Marcia Karp, a wise elder in the world of psychodrama, is our guest blog author today. A wonderful story teller -- and my valued teacher at the Holwell International Center for Psychodrama and Sociodrama in Devon, England, in 1994 -- Marcia shares a wonderful story about Dr. J.L. Moreno and the spread of psychodrama around the world.
By Marcia Karp, M.A., TEP
It is 1968 in Vienna, Austria. I am sitting next to Dr. J.L. Moreno in front of an empty cinema screen. We are attending a conference of the International Council of Group Psychotherapy Conference, an organization created by Dr. Moreno in 1951. This was before the founding of the International Association of Group Psychotherapy in 1973.
We were asked to attend a film by a Japanese colleague who had taken some training in psychodrama at the Moreno Academy in Beacon, N.Y.
The conference room went dark. On the screen, in black and white, came a filmed sequence showing a handbag counter in a department store. The camera slowly panned the handbag section and then went up an escalator and into a ladies dress section showing a rack of women's clothes.
Watching it made no sense at all. What on earth did the handbags and women’s clothes have to do with group psychotherapy? I looked at J.L. J.L. looked back at me. We were lost in translation.
The camera panned the scene showing the sizes and types of the dresses on the rack. Women were trying on kimonos. They looked at themselves in the mirror. Sales ladies were whizzing by, bringing other fabrics and other kimonos. We realized the film was a mistake, perhaps substituted for one on psychotherapy or some other tragic error.
It continued on. The clothes ceremoniously parted, like curtains on a stage, and indeed showed a stage.
It was a wooden psychodrama stage. On it were two women in kimonos with a man directing them. Behind the stage, the life of the women's dress section went on as normal.
The stage was in front, the customers at the back. It was a combination of a clothes section in the store and a psychodrama stage, all very odd.
At some point, Moreno slapped his hand to his forehead and said, "Oh my God! I told him to set up psychodrama in his psychiatric department. He must have misunderstood.”
The reality was that Moreno had been training a doctor from Japan. His name was Dr. Matsumura. In order to get psychodrama started within this doctor’s professional world, Moreno suggested that he establish a psychodrama stage in his medical specialty. Since Moreno didn't speak Japanese and the man's English was challenged, a mistake had been made by both in understanding the meaning of the word "department." Moreno meant at his work place, and the student understood it as establishing a psychodrama stage and group in a downtown department store.
I wrote this for my daughter, Poppy some months ago and wanted to share it with you. I am still laughing 50 years later. Note: the photo illustrating this article shows J.L. Moreno and a psychodrama training group in 1952 in Beacon, N.Y. Zerka Moreno is pregnant with their son Jonathan. The photo was a gift to Marcia Karp by Grete Leutz, an early student of Dr. Moreno who also served as a kind of "big sister" to his daughter Regina Moreno.
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, sand tray, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.