Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Enactment & Improvisation

Originally posted on June 3, 2013

While the psychodrama community seems to be knowledgeable about the history of psychodrama, it seems that many are hardly aware of the developments in related fields. The same might be said for people in those related fields: drama therapy; drama in education; improv in business and organizations; Theatre of the Oppressed; Bibliodrama; Spontaneity development in many fields; Live Action Role Playing (LARP); the Expressive Arts Therapies; various approaches that take off from any of these; etc. All these fields share elements of enactment, improvisation, and collaborative creativity, elements of theory, techniques used, historical cross-overs and independent development.

Right here I will note that I don’t assume that I’ve mentioned all the field that share these elements, nor do I think I know enough about all the key pioneers. I just want to acknowledge that there are not-insignificant histories of many fields, people and events who have brought improvisation and enactment into psychotherapy, education, business, religion, recreation, peace-making, community-building, and the like. Names such as Jacob L. Moreno, Dorothy Heathcote, Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, and many others need to be at least vaguely recognized. The second generation who refined these trends include in Drama Therapy, Robert Landy, Renee Emunah; in Drama in Education, Gavin Bolton, Richard Courtney, Peter Slade (the last to actually precursors). And so forth. I can’t name them all here.

It was okay for a while as the fields were forming, but what I notice is that what is going on here is a complex of ideas whose time has come. It seems provincial to not know about or dismiss too lightly these related historical streams.

I’m reminded of the joke about the angel showing the newcomers around in heaven: They tiptoe past a closed door. “Shh!” whispers the angel. “Those are the (fill in here the name of any exclusionist subgroups of any religion). They don’t know that anyone else is here.”

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