(Revised June 30, 2002)
(Here are some tidbits taken from email and notes at conferences. If you have some you'd like to add, please send them to me and I'll edit and add them!--Adam Blatner)
From Dr. John Casson, in England, May, 2002:
In 1668, Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen writes in his 'Simplicissimus' (book 2, chapter 13) that doctors used symbolic enactments in the treatment of delusions: e.g. one man "thought he had already died and wandered around as a ghost, refusing both medicine and food and drink until a clever doctor paid two men to pretend they were ghosts, but ones who loved to drink. They joined the other and persuaded him that modern ghosts were in the habit of eating and drinking, though which he was cured." Germany. (Casson wrote: Doesn't this sound like the folk tale at the back of your 3rd edition Foundations of Psychodrama book which you date to around 1820, though being a folk tale it probably is at least another 100 years older, bringing it close to the Grimmelshausen. (That Story on this website)
Ed Hug wrote around April, 1998:
Graciela Rojas-Bermudez (wife of Jaime, my Spanish psychodrama teacher) passed along to me a chapter of a book on the history of the Russian theatre which has some interesting developments coming out of that revolution which show the ferment of the times which are relevant to Moreno's "Living Newspaper", which certainly must have participated in that ferment in some way. Exactly in what way the individual and the "ferment" interact is of great interest to me. As Moreno would have acknowledged, no person acts in a void or feels in a void or thinks in a void. Depending upon whether you believe in the "diffusion" or the "archetypal" hypothesis for the spread of ideas, you may look at the following in a different way. The book is:
Hesse, Jose (19??). Breve Historia del Teatro Sovietico (Brief History of the Soviet Theatre--in Spanish). Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
and under Chap.4 ("Scenography & interpretive technique"), under Sections entitled ... "The psycho-technical school of Stanislavski" and "People's Theatre and the 'Living Newspapers'" we find the following (in translation from Spanish):
"Vsevolov Meyerhold was one of the first disciples of Stanislavski ... Notwithstanding the initiatives attributed to Meyerhold in the creation of the large, open-air theatres, it was Nicolas Evreinov, the great theoritician of the Russian theatre, who brought them to realization. He put on stage his idea of revitalizing theatre by pulling out from the play all elements which distracted the audience from the core of the work. He believed strongly in the magic power of theatre and thought of overcoming the limitations of time itself by making the past become present through dramatically locating them in those same places where the events had happened, and through a mise-en-scene which created the illusion of making time go back. Through simplicity of decoration he used everything that could provoke a collective illusion or hallucination (the noise of drums, artificial fires, etc.). The year 1920 was the heroic times for these big shows, intending to make arise the 'healthy civic sense' of the people.. ..
"A new modality of the open air theatre, playing with the most simple theatrical elements, was called the "Living Newspaper" ["Diarios Vivientes"], which appeared in Moscow in 1923 at the initiative of M.Yujanin, theatre director and student of [what today would be called] journalism. The idea of Yujanin was to bring the news to the illiterate people, as well as the political commentary and cultural articles usually covered by the newspapers. This was done using a group of actors and the medium of dialog, monolog and pantomime to dramatize the news. The idea was extraordinarily successful and soon more than 300 groups were performing living newspapers, going from village to village by all sorts of means of transportation. In Leningrad alone, 30 trams were dedicated to the transport of these small theatre groups.
"Yujanin established the model for these plays, and his group (the 'blue shirt') was famous in all the Soviet Union and imitated by most of the other theatre groups. The play was based on the expressive force of the actors, with the scenery and decoration being very simple. The technique of the actors was derived directly from the bio-mechanical theories of Meyerhold.
"Soon a sort of simple, short piece was added at the end to make things lighter. All of the plays had a 'collective author'. The
simplicity of the plays and the improvement of the cultural level of the audience, together with the opposition of Lunacharski (who thought that written text was very important for theatre) and the professionalization of actors, made these 'Living Newspapers' almost disappear around 1930."
In the above book, reference is also made to ... Vetrov,B (1926). Le Journal Vivant (The Living Journal). Moscow: ???
Of course there is a basic difference between this and Moreno in the role of the audience. Moreno went further to remove the
"fourth wall" than was common in that time."-- Ed Hug
Ray Corsini, Ph.D., has been one of the foremost supporters of psychodrama, though in an unorthodox fashion. Never in the mainstream of the field, he nevertheless was a prodigious writer and publisher, and a number of his books may have done more to spread Moreno's work than Moreno's own book. For example, his series, "Current Psychotherapies" was used by counseling students internationally for over thirty years, and he revised these books, including chapters first from Leon Fine then Adam Blatner. In the mid-1960s, his book "Role Playing in Psychotherapy" was the one I found to be most accessible in understanding the method! Corsini wrote, "After it was published Moreno commented that I made a complex topic simple and I replied he made a simple topic complex."
Corsini appreciated Moreno's contributions, but didn't like Moreno's style. He wrote: "Here is an example of the kind of thing he did: A conference was set up in Italy at one time by Moreno and he sent out all kinds of flyers saying that a major speaker would be the mayor of that particular city. When it came to the attention of the mayor who had never heard of Moreno, the question was what to do about it. When it turned out a good many of the important people in the city were going to attend, the mayor decided to speak at the conference. And he did.
Another anecdote: One of the funniest incidents that I know of had to do with Robert Drews, a psychiatrist, who became one of Moreno's most ardent adherents in the late 1960s. (This guy looked something like the actor Adolph Menjou.) Anyway, he was obsessed with finding a copy of a book that Moreno kept touting called, "Invitation to a Meeting," published in Austria. [It has been re-published in the 1970s with the title, "The Words of the Father"--and it includes also Moreno's little poem, "Invitation to an Encounter.". I happened to be present when on one of Drew's visits when he finally opened the package he had located in Austria of the book, and it turned out to be a very small cheaply printed book of poetry and the title of the book with about a dozen to two dozen pages was INVITATION TO A MEETING and one of the poems was the same title.
Another incident was a breakfast meeting in a hotel. Moreno had just republished a small booklet with a totally misleading title, THE FIRST BOOK OF GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPY and had left off the name of his former collaborator. I asked about it, and Moreno began telling me why and his voice got louder and louder until everyone in the coffee shop could hear him."
Dr. Corsini went on to note how he was wary of Moreno, Perls and Wilhelm Reich--they all were outrageous characters, to put it mildly. Yet Corsini appreciated those areas where their contributions were valuable.
Marcia Karp wrote, around November, 1999:
In about 1966 Moreno still had one psychotic patient in residence at Beacon, a man named Joe. He was in a room with a grate on the door where we would peer through and watch him and try to chat but often he would be preoccupied
with birds flying around. He talked more to them, "away with the birdies" was never more apt. My first knowledge of Joe was as a student my first or second day, we were sitting round the student dinned table on a Thanksgiving eating chicken. There became an increasingly loud noise like a ghost noise..".Whoooooo," and strange elongated screams. I thought perhaps I am
imagining it or the chicken was not quite dead or something and finally someone said, "Oh that's just old Joe." "Would you like to see him."Who is Joe,"I asked." "C'mon." So (I think it was Elaine Goldman and myself ) we went up to the second floor of the student resident and there he was, in a furnitureless room, more like a cell, rather large. The wind was whipping throughout he space and the smell was awful, Excrement, mixed with psychosis. A few days late, Dr. said he would work with Joe in the psychodrama theatre and we were invited to watch and take part. I was 23 years old and had brought my dog, Samantha, a wire-haired terrier, with me from California to New York, and she was with me.
Moreno walked Joe from the student residence to the house. It was a 5 minute walk or so in a wooded and grassy area in upstate New York on the Hudson River. My dog hid in the grass and watched Moreno and Joe pass. As they did, Samantha, bared her teeth and began to growl in a primitive way. The wind had brought the smells to us and the dog was going berserk, and protecting me, I suppose. I remember this moment, as that dog was passive; I never saw her bare her teeth except in this case. It was the smells and the demeanour of Joe, though there was no proximity to the dog, they were quite far away but the spatial danger still increased. In the discussion about smells, it explained to me, 35 years later, why my dog lowered his head in the grass, bared his teeth and growled as if 2000 years of canine manicuring had disappeared and caveman or primitive rules applied. I hadn[t thought of that incident for years. Thank you for explaining it to me. The dog smelled the danger."
Carl Hollander wrote (filling me in on my research for my expanded chapter in Foundations of Psychodrama about the "Second Generation" of psychodramatists--not in the 3rd edition):
Henry Tappan was an intern with the Moreno Institute in 1963. I began traing with Moreno in 1963 and was the 35th Director graduated from the Moreno Institute. David Kipper began later, around 1966, and was the 34th. Dean and Doreen Elefthery both began with me in 1963 around Nov.22nd, when Kennedy was assassinated. Diana Villasenor and Elaine Goldman were in training in 1967. Dr. Elwood Murry was a close and affectionate Colleague of J.L.'s and was the Department Head of the Speech and Communication Dept at Denver University in the 40's. He was Alton Barbour's mentor when he was in graduate school at DU; Dr. Leslie Zeleny, also a respected colleague of JL was on the faculty of what now is the University of Northern Colorado. That was back in the 40-50's. He did the profound research and writing about Sociomtric flight positions among Air Force pilots during World War 2. Sharon Thomas ( Hollander) Beekmann finisher at the Moreno Institute in 1970-71. John Hunter and John and Carrolla Mann were students of Moreno in the mid- 60's. Also around 1963 there was from Venezuela (Caracas) a Director of the Dale Carnage Institute, George Hatley, whom I met at the Moreno Institute, a zealot about all that Moreno wrote and said..., yet a really fine man (1963)."
Notes from a Symposium on the History of Psychodrama, at the ASGPP conference in 1996:
Lew Yablonsky, one of the early associates of Moreno: "I encountered Moreno @1949 when the institute was at 101 Park avenue. M was wearing a blue courdroy jacket and evoked an image of a cross between the wizard Merlin and a pixie--maybe a charlatan. He kept his sense of humor in all settings. And this humor reflected his genius of not making therapy a head-clutching experience. His psychodramatic directing was seamless, there was no evidence of "technique," which made it the best drama.
In the 50s? he analyzed the boxing match between Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano (?). The New Yorker ran a small column, Doc Pix Rock about him. In the article Moreno had apparently referred to the boxer with the biggest penis. I asked him, "What is this B.S.?" Moreno replied that it was a cosmic joke on the press.
It was more like European learning, hanging out with some mentor who knows more about it, vs going to lectures.
Re Moreno's lecturing to psychoanalysts--Yablonsky went along. You have to deal with a person's "socius," his social network. "They'll think you're crazy," Lew said. Moreno laughed, "I'm making others crazy just like me, and you're one of them!"
Moreno could puncture pomposity: There was a lecture at Harvard, Marg Mead coming. Bob Boguslaw said, "Let Lew do it." Y spent a week preparing to meet Margaret Mead. I gave my talk, using notes. A loud voice came out of the back: "Bob, get him out of there! He's terrible!" I forgave him 'cause he was right.
In 1968 I was president of the ASGPP: married, getting involved in synanon, the talk was on "Thou shalt live thy life in such a way so that no one should know thy secrets." I asked J.L., "Well, what do you think?" He replied, "Well, Lew, you're a better man than I."
In the early 1950s, working together on revised Who Shall Survive, addressing the issues of economics, sociology, quoting Karl Marx, Moreno said (at 3 A.M.), "Of course Marx said that, but I said it first!"
In 1969, Lew was getting "burned out" at synanon. People from other planets were showing up at psychodrama sessions. But it was a method to be taken to the streets. In the Fifties, Lew heard a guy in a New York subway mutter, "That bitch, I'm gonna kill her!" Lew doubled, "Yeah, I might not get the kids, but I'll get her."
At the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Los Angeles, at the Biltmore, Lew presented a panel on Synanon with Moreno and Elliot Markoff, M.D. Diedrich and his dope fiend entourage woalked in. While Moreno was talking, Jack Hurt made a wisecrack. Diedrich said, "Shut up. Without that man you wouldn't be here."
When Moreno was dying in 1974, Zerka called in March: "Dr Moreno is dying." Then Moreno got on the phone, cracking jokes: "Are you coming to the meeting in April? Well, I'll be here." The next month, there he was at Beacon, stretched out in his bed. People came up and walk by him, he'd cop a feel from the death bed.
Moreno imagined an eternal dialogue in heaven, an intellectual trial, judged by Spinoza, Einstein, Hegel, Christ, etc. re the relative methods of psychodrama vs psychoanalysis. Finally, they asked Freud what he thought, and (according to Moreno's fantasy) Freud replied, "If I had lived longer, I too would have become a psychodramatist like Moreno." This is JL's vision of paradise.
He believed in the freedom to play many roles in life with a wide range of freedoms.
Shirley (Barclay?): (Zerka gave me permission to share):
While doing a psychodrama at Beacon, Zerka visualized going on board a ship to throw Moreno's ashes out to sea. Everyone went up to the balcony, and as Zerka threw the ashes over, the lights dimmed unaccountably! When Shirley went to see Moreno, he sighed, "Do me a favor, I want you to go out and bring Marie, have her bring her guitar."
Lew worked with J.L in Beacon. He'd pull up to the theatre, "Here he is now, Lew Yablonsky, Walk out!"
The staff slept in a ramshackle house, Gilette House, there was no room. moved into the hospital. Woke up, saw someone hanging in a closet--but it was a dream. I asked the head nurse, Quinny, she said, "You mean the guy who hung himself in that closet three years ago?
Art Lerner: When Dr. Moreno came to talk at Pepperdine College, during the questions he said, "Don't worry, I'm filled with contradictions, like Walt Whitman. It takes ten years to understand. What is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstances?"
Lee Fine: At the AmericanPsychological Assoc, in front of a thousand people (@1969), Fritz Perls on a panel, M claiming precedence, and FP said, "You were first, if only you could believe it." Afterwards, M said, "I look much younger than Fritz." He could be insecure, after presentation in St Louis, he turned to Zerka in the car and asked, "How did I do?"
For responses, email me at email@example.com
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