Compiled in 1998, etc., by Adam Blatner, from email listserve (Grouptalk*) correspondence. Posted June 30, 2002. (For information on how to join that listserve, click on this word: grouptalk )

March, 1998.
 Karen Carnabucci wrote to Grouptalk, inquiring: "I am doing some presentations locally on the magic shop and am seeking some didactic information on its beginnings. Does anyone know if this is a Moreno invention or if it came from one of his students?  Also, what are the alterations on the magic shop?

Peter Felix Kellermann's answer:  According to Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger (in the Swedish translation of her  book (originally in French), Precis de Psychodrama) on p.79, she said that the magic shop was first used at the Moreno Institute in 1943 (?) and developed by Hanna Weiner (New York), Leon Fine (St Lous) and Schutzenberger herself. (Paris, 1966, 1970).  There are various references to this technique in books about psychodrama. One of the more elaborate is by Hilarion Petzold, (1978) in German "Die therapeutischen moglichkeiten der psychodramatischen "Magic-Shop-Technique" in the book "Angewandtes Psychodrama". See also Moreno's psychodrama vol. 1 (revised edition), p. x-xi, mentioning Weiner's use of the magic shop with alcoholics, 1959).

Personally, I believe the "symbolic wishfulfilment" is an important issue when trying to conceptualize the Magic Shop technique - My question would be - what place does symbolic wish fulfillment have in psychodrama - and perhaps in therapy in general?
        -- Peter Felix Kellermann

April 1, 1998. Mark Goldman responds:

Dear Karen, Here is an interesting story from Elaine Eller Goldman, Ph.D., Executive director of the Western Institute for Focused Action Therapy  and Psychodrama [and Mark's mother]. Elaine learned the Magic Shop at Beacon, specifically as a warm-up to bring forth a protagonist. The shop owner "barters" with customers for qualities they want, i.e. courage, self- esteem, etc.  She gets the customer to "give up" in exchange some of the negative parts of themselves, i.e. fear of failure, negative self talk, etc.

Many years ago, Elaine conducted a week long workshop for a closed group.  (She doesn't remember exactly who or when)  As the week began to come to an end, she wondered how she could effect some closure for the group.  As in many other groups, there were some group members who had done core work as protagonists while others had played auxiliary roles and still others merely shared.

Elaine thought about the Magic Shop.  This was the end of the session though and she did not want to warm up any new protagonists, just the opposite. This did not, however deter her from using her creativity and spontaneity. She decided to use the Magic Shop as a "closure" for the group.  For those who had done significant core work, she bartered for new "action" in their lives, or helped them to rid themselves of unwanted responses. She coaxed those who had not worked, to come into the shop and "test the waters" or perhaps "commit to just one action or change".

This brought the group to more cohesion as those who had only participated minimally before, now had shown more of themselves. Having been privy to the week's sharing and each member's responses to the sessions, she had a good idea of where each person was.  This enabled her to use herself and her knowledge to do a short piece of work with those individuals who would never have done a full session. Two aspects of this story are most interesting.  It shows the incredible versatility of psychodrama when a technique designed as a warm-up, can be augmented and used as a closure, the complete opposite. Also, since that time, Elaine has virtually always used the Magic Shop as a closure, or at least as an exercise complete unto itself, not as a warm-up.

When we (Elaine, Delcy Morrison and I) present a workshop, we quite often use the Magic Shop at the end of the day/weekend.  Delcy and I are Elaine's "assistants" and often make fun of her "behind her back" for the group. She also uses her humor and "plays the crotchety old crow."  When we worked in a hospital setting for 20 years, Elaine often had one of the patients be her assistant.  This brought an additional dimension to the group and usually helped that client to begin to come out of their shell. The variations (as with most psychodramatic techniques) are endless. Elaine plays the shop keeper as an old crone, I play it as the "two thousand year old man".  One colleague we know plays it as an old time owner of a general store, sitting in the rocking chair with a pipe in his mouth, another as a renaissance jester with a feathered hat and a huge old bell that she rings to open her shop.  The possibilities are limitless! I hope this has been of some help or interest.   Mark Goldman, M.A.

p.s. Happy Birthday to Elaine Goldman  (March 29)  78 years young!
and Happy Birthday to Anne Schutzenberger, also March 29 (but I won't reveal her age!)

98-05-25 (Dr. Antonio Roma Torres of Oporto Portugal): As far as I know the "Magic Shop Technique" is quoted by Moreno himself in "Psychodrama - vol 1"- pg 34-35 in the Pportuguese translation published in Brazil (ed Cultrix, Sao Paulo). Moreno is writing about therapeutic acting-out in the foreword to the 3rd edition in English, and he wrote about the "Magic Shop Technique" with a depressive patient directed by "a young and sensitive therapist", Justus Randolph, in 1948. Moreno says that the technique can be acted by the director himself on the stage or a member of the group who plays the shopkeeper. Can this help to find the historical basis of the technique?

98-05-26  David Kipper: In any event, the technique appeared in the 50's and the precise identity of its originator is really unknown.  Most likely it was invented by Hanna B. Weiner.  Those of us who knew her and her style of work would agree that she is a likely candidate in the claim for inventing the Magic Shop.

05-27 Anne Schutzenberger replies: Sorry, but to say that something is likely to come from the seminal  creative mind of Hannah B Weiner is not historical proof. (Does anyone remember what happened really?) I was an old friend of Hannah for a long time and she never said it was her invention. (She restates parts of Kellermann's answer that drew on her work.) ...
  When I was at Beacon first( winter-spring 1951) it was not used there, and appeared later in Beacon, in the fifies. It was credited at Beacon to an Iindian visitor, but no names were given, and no dates either.
  Ref: Schutzenberger Ancelin Anne (1966) - Precis de Psychodrame, Paris: Editions Universitaires ("Handbook of psychodrama") enlarged edition,1970: Description of 100 psychodrama technics. Magic Shop discussed on pp. 115-117.    (See also Zerka T Moreno, Group Psychotherapy,1959, XII, pp 5-14 : Survey of Psychodrama Technics- for a summary  of the classical version" . ...

98-05-27  Elaine Ades Sachnoff: When I was in training at Beacon in 1961 Hannah Weiner came and
taught us her Magic Shop.  Moreno deferred to her at that time. There have been various modifications, as I note in my Warm Up Book,  but the basic idea is always the same.

Blatner's comment: There's also an excellent chapter on the Magic Shop  technique in Eva Leveton's A Clinician's Guide to Psychodrama (3rd ed.), New York, Springer, 2001.

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