Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Life Enhancement via “Self Rev”

Originally posted on September 5, 2013

I have a friend in Oakland, California, named Sheila Rubin, who leads workshops on how to do “Self-Revelatory Theatre.” (This approach to my knowledge was first written about in the mid-1990s by another friend, Renee Emunah, and mentioned in her book, Acting for Real.) This is good stuff, but the appeal so far has been mainly to people associated with the field of “drama therapy.”

The interesting thing about drama therapy is that many of its practitioners are taking the methods quite beyond the sick role and into what I call “life enhancement.” The word “therapy” tends to imply that some people "need" therapy, when in fact most of the people who go to these workshops are remarkably healthy people. Yes, they have psychic wounds, but that’s true of everyone! All cope, and all have been learning better coping strategies that then replace for earlier, less- effective forms of adaptation. Indeed, this process may be discerned as being part of every person’s life story. So, while there’s a bit of theatre involved, I call this process not therapy but “life enhancement.”

There are elements of theatre in the following way: People in Ms Rubin’s workshops work towards constructing a story out of the thousands of bits and pieces of their lives. This story is not necessarily absolutely accurate. It’s a distillation. It must be in order for it to be held in a comprehensible form for both the self-as-performer and audience member. It must be distilled for audience members so they do not become disoriented, distracted, and bored. The story-making is thus a focusing process as well as an affirmation, as if to say, “This is what happened. This is what I was tempted to do. This is what I chose to do instead as a creative alternative.”

The catharsis for the audience is the resonance with the tension between what was the temptation—sort of "Oh, I was tempted that way too. I even gave in for a while!" — and the ultimate synthesis.   Thesis (problem), antithesis (reaction), final synthesis,  (more finely calibrated reaction). So it’s a type of atypical theatre only insofar as it presents to an audience the aforementioned drama. It’s might be thought of as a type of therapy insofar as it’s a witnessed reassertion of a construction, a memory (very selective), and a re-decision.

The witnessing re-confirms, and thus adds to the re-decision. But distillations are in a sense also a distortion, because a greater truth is the wallowing and thrashing around, the ambiguities and indecisions, the collisions and short term wins of the lesser self, the regressive impulses, the illusions of easy outs, the false starts, etc. Psychodrama is a little more authentic in this groping process, exposing this. But it often just offers a segment, whereas your work offers more a long view of the journey.

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