for your responses to my invitation.
In the first volume of ‘Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy’ Moreno writes:
The Cradle of Psychodrama
1st April 1921, 7-10pm, Komoedien Haus, Vienna
The Locus Nascendi (birthplace) for the first official psychodramatic session was the Komoedian Haus, a theatre for the drama in Vienna. I had no cast of actors and no play. I stood that night alone, fully unprepared, before an audience of more than one thousand people. When the curtain went up the stage was bare except for a red plush armchair which had a gilded frame and a high back – like the throne of a king. On the seat of the chair was a gilded crown. The audience was composed of representatives of European and foreign states, religious, political and cultural organisations. As I look back I am amazed at my own boldness. It was an attempt to treat and purge the audience from a disease, a pathological cultural syndrome which the participants shared. Postwar Vienna was seething with revolt. It had no stable government, no emperor, no king, no leader. Like Germany, Russia, the United States, indeed, the entire populated earth, Austria was restless, in search of a new soul.
But psychodramatically speaking, I had a cast and I had a play. The audience was my cast, the people in the audience were a thousand unconscious playwrights. Then play was the plot into which they were thrown by the historical events and in which each played a real part. It was my aim, as we would say today, to tap sociodrama in statu nascendi and to analyse the production. If I could only turn the spectators into actors, the actors of their own collective drama, that is the dramatic social conflicts in which they were actually involved, then my boldness would be redeemed and then the session could start. The natural theme of the plot was the search for a new order of things, to test everyone in the audience who aspired to leadership, and perhaps to find a saviour. Each according to his role politicians, ministers, writers, soldiers, physicians and lawyers, were all invited by me to step up on the stage, to sit on the throne and to act like a king, unprepared, before an unprepared audience. The audience was the jury. But it must have been a very difficult test; nobody passed it. When the show came to an end none was found worthy of being a king and the world remained leaderless. The Viennese press the next morning was greatly disturbed about the incident. I lost many friends but registered calmly “Nemo profeta in patria (no prophet in his own land)” and continued to give sessions before audiences in European countries and the United States of America.
|DON REEKIE WRITES:
100 years of psychodrama
1893 when he was both protagonist and director playing with friends as God. 1911 when Moreno produced stories of children in the park gardens in Venice. 1921 when he opened the theatre of spontaneity which was sociodramatic. 1923 when in the theatre of spontaneity, the relationship of a couple was enacted and a therapeutic approach taken. (Followed subsequently by the man’s death by suicide.)
All three appeal to me. The first and last in part because they remind me that the person who has most variously and creatively prompted my ways of living my life and engaging professionally with client groups and individuals, is frail and imperfect. As I am. The first also because at the same age I produced plays with friends on a stage my Dad built in the garden.
The second appeals because beginning with children in exploring stories through impromptu dramatisation is at the core of human creativity and spontaneity.
The third being sociodramatic and of the commonality of human experience centring on the daily lives and current affairs in a way that echoes the theatre of villages in ancient times across Greece and Turkey and their areas of influence. Polynesian island peoples and many others across the globe who dramatised their lives and the questions of humanity and metaphysics that raised uncertainties, hopes and dreams ripe for dramatic excursion. In Austria, Moreno was not the first to produce such improvisational theatre from the lives of their communities.
I participated in a “psychodrama” in a private psychiatric clinic in Christchurch in 1973. Initiated by the Psychiatrist but conducted jointly by a psychotherapist and a repertory theatre artistic director. Over three weeks there as a trainee in chaplaincy and group worker I saw the first protagonist return to, or create of herself, a “self” that was open, relational and forward-looking. That in spite of their inadequate knowledge of psychodramatic methodologies and lack of experience or training.
(The same psychotherapist saw Gwen and me the same year for relationship counselling. It was unsatisfactory on the day. However, while I did feel suicidal, the long term efficacy of the intervention on my contribution considerably enhanced our relationship and it was more robust. It assists me to know that the “therapeutic guides” work is not what determines the “protagonist person or group.)
In 1979 I attended my first five day residential workshop with Max Clayton. The University of Auckland still sponsored these workshops but in a less exposed central city venue where passing members of the public reported sounds of riotous behaviour and possibly murder. So we had a university counselling department educational psychologist as a member and guardian. Twice during the week, the universities’ consultant psychiatrist visited – was available for consultation – and importantly had to report the event’s safe management to the registry office.
Max had us introducing ourselves for two sessions. Directed a psychodrama in the third. The whole of the fourth session he taught and coached practice of “accomodation” both as director and auxiliary, but also the application of accommodation to daily relating. The fifth was devoted to maximisation of resistance as director and auxiliary. Both sessions were very physical – a bit like an assault or endurance challenge. The sixth, Max directed a director-directed sociodrama of a pirate ship in storm and wreck. The seventh on day three was doubling, doubling and doubling. The next was mirroring scenes. That evening Max directed a Magic Shop as the shopkeeper but in the setting of a concentration camp with auxiliaries assigned to be Nazi SS guards. They selected each in turn to gain our change of life functioning with Max testing and torturing our wish and commitment. The week continued. By the third day I knew this was to be my life work. Later both Gwen and I became certificated practitioners. Max closed very late each evening and then led the group in dancing till around 3:00AM.
Later still – our living by psychodramatic principles would see Gwen and me through to Gwen’s last day. For six years, Gwen was moving through “early stages of dementia”. For me and I think for Gwen, accommodation and role reversal – the whole “method” really – assisted a life of play, humour and loving.
Lynette Clayton writes:
Firstly the centenary is not of the first psychodrama session but of a demonstration of the empty chair technique that Moreno did in Vienna.
When I did my training and until the death of Zerka, the American Psychodrama world only referred to Moreno and Zerka as the founders. Moreno’s first wife was hardly mentioned. Now I see that a strong contingent of his first wife’s descendants are very active in the American Association. The memory of the public demonstration in Vienna would have come from them.
Zerka Moreno brought her sister to Beacon for treatment after Moreno set up his hospital there as by that time he was well known as an alternative practitioner. She came from The Netherlands. The American Psychiatric Association was critical of Moreno and his ideas but he had persisted in speaking at their conferences. Zerka probably found out about Moreno because of his reputation.
When Zerka came as a lively younger person with an arm missing, Moreno was attracted to her and formed a sexual relationship with her. This hurt his wife deeply and eventually there was a divorce and Zerka took over as his partner in Psychodrama. She was like a handmaid to him and he promoted her and taught her all he knew. So she would take over teaching and supervising students who came to train in the theatre at Beacon to give Moreno a break. He always went to New York on one night a week to do an open session here. Students lived in the old patient’s residence and there is mention of that in that journal too.
I notice that David Buchanan who wrote the history of Psychodrama at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is still an active member.
So my comment on the centenary of Moreno’s demonstration of the empty chair technique in Vienna is that was the beginning of Moreno using action methods with adults in an open community situation. It demonstrated the power of using drama with adults in a spontaneous way. It leads to Moreno and later, other people, devising other techniques, to Moreno using Psychodrama in the treatment of the mentally ill, and to an alternative method of psychotherapy, analysis of organizations and society that aimed at maximizing healthy relatedness.
There in Vienna
A tiny seed is planted
Who could imagine?
Exploring full life
Walk within limits
Moreno by side
From Zsófi Kígyóssy:
As I was reading into more details about the April Fool’s Day session, I came across this poem from Moreno’s autobiography:
I AM GOD
THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE.
THESE ARE MY WORDS,
THE WORDS OF THE FATHER.
HOW CAN ONE THING
CREATE ANOTHER THING
UNLESS THE OTHER THING
CREATES THE ONE THING?
HOW CAN A FIRST THING
CREATE A SECOND THING
ALSO CREATES THE FIRST?…
HOW CAN A FATHER BEGET A SON
UNLESS THE SON BEGETS HIS FATHER?…
THE FIRST CREATED THE LAST
AND THE END CREATED THE BEGINNING.
I CREATED THE WORLD
THEREFORE MUST I HAVE CREATED MYSELF.
I AM THE FATHER
AND NO ONE IS MY FATHER
I AM THE CREATOR
AND NO ONE IS MY CREATOR.
I AM GOD
AND NO ONE IS MY PROPHET.
I AM NOT YOUR GOD.
I AM GOD.
I AM NOT THIS NATION’S GOD.
NOR THAT NATION’S GOD.
I AM GOD.
I AM NOT THE GOD OF THIS CLASS
OF OF THAT CLASS,
I AM GOD.
I AM NOT CALLED BY NAME.
I AM ONLY TO CREATE.
ONLY TO CREATE YOU.
I AM UNNAMED.
I ONLY AM TO BE.
I WAS UNNAMED
UNTIL YOU SPOKE TO ME.
Age, Aged, Ageless
Psychodrama celebrates 100 years of age. Quite an accomplishment.
I once saw video footage of an aged Zerka Moreno directing a drama. Somewhat infirm, she sat in a lounge chair on the stage. I noticed that she only had one arm. I hadn’t known that before. I was astounded by her capacity and ability to work with presence and spontaneity, despite her infirmity. What an inspiration! A possibility to imagine for my own dotage.
The method, a century. Spontaneity and creativity, ageless.
Christo Patty sent a collection of Haiku
How wild the stage is –
And outside in the garden
A weeping fig
Psychodrama’s birth –
An irrepressible child
Is born – just like that
The beginning of
A culture – first steps on the
Path to a new life
Cringing ‘neath a chair
Her warrior seed is born
From conflicted roles
Walking the stage in
My new clothes I feel different –
How do I look ?
On this, my journey,
I rest beneath the soft stars
This, my play of life
This is an old pond,
How fresh it now looks when –
A frog jumps in !
Little by little
The sculpture comes to life – life’s
There in each moment
Beside a brook made of folk –
Joys of life on stage
Exhausted, I sought
Relief from pain, but found a
Strange mob of monkeys
The purpose of SOCIO is to provide a window into the life of our Association. Inspired ? Stimulated? Reflective ? By what you experience in life or something you see here – please think about sending me an item – photos, poems, prose, a report on happenings in your region – for the next edition of SOCIO.
The close-off date for submissions is 20 July 2021 and I await your contributions !!