Key words: Living Newspaper, psychodrama, sociodrama, theatre, therapy.

8221 words


This article traces the historical development of Living Newspaper from the ideas of the Futurists in the early part of the century, through experimental theatres in the Soviet Union and Vienna, to the world wide development of a theatre form. It also considers the relationship between this theatre and Moreno’s Theatre of Spontaneity, psychodrama and sociodrama. It then considers the therapeutic potential of this technique. In Italy, 1913-15: In 1915 an Italian Futurist manifesto on the theatre written by Marinetti, Settimelli and Corra had insisted on a new theatre that is “born of improvisation, lightninglike intuition, from suggestive and revealing actuality. We believe that a thing is valuable to the extent that it is improvised not extensively prepared.” (Drain, 1995, 20) Nothing should get in the way of the artist’s natural talent: “he must be preoccupied with creating synthetic expressions of cerebral energy that have the absolute value of novelty.” (Drain, 1995, 21) “DRAMATIZE ALL THE DISCOVERIES (no matter how unlikely, weird, and antitheatrical) THAT OUR TALENT IS DISCOVERING IN THE SUBCONSCIOUS, IN ILL-DEFINED FORCES, IN PURE ABSTRACTION, IN THE PURELY CEREBRAL, THE PURELY FANTASTIC, IN RECORD-SETTING AND BODY-MADNESS. SYMPHONIZE THE AUDIENCE’S SENSIBILITY BY EXPLORING IT, STIRRING UP ITS LAZIEST LAYERS WITH EVERY MEANS POSSIBLE; ELIMINATE THE PRECONCEPTION OF THE FOOTLIGHTS BY THROWING NETS OF SENSATION BETWEEN STAGE AND AUDIENCE; THE STAGE ACTION WILL INVADE THE ORCHESTRA SEATS, THE AUDIENCE.” (Drain, 1995, 21) In an earlier manifesto (1913) Marinetti had exulted in the Variety Theatre: “a cumulus of events unfolded at great speed...and now let’s have a look at the Balkans: King Nicholas, Enver-Bey,...fistfights between Serbs and Bulgars...instructive, satirical pantomimes...a more or less amusing newspaper...” (Drain, 1995, 172-3) In Soviet Russia, 1919-28: In 1919 a decree of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union advocated public readings of the news, illustrated with “demonstrations”, illuminated by cinema and magic lantern shows, and “concert numbers” to ensure the dissemination of news and revolutionary propaganda amongst the illiterate.(Cosgrove, 1982, 7) Mikhail Pustynin was a poet and theatre director who is credited by Robert Leach with the idea of Living Newspaper: “that news could be made more accessible through dramatisation.” (Leach 1994, 82) In 1919 he was director of the Vitebsk Rosta agency (a telegraphic agency using posters to spread revolutionary ideas) and set up the Terevsat (Theatre of Revolutionary Satire) whose aim was “to express in theatrical terms the subjects of the

3 Rosta posters. Terevsat came to Moscow in 1920 and a number of groups were soon to be found performing in streets, factories and stations. Its short sketches, in which music had an important role, drew largely on review, operetta, vaudeville and the tchastuchka (rhymed popular songs with a monotonous rhythm). Initially one major aim of Terevsat was the diffusion of information and it evolved its own forms of Living Newspaper...” (Bradby & McCormick, 1978, 46) Pustynin later worked for the Blue Blouse Theatre.

Between 1919 - 22 Vladimir Mayakovski, a leading exponent of the Russian Futurist group, had drawn some 400 Rosta posters, (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 46) In 1921 Mayakovski wrote a Living Newspaper which was directed by Nikolai Foregger at Terevsat’s Moscow Studio.(Leach, 1994, 84) Eisenstein “was a keen follower of Marinetti’s futurist ideas” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 47 and 55). Eisenstein “gave an example of theatricalised living newspaper with...montage of attractions in his agitbuffonade The Wise Man...” (Blue Blouse magazine, 1925, No 23/24, pp 8-9, Stourac & McCreery, 1986, 21). Eisentein acknowledged Meyerhold and Mayakovski as fellow futurists. (Drain, 1995, 87) Meyerhold utilised the genre of living newspaper in Give Us Europe (reported in the Blue Blouse magazine, 1925, No 23/24, p5: Stourac & McCreery, 1986, 16). Blue Blouse’s inspiration was drawn from the futurist interest in music hall and variety theatre and from the experimental work of Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Forreger. In 1923 Boris Yuzhanin, a teacher of journalism, started the “Blue Blouse” soviet Living Newspaper touring theatre company from his base at the Moscow Institute of Journalism. The blue blouse was the basic costume of the performers by which they showed solidarity

4 with the factory workers who wore loose blue smocks. “Yuzhanin aimed to offer the group’s audiences, many of whom could not read, a “living newspaper” - a concept which spread to left wing groups internationally. Yuzhanin refused to use professional writers, but practised “lit-montage”, i.e. the scripts were cut-ups, principally of material from papers and magazines. He staged them in revue style, performing in factories, workers clubs and in the open air.” (Drain, 1995,183.) “Living Newspapers kept their illiterate audiences in touch with the issues of the day. The subjects were by no means always topical or political... Often a Living Newspaper could include an item or two of more general educational content such as the dramatised Fight Against Typhus... or looking after and breeding hens.” (Leach, 1994,84) (Leach, 1994, 169) Blue Blouse “performances offered skits, verse, monologues, and avant-garde oratory among an uninterrupted montage of scenes, songs, music, dance, mime, acrobatics and gymnastic. Messages were punched home with bold visual effects. Blue Blouse offered a model on which countless variations have been devised by agit-prop and guerilla theatre groups ever since.” (Drain, 1995, 157.)

Whilst many Soviet Living Newspapers were written the actors did improvise when necessary: “The style of acting resembled the old troupes of strolling players and was often rooted in improvisation based on character types. Because the news changed day by day the actors often had only time to agree the form of the sketch before going on stage, and performing in the open air they frequently had to cope with interjections and heckling from the

5 audience. On one occasion an agitator interrupted the performance to announce the defeat of Denikin. The audience burst out cheering and the actors improvised a scene of Denikin dancing, then being chased off by Red Army soldiers.” (Leach, 1994, 84) Blue Blouse were hugely successful: “In its first two months of existence Blue Blouse performed to 80,000 people.” (Stourac & McCreery, 1986, 39) “Other groups started up on the same pattern...eventually more than five thousand Blue Blouse groups were active, with a membership of 100,000...In 1927 Blue Blouse visited Germany, where the workers’ theatre movement was already practising similar techniques...” (Drain, 1995,183.) “Blue Blouse were so successful they spawned innumerable Blue Blouse groups abroad, in England, France, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, China, U.S.A. and Germany.” (Leach, 1994, 169) It even spread to Japan by 1929: Seki Sano, who directed many living newspapers, later became a close associate of Hallie Flanagan when he eventually moved to the U.S.A. to escape arrest. (Cosgrove, 1982, 26) Such spontaneity and creativity was not however attractive to Stalin: within a year of their successful German tour Blue Blouse was officially disbanded. 1928 was a year of forced collectivisation and massive, often brutal, social reorganisation. An alternative view is that Blue Blouse died because audiences became bored by the propagandising, clichés and poor quality of this agit-prop theatre. (Stourac & McCreery, 1986, 42, 70.) In fact they were outmanoeuvred in the artistic politics of the development of Stalinist Social Realism. (Stourac & McCreery, 1986, 63-4) J. L. Moreno in Vienna, 1922-25: In 1922, the year before Yuzhanin set up Blue Blouse, J. L. Moreno established the Stegreiftheater (Theatre of Spontaneity) in Vienna. The first edition of his book on this experimental theatre was published in 1924. One of the methods for promoting spontaneity Moreno used was to base improvisations on the day’s news: in 1925 he called this the dramatised newspaper (in the 1947 edition of the Theatre of Spontaneity he calls it Living Newspaper). Given the time it takes to write and publish a book it seems likely that Moreno was creating theatre from the news in 1923 or even from 1921 (see Marineau, 1989, 70-72). Vienna lies half way between Italy and Russia: is it not possible, even likely, that Moreno would have heard of the Futurists’ ideas? Zerka Moreno writes: “Moreno...knew about the...Futurists...he may have met Meyerhold...” at the International Theatre Exhibit in Vienna in 1924.(Z. Moreno, 1999) Jonathan Fox also points out that the Russian Theatre was known in Vienna: the 1924 New Theatre Festival programme featured an article by R.F. Muller on “Die Neue Russiche Buhne”. Muller knew and reviewed Moreno’s Stegreiftheatre enthusiastically (Fox in Buer, 1993) so it is highly likely that he and Moreno had discussed these parallel theatre developments. Russian Theatre influences were certainly felt in Vienna: as early as 1906 Stanislavski’s theatre concerned with psychological truth, The Art Theatre, had toured cities of Germany and Austria. (Sayler, 1922, 65) (Casson 1999) The Futurist manifesto quoted above shows spontaneity was an important source of creative energy for them too. Central to Moreno’s developing ideas was the concept of spontaneity: Moreno explained that the idea of using

6 the news of the day as a source for the Theatre of Spontaneity was to counter the suspicion of critics who supposed, when the performance was successful, that the pieces were rehearsed. Moreno “turned his actors into journalists, sending them into the streets of Vienna to pick up news of incidents there, or bring in national or international events and disasters of all kinds.” (Zerka Moreno, 1997) Marineau states that Moreno “also toured Germany with his group” (Marineau, 1989, 77-8): this must have been in 1923-4, three or four years before Blue Blouse’s German tour, when “the workers theatre movement were already practising similar techniques.” (Drain, 1995, 183) Did Moreno influence them or did the idea of living newspaper also occur simultaneously to the German theatre creators? Moreno published a paper on his “invention” in Berlin in 1925 which he quotes in a footnote of his Psychodrama Volume 1: “It is a synthesis between drama and newspaper, therefore it differs in essence from the mediaeval and Russian custom of a spoken newspaper. The dramatised newspaper is not a recital of news, life itself is enacted. The events are dramatised.” (Moreno, 1925, 33, quoted in Moreno 1985, 356.) This footnote is interesting because it shows Moreno was aware of previous oral traditions, including those of Russia. It is either a historical coincidence or a remarkable instance of synchronicity that within twelve months (1923-4) in the Soviet Union and Vienna two theatre creators should develop the same idea. Did Moreno pick up news of this idea from the Soviet Union and experiment with it in his own theatre of spontaneity? Or are the two forms actually different in nature? The main difference seems to be that Blue Blouse plays were scripted (even if only roughly: they did have a text) and Moreno’s were spontaneous, improvised creations. The motivation of their creators was also different: Yuzhanin, as journalist, was concerned with the dissemination of news whilst Moreno, as philosopher and psychiatrist, was doing spontaneity and role research: the idea of dramatising the day’s news meant that actors could not prepare the drama but had to be spontaneous. “At first I used the term, “living newspaper” which was changed later to the more appropriate term “dramatised newspaper”. (Moreno, 1985, 356) My research for this article reveals the truth was the other way round. His earliest published term is Die Dramatisierte Zeitung (in Moreno, 1925). In the first edition of Das Stegreiftheater (1924) he does not even use this term but writes: “Das Stegreiftheater hat die Aufgabe, dem Augenblick zu dienen. Es erschafft den Tag, nicht als Pendant von Parlament, Gericht und Zeitung, sondern vom Triebwerk der Interessen gelost.” (Moreno, 1924, 66) He later translated this as: “The theatre for spontaneity has the task of serving the moment. It reports the daily events but not with actual earnestness of parliaments, courts and newspapers but freed - in a “Stegreif” sense - from the machinery of personal incentives as interests.” (Moreno, 1983, 77) The heading THE LIVING NEWSPAPER on this page is not in the 1924 original German edition. Only in 1947 did he use the term “living newspaper” in the substantially re-written American edition of the Theatre of Spontaneity. Perhaps we need to regard these related theatre forms as two different methods: Yazhanin’s being a Living Newspaper and Moreno’s being a Dramatised Newspaper. The possibility of a link between them however is intriguing.

7 Zerka Moreno responding to an earlier version of this paper wrote: “Moreno told me that two of his followers, a young man and a girl, both declared Marxists, went to Russia in the early 20s, hoping to assist in the revolution. They returned a few months later to Vienna, rather disillusioned because they had in fact started The Living Newspaper format in Moscow; they were very soon stopped by the powers-that-be at the time as they insisted on knowing ahead of time “what the contents were going to be”. You can imagine that there was no room for spontaneity there. Indeed, it was one of the factors that seriously influenced Moreno to shake off the dust of Europe and head west to the new world where he hoped spontaneity would be better accepted.” (Zerka Moreno, 1997) Moreno’s idea was radical: to stimulate actors’ and audience’s spontaneity, to engage in living acts. His dramatised newspaper leads directly into his idea of sociodrama, the spontaneous exploration of social issues through role taking and group improvisation. He wrote: “Among the forms of writing, the newspaper comes nearest to being a spontaneous expression and to fulfilling - in a trivial and limited way - what we mean by the concept of the moment. It is tied up with the present. An event, soon after it has happened, loses its news value. It has therefore a natural affinity to the form of the spontaneous drama, which requires for its unrehearsed, immediate form an equally spontaneous and immediate context, for instance the ever new and ever changing social and cultural events that are flashed from moment to moment to the editorial office of a newspaper. In this sense the living newspaper was not only dramatic, but rather sociodramatic.” ( Moreno, 1985, 356-7) “When a playwright writes a play about news, that news has already lost the thrill of immediacy and actuality. But in Impromptu both poles meet: the moment in life and the moment in the creator.” (Moreno, 1983,79) Impromptu was the word used to name Moreno’s spontaneous theatre in the U.S.A. from 1925. In the U.S.A., 1927-39: It was in 1931 that Moreno first produced what he later called “living newspaper” performances in New York. They were noticed and reviewed in the press. In none of these reviews, reprinted in Moreno’s books are the words “living newspaper”: the words that do occur suggest that Moreno was calling his work “impromptu” and “dramatised newspaper”. In the new York Evening World Telegram March 28, 1931 “To obviate the suspicion of previous rehearsals Dr. Moreno’s troupe will dramatise news events of the day.” (Moreno, 1985, 357) In the New York Times April 6th 1931 “a newspaper drama...” In the New York Morning Telegraph April 7, 1931 “The impromptu players will present a spontaneous dramatisation of a newspaper...” (Moreno 1985, 358) The idea of living newspaper had in fact already arrived in the U.S.A.: as early as 1927 Mike Gold, an American writer, (who had worked in Germany with Bertolt Brecht and Ernst Toller writing a living newspaper) had been trying to set up a workers’ theatre in the U.S.A.(Cosgrove, 1982). In the early 1930s small theatre groups of the workers’ movement (Rebel Players in Los Angeles, Vanguard Group in Philadelphia, Jack London Group in Newark, Solidarity Players in Boston) were attempting to do living newspapers in the United States, inspired directly by Blue Blouse: there was even a group who called

8 themselves “Boston Blue Blouses”. (Cosgrove, 1982, 38-9) From 1935-6 a major national project using living newspaper was created by the Federal Theatre project: a government funded employment scheme for theatre workers following the 1930s great economic depression. It was Hallie Flanagan who suggested the idea: “I suggested the plan of dramatising contemporary events in a series of living newspapers...” (Flanagan, 1969,20). She had travelled to the Soviet Union in 1926 and seen Blue Blouse. (Cosgrove, 1982) Joseph Losey, a film director, claimed it to have been his own concept (Styan, 1996, 179). Elmer Rice, playwright, is also credited with having introduced the concept of the Living Newspaper. (Styan, 1996, 111) He was the state director of the Federal Theatre Project in New York in 1935. Elmer Rice had twice travelled to study theatre in the Soviet Union (Styan, 1996, 111) and so may also have picked the idea up from Blue Blouse. A number of German immigrants, fleeing Nazi persecution, were also involved in agit-prop groups in the USA in the early 30s (e.g. J. Bohne, director of Prolet Buehne). European ideas crossed the Atlantic and took root in American soil. The Federal Theatre Project form of living newspaper was scripted in advance. A 1935 reviewer reported: “The dramatisation of the news stories had liveliness and vitality, the two short plays were skilful intensifications of social problems, and...it was eminently successful acting for it gave an unusual sense of reality to the material it had at hand, and that is what acting is for.” (Flanagan, 1969, 167) The project however ran into difficulties because, being state funded, it was problematic to do controversial subjects without being threatened with withdrawal of subsidy or attacked by establishment figures. Elmer Rice resigned from the project in protest against censorship. (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 108) The Federal Theatre Project was closed by act of Congress in 1939. In Flanagan’s book there is a dramatic photograph of a living newspaper production showing the use of simple lighting and shadows to create atmosphere against a plain backdrop.

9 Some plays did use some minimal scenery of a symbolic nature, such as single items: a garbage can, a rusty tap, to suggest location. Eleanor Roosevelt believed the play One Third of a Nation (about poor housing) achieved an immortality: “something for which we will be grateful for many years to come, something which will mean a tremendous amount in the future, socially, and in the education and growing up of America... far more than any amount of speeches which ...I - or even the President - might make.” (Flanagan, 1969, 222)

Styan has a photograph of this play, showing a very substantial realistic set of a tenement building. (Styan, 1996,180) These living newspapers then were repeatable performances, given night after night. They were not the news of the day, as Moreno had intended, instantly improvised each time, but scripts that could be refined, played again and thus become “cultural conserves” ( scripts that are still available and have been performed as recently as 1984, Brown, 1989, viii). Moreno criticised the living newspapers of the W.P.A. (The Work Projects Administration 1935-43 of which the Federal Theatre Project was subsection) and March of Time ( a film newsreel documentary series shown in cinemas which used both live footage and re-constructions of events by actors) as not being spontaneous: as trivialising and distorting his original concept. (Moreno, 1985, 358) He may simply not have realised that despite the similarity of the ideas the source of the American living newspapers of the Federal Theatre Project was (through Flanagan, Rice and others) Blue Blouse. The use by film makers of fakery, of models and actors to recreate news stories of which they had no live film had been going on since the 19th century: the March of Time was heir to experiments to re-create news which began in the 1890s with actors used to film scenes from the Dreyfus scandal: Pathe staged a fond farewell between actors impersonating Dreyfus and his wife before he was sent to Devil’s Island (1894); they filmed actors in reconstructions of the Boxer rebellion in China (1900), and the sinking of the Lusitania (1915) (The Reel Truth, 1997). Eisenstein is

10 perhaps the most famous film maker who re-created news: his use of montage and historical reconstruction of the Russian Revolution in the Battleship Potempkin (1925) raised the art to the level of masterpiece. He also, as we have seen, was influenced by the Futurists and created living newspaper theatre. There were already established links between American Theatre creators and their Russian colleagues (see Sayler, 1922); Russian and German theatre creators had emigrated to the U.S.A. in the 20s and 30s due to the political upheavals in their countries so it seems certain that they, and not Moreno, were the source of the American living newspapers. However, as Moreno worked with actors in Vienna and New York, his influence cannot be entirely ruled out. In Britain, 1935-58: The first living newspaper format piece performed in Britain was a poem by American Communist V. J. Jerome adapted by the Rebel Players in 1935: in this play the “truth behind the headlines is acted out in brief, intercutting scenes. The text was changing constantly to keep up with events and the writer Simon Blumenfeld remembers scripting a completely new version at Unity.” (Chambers, 1989, 41) The Unity Theatre (formed in 1935, the first “relatively stable Labour movement theatre group”, Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 98) created the living newspaper Busmen: a play about the trial of busmen’s strike leaders before the union executive. The Unity had direct links with the American living newspaper creators: “Arthur Arendt, author of Triple A Plowed Under, came to Unity to share his experiences. He pointed out that living newspapers should not be a substitute for a pamphlet and could not be dashed off in 24 hours or even 24 days.” (Chambers, 1989, 141) (Thus showing the gulf between his and Moreno’s ideas!) “John Allen, who had directed Newsboy for Unity was keen to attempt a wholly British Living Newspaper in which we would be more adventurous than the Americans in the use of music and verse and dance.” (Chambers, 1989, 141) “The group engaged in a process of “total” theatre in which the form and content were shaping each other under the impact of diverse influences. They wanted to emulate on stage the effect of The March of Time newsreel from America...”(Chambers 1989, 142) “The style of the production owed much to the work of German theatre - Piscator, Kaiser, Toller - and was explicitly non-naturalistic. The back of the stage was painted with a honeycomb of eight foot squares which corresponded to different levels of a threedimensional construction set and formed separate acting areas, including rare use of the projecting cubes at the sides of the stage to bring actors out into the audience. These different areas could be lit in turn, alternating with the action forestage, giving a cinematic quality to the juxtaposition of scenes. Details of the dispute were projected in graph form and the Voice of the Living Newspaper, off stage in the flies above, would comment and link the action like a chorus.” (Chambers, 1989, 143) As Arendt had said, such a complex production took time to make and Busmen was performed in 1938, a year after the events it reported: a rather late edition! Despite being scripted the form still demanded spontaneity: Crisis was “written and rehearsed in forty-eight hours on the occasion of the Munich crisis, September, 1938. The script, which tried to bring out Britain’s possible role as peace keeper, changed from day

11 to day according to the situation itself. This production encountered some difficulties with the Lord Chamberlain, as did a similar production by Joan Littlewood in Manchester called Last Edition, which was forced to close three weeks after the outbreak of war and for which Littlewood and Ewan McColl were fined £50 each.” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 100)

Moreno knew spontaneity was a powerful force, regarded by those interested in the status quo as subversive. It is interesting to note that in Russia (1928), America (1936-9), Germany (1933), Japan (1930s) and in Britain (1939) the authorities put a stop to living newspapers by censorship or simply closing the theatres down. In post war Britain living newspapers were created by the Unity Theatre: 1947 Black Magic (on the need for recruits for the coal industry), 1956 World on Edge (the situation in Hungary) and the form inspired Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop productions culminating in the famous Oh What a Lovely War. Newton in his 1937 book “Acting Improvised”, recommended newspapers as a source of material for improvisation. (Newton, 1937, 3) Peter Slade, founder of dramatherapy in

12 Britain, used newspapers as sources of stories in drama in education. (Slade, 1975, 58) Newton and Slade had met in the 1930s but neither seems to have been aware of the wider Living Newspaper Theatre. Aloke Roy in India, 1967 onwards: A painter who turned to theatre as a more relevant means of communication, Aloke Roy founded Jagran (Awakening) clown/pantomime theatre in 1967. This theatre is dedicated to promoting change, personal and social liberation in poor communities, India. The company goes to city slum and rural poor areas and invites the people to tell them their news stories and problems. Out of these they create and rehearse a play that shows the people how the problem develops and how they can empower themselves to solve it. Over the years the company has literally saved lives with plays on nutrition, disease and human/legal rights. By celebrating the peoples’ success stories (Black Marketeer showed how the people of one area exposed and had arrested a man who was profiteering from kerosene), they ensure such stories, which might not be in the printed newspapers of the richer classes, are powerfully told and their lessons learned.

Augusto Boal in Peru, 1979:

13 Boal developed his own Newspaper Theatre in Peru, within a Literacy program. “It consists of several techniques for transforming printed news items into dramatic performances including simple reading, juxtaposition of contrary news events, inclusions of omitted data or information, rhythmical reading, improvisation, reinforcement of news with songs and visuals, and concentration of news events (such as hunger and unemployment) that are minimised through abstraction in news print. See Boal 1979” (Schutzman and Cohen-Cruz , 1994, 107n2) Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed aims to enable spectactors (audience members who became actively involved in the performance) to examine their oppressions and try to make changes to the situations presented.

Can Living Newspaper be therapeutic? Revolutionary, artistic, educational and political theatres aim to change society and people’s consciousness, attitudes and behaviour. The Russian living newspaper was not concerned however with individual psychology, the presentation of which “was felt to be a relic of bourgeois theatre.” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 47) The aim was propaganda: to incorporate the individual in the greater good of the mass movement. Whilst inviting “the audience to formulate their own judgements of the characters presented” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 46) these characters were caricatures. “No attempt at individual psychological delineation was attempted.” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 46) Whilst the provision of up-to-date information may empower it might also be used to manipulate for the benefit of the state/revolution: the sketches “were also used as a form of recruitment, encouraging men to volunteer to go to fight at the Front.” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978,47) Any technique that has potential to be therapeutic also has potential to be anti-therapeutic. However the Soviet living newspaper did aspire to empower and heal: “...over-fatigue when it becomes chronic, as we are observing with our young people, leads to physical weakness and to the creation of exceptionally favourable conditions for the development of infectious diseases... Stage productions...create positive emotions, they “infect” the viewer with energy, activity, they help remove disintegrating tissues, they cleanse the blood...it is the business (of Blue Blouse) to...sharpen the viewer’s awareness on themes which are close to him in his social...life.” (Blue Blouse magazine, 1925: Stourac & McCreery, 1986, 41.) Living Newspaper and Sociodrama: Moreno thought of living newspaper as sociodramatic: it enabled a group and audience to explore a social, shared problem, to understand the interplay of roles and events. The theatre creators of Russia and America also realised that it was not useful to just present a series of stories but rather to explore a problem through the drama. Arthur Arendt, who directed Triple A Plowed Under, a successful living newspaper for the American Federal Theatre, expressed his views on the form in 1938:

14 “The Living Newspaper is the dramatisation of a problem - composed in greater or lesser extent of many news events, all bearing on the subject and interlarded with typical but non-factual representations of the effects of these news events on the people to whom the problem is of great importance.” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 22) In Triple A, “Apart from historical characters, who spoke in direct quotations, there were also characters representing ordinary people, labelled “first farmer”, “first city man”, etc., whose function was to show the impact of the situation on their everyday life. Some particularly relevant news items were also amplified. One of these was the trial of Dorothy Sherwood who had drowned her infant son because she could not bear to see him starve.” (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 108) This is very much like Moreno’s idea of sociodrama: the difference being that here it is done by a theatre company using a prepared script. Living Newspaper, whether created by Moreno or others, was a theatre form wherein a company of actors presented the news to an audience whereas in a sociodrama Moreno would involve members of the whole group, audience and trained auxiliaries, spontaneously taking on roles to explore social issues of concern to the group. Sociodrama is a creative action method used today in group therapy and education. There is no separate audience: it is the drama of the group usually exploring through hypothetical, fictional situations, perhaps based on current events, those matters that concern group members. Living Newspaper and Psychodrama: In the evolution of Moreno’s theory and practice the living newspaper occupies a crucial place. Whilst many elements of the psychodrama process were implicit in earlier ideas and activities it was one particular session that showed Moreno the therapeutic potential of theatre: and that session was a living newspaper performance which must have taken place between 1922 and 1924. “One elusive night a Theatre of Spontaneity (turned) into a Therapeutic Theatre,” Moreno writes, “we had a young actress, Barbara, who worked for the theatre and also took part in a new experiment I had started, the extemporaneous, living newspaper. She was a main attraction because of her excellence in roles of ingenues, heroic and romantic roles. It was soon evident that she was in love with a young poet and playwright who never failed to sit in the first row, applauding and watching every one of her actions. A romance developed between Barbara and George. One day their marriage was announced. Nothing changed however, she remained our chief actress and he our chief spectator, so to speak. One day George came to see me, his usual gay eyes greatly disturbed. “What happened?” I asked him. “Oh, doctor, I cannot bear it.” “Bear what?” I looked at him investigating. “That sweet, angel-like being whom you all admire, acts like a bedevilled creature when she is alone with me. She speaks the most abusive language and when I get angry with her, as I did last night, she hits me with her fists.” “Wait,” I said, “you come to the theatre as usual, I will try a remedy.” When Barbara came back-stage that night, ready to play in one of her usual roles of pure womanhood, I stopped her. “Look Barbara, you have done marvellously until now, but I am afraid you are getting stale. People would like to see you in roles in which you portray the nearness to the soil, the rawness of human nature, its vulgarity and stupidity, its cynical reality, people not only as they are, but worse than they

15 are, people as they are when driven to extremes by unusual circumstances. Do you want to try it?” “Yes,” she said enthusiastically, “I’m glad you mention it. I felt for a while that I have to give our audience a new experience. But do you think I can do it?” “I have confidence in you,” I replied, “the news just came in that a girl in Ottakring (a slum district in Vienna), soliciting men on the street, had been attacked and killed by a stranger. He is still at large, the police is searching for him. You are the streetwalker. Here (pointing to Richard, one of our male actors) is the apache. Get the scene ready.” A street was improvised on the stage, a cafe, two lights. Barbara went on. George was in his usual seat in the front row, highly excited. Richard, in the role of the apache, came out of the cafe with Barbara and followed her. They had an encounter, which rapidly developed into a heated argument. It was about money. Suddenly Barbara changed to a manner of acting totally unexpected of her. She swore like a trooper, punching at the man, kicking him in the leg repeatedly. I saw George half rising, anxiously raising his arm at me, but the apache got wild and began to chase Barbara. Suddenly he grabbed a knife, a prop, from his inside jacket pocket. He chased her in circles, closer and closer. She acted so well that she gave the impression of being really scared. The audience got up, roaring, “Stop it, stop it.” But he did not stop until she was supposedly “murdered.” After the scene Barbara was exuberant with joy, she embraced George and they went home in ecstasy. From then on she continued to act in such roles of the lower depth. George came to see me the following day. He instantly understood it was therapy. She played as domestics, lonely spinsters, revengeful wives, spiteful sweethearts, barmaids and gun molls. George gave me daily reports. “Well,” he told me after a few sessions, “something is happening to her. She still has her fits of temper at home but they have lost their intensity. They are shorter and in the midst of them she often smiles, and, as yesterday, she remembers similar scenes which she did on the stage and she laughs and I laugh with her because I too remember. It is as if we see each other in a psychological mirror. We both laugh. At times she begins to laugh before she has the fit, anticipating what will happen. She warms up to it finally but it lacks the usual heat.” It was like a catharsis coming from humour and laughter. I continued the treatment, assigning roles to her more carefully, according to her needs and his. One day George confessed the effect which these sessions had upon him as he watched them and absorbed the analysis which I gave afterwards. “Looking at her productions on the stage made me more tolerant of Barbara, less impatient.” That evening I told Barbara how much progress she had made as an actress and asked her whether she would not like to act on the stage with George. They did this and the duets on the stage which appeared as part of our official program, resembled more and more the scenes which they daily had at home. Gradually her family and his, scenes from her childhood, their dreams and plans for the future were portrayed. After every performance some spectators would come up to me, asking why the BarbaraGeorge scenes touched them more deeply than the others (audience therapy). Some months later, Barbara and George sat alone with me in the theatre. They had found themselves and each other for the first time. I analysed the development of their psychodrama, session after session, and told them the story of their cure.” (Moreno, 1985, 5) The bad news is that Barbara and George separated soon after they had worked with Moreno and five years later George killed himself. (Marineau, 1989,77). The good news

16 is that Moreno learned much from their work with him and continued to develop psychodrama. Living newspaper had shown him the possible therapeusis of people playing roles other than their usual role and this was the basis of role reversal. Moreno “had made his first contacts with British therapists in the early 1940s through J. Sutherland and George Fitzpatrick who were at the time employed by the British army. Moreno established links with the Tavistock Clinic and was to cooperate closely on the international scene with S. H. Foulkes who had visited him at the New York Institute in the 1940s.” (Marineau, 1989, 147) Foulkes, the founder of group anayltic therapy in Britain, began to experiment with Moreno’s psychodrama and sociodrama in the period 1943-5 at Northfield Hospital: he called this “Enactive Therapy” and the method was in use by 1945. He had a Moreno stage built at Northfield: “It consisted of a round platform in three tiers.” (Foulkes, 1983, 115). A group of patients produced a newspaper. “The Newspaper group performed on the stage. It enacted its own habits and problems. It also enacted perfectly spontaneously and by the way often in extraordinarily humourous ways, any othe topics it liked out of the soldiers’ lives, out of their army life, hospital life, as well as the influence of the war on their home life and interrupted careers...Some individuals put their own problems spontanoeusly in a scene, directing the others....This was partly done for their own good...” (Foulkes, 1983, 116) Foulkes reports the impact of the performances and after show discussions on audience and performers alike was therapeutic. Living Newspaper in Therapy today: I was facilitating a group in 1991 at the outbreak of the Gulf War. They enacted the infamous encounter between a group of western hostages, including a small boy, and Saddam Hussein. One man in the role of a hostage spoke out his anger at Hussein. Later in the sharing he stated that he never normally allowed himself to express such feelings. Daniel Feldhendler also reports on his use of living newspaper at that time: the exploration of the roles, motivating forces and power dynamics of Bush and Hussein led to escalating conflict predictive of war: he does not report any therapeusis for the group members. The work did raise awareness of the gender aspects of power dynamics. (Schutzman and Cohen-Cruz, 1994, 103-4) The catharsis resultant from confronting someone in role in such living newspaper dramas is also illustrated by a report into a living newspaper/sociodrama conducted by Moreno in 1961 on the trial of Adolf Eichmann at the American Psychiatric Association Convention. Louis Yablonsky, who played the role of Eichmann, describes the session: “During the three hour session the results were electrifying. Many of the psychiatrists in the group were refugees from Germany who had themselves lost family members in the death camps supervised by Eichmann... People stood up crying, attacking me in my role with terrible curses and accusations. The important outcome... was the deep reaching catharsis within the group and the expression of hidden feelings about the catastrophe that up until then had been festering in the souls of the participants.” (Yablonsky, 1978, 182) Living newspaper was used in a therapy group for women survivors of sexual abuse in 1989: the therapists invited the women to imagine they were attending a women journalists’ conference on the rights of children.

17 “The idea of the Women Journalists’ Conference was to invite the women to be adults, to speak up and have the power to publish the facts of abuse and the rights of children. We provided newspapers and magazines around a large table....By coincidence, several of the newspapers and magazines contained articles on child abuse and this placed the drama in the wider social context that empowered the women in their realisation that they were not alone and the secret need no longer be kept....” (Corti and Casson, 1990, 49) The newspapers were brought to life in this drama; feelings of anger, grief, guilt expressed; insights gained; the experience of powerlessness replaced by an experience of power, validation, witnessing and being witnessed. Anne Bannister, psychodramatist and dramatherapist, describes working with a group of adolescents who were on probation for various offences (in her chapter Images & Action in Jennings, 1995). She offered them local newspaper reports of different incidents and invited the young people to role-play the scene. They often chose reports of rape or child molestation and then followed through the enactment to a fantasy court scene where the abusers were punished. The women in the survivors group (above) also enacted such a trial scene: the abuser was found guilty and sent to prison. Moreno would see this as the fulfilment of act hunger. Such completion of unfinished business, even on a fantasy level, can be satisfying and releasing for people. Sean came to the group feeling troubled about what was happening at work. In choosing a news story he wanted one of a crime and found a report in which an old man had attempted to bludgeon a woman to death for rejecting his advances. (Daily Telegraph, Nov 14th, 1997, p 5) He enjoyed the opportunity to express his murderousness through playing the role. That night he had a dream in which he bludgeoned a male figure whose body turned into soil. Next day he told his dream and warmed up to be protagonist. He worked to express his rage at the destructive policies of his managers and grief at what was happening at work. In the psychodrama he was able to give vent to his fury, to take responsibility for how he expressed his anger but not for other peoples’ behaviour. After this work he felt invigorated, grounded, his energy focused. He dreamed that night of figures from his psychodrama, and woke feeling a sense of integration. Living newspaper had provided a warm-up: an opportunity to inhabit his murderousness through the safe distance of a role that was not his. Having connected with these feelings he was able to take this further through a psychodrama, connecting the newspaper drama with his own life. Returning to his job the following day he felt empowered by this drama and was able to stand his ground in a conflict more constructively because he felt clearer. As well as the catharsis of tears and anger Moreno valued the catharsis of laughter and living newspapers can of course be comic. From the start the Futurists wanted the form to be like the Variety Theatre. Cabaret, music hall, circus and commedia dell’arte all influenced the Blue Blouse style. A Blue Blouse manifesto states: “Humour and satire should take up a great deal of time in any living newspaper.” (Cosgrove, 1982, 13) Jacques Prevert who worked with Le Groupe Octobre, a French Theatre, using living newspaper in the 1930s, insisted that the shows be fun and encouraged farce, suggestive humour, laughter. (Bradby and McCormick, 1978, 88-9) Jagran in India are hilarious, even obscenely funny. Laughter not only relaxes us but also stimulates attention and engagement, empowering through satire and debunking of pomposity. Whilst tragedy brings us closer to pain, comedy distances us, releases energy, freeing us to be playful.

18 Peter Howarth, psychodramatist, stresses the value of using that day’s papers with the group to promote the liveliness and involvement of the group. “When done well “enacting the news” as I have called it, can both be an enjoyable session in itself, a useful introduction to the sociodramatic method, and a powerful psychodrama warm-up.” (Howarth, 1987, 17) Living Newspaper and Empowerment: Ron Wiener, sociodramatist, writes of a living newspaper at a community arts day in Leeds, 1997: “Does a living newspaper have anything to offer at the end of the twentieth century when multi-channel T.V. and the Internet reign supreme? Six participants select from the day’s news a theme exploring whether a man can change his destiny. His life story develops. In the different scenes some roles are played stereotypically, some typically and some atypically as people find their own dramas become intertwined with the roles they are playing. This leads to some self learning which emerges in the sharing, followed by a discussion on roles and sociodrama. The session finishes with an appreciative round of applause - the newspaper still lives!” (Wiener, 1997) We are passive consumers of endless news programmes and news media. To actively participate in making and interacting with the news may enable us to change our destiny: from being depressed by bad news we may become co-creators of social change, Moreno’s original goal of sociatry: the healing of society. This is confirmed by the work of Bernice Fisher, a feminist teacher at New York University, using Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques to explore the news: “...each person choosing a newspaper page from among a number of pages scattered on the floor. Each was asked to read an article and notice how the reading had affected her own body. Then I asked participants to do a self-sculpture (adding sound and movement if they wished) followed by a group sculpture expressing the impulses they had discovered in themselves.” (Schutzman and Cohen-Cruz , 1994, 192) Later in the workshop, “to nurture a renewed sense of vision and inspire discussion about political values,” she encouraged the groups to create an ideal newspaper on a large posterboard: “Participants often framed these issues so that women’s roles as newsmakers remained central, so that women’s experiences helped define what constituted news. Working together in this way promoted an integration of thinking, feeling, and physical awareness. It enabled women to articulate and combine their political and personal values into an image of social change.” (Schutzman and Cohen-Cruz , 1994, 193-4) In a public theatre in 1994 when Di Adderley and I invited an audience to co-create an evening of spontaneous theatre, we used a modified form of living newspaper: inviting the audience to project into the future, imagining what would be the news in 2001. What emerged, through visualising and sculpting the photographs in the paper, composing the headlines and through sharing hopes and fears, were a number of stories that explored individual and group concerns, culminating in a series of scenes in which parenting was explored: would parents in future have to apply for permission to have children? Be vetted? Trained? This was a sociodrama of the future by the people who will create that

19 future. What news stories shall we create tomorrow? Through such future projection perhaps we can take greater control over our lives, prevent some of the bad news and create more good news! In conclusion: It seems that there are two forms of theatre here: one scripted and the other spontaneous and it would be better if Moreno’s was called “dramatised newspaper” (his own preferred title) to distinguish it from the scripted “living newspaper”. It seems that the living newspaper movement, which from 1919 - 1940 was a global creative, revolutionary theatre, owed nothing to Moreno and it is more likely that he picked up the idea from reports of the Futurists’ experiments in Russia, 1919-21. Cosgrove, (1982) who has written the most thorough history of living newspaper, does not mention Moreno at all. Fox concludes: “Moreno was correct to distinguish his version from the Russian variety: he was not interested in a recitation of official reports, but of the dramatisation of “life itself”; he was not concerned to impart information, but to uncover the human truths hidden in daily happenings. Likewise, he was correct to distinguish what he did from the American Living Newspaper... Moreno’s..had little to do with propaganda or reportage. Its thrust was psychological, like the best theatrical art. He had no message. He was interested in a flow of feeling, in connections, and the wisdom of the human heart.” (Buer, 1993) Jonathan Fox’s Playback Theatre is the current theatre form (which has now spread around the world) that comes closest to Moreno’s idea of spontaneous theatre: a dramatised newspaper for the people’s stories. (Fox, 1986; Salas, 1993) No one has a monopoly on good ideas. Roys’ Jagran and Boal’s Newspaper Theatre are related forms that empower their audiences to achieve personal and social change.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to the following for their help and advice: Zerka Moreno, psychodramatist, Beacon, New York; Tony Jackson, Drama Department, University of Manchester; Ron Weiner, sociodramatist, Leeds; Madeline Andersen-Warren, dramatherapist, Huddersfield; Anne Bannister, dramatherapist and psychodramatist, Cheshire; Margo Lee Sherman, actress, New York; Lee Sherman, dancer (member of the Federal Theatre Project), New York; Professor John Bell, puppeteer, New York; Anna Chesner, dramatherapist and psychodramatist, London; Christine Casson, archivist, Vienna;

20 Jonathan Fox, Playback Theatre creator and psychodramatist, New York. REFERENCES: Boal A., (1979) Theatre of the Oppressed, New York, Urizen Books Brady D.& McCormick J., (1978) People’s Theatre, London, Croom Helm. Brown L., (ed) (1989) Liberty Deferred and Other Living Newspapers of the 1930s, Fairfax, Virginia, George Mason University Press Buer F. (ed), (1993) Jahrbuch fur Psychodrama, Gesellschaftspolitik, Opladen, Germany, Leske + Budrich. psychosoziale Praxis &

Casson J., (1997) Treading the Boards: On Moreno’s Original Stage, article in the Bulletin of the British Psychodrama Association, February. Casson J., (1999 in press) Evreinoff and Moreno: Monodrama and Psychodrama, Parallel Developments or Hidden Influences? Bulletin of the British Psychodrama Association. Chambers C., (1989) The Story of Unity Theatre, London, Lawrence and Wishart. Cosgrove S., (1982) The Living Newspaper, History, Production and Form, unpublished dissertation, Hull University. Corti, P.& Casson, J., (1990) Dramatherapy into Psychodrama, article in the Journal of the British Psychodrama Association Vol 5, No 2, Winter. Drain, R., (1995) Twentieth Century Theatre - a sourcebook, London, Routledge. Flanagan, H., (1969) Arena, The Story of the Federal Theatre. Limelight Editions, New York. Foulkes S., 1983, Introduction to Group Analytic Psychotherapy, London, Marefield Reprints. Fox J., (1986) Acts of Service, Spontaneity, Commitment, Tradition in the Nonscripted Theatre. New Paltz, N.Y., Tusitala Publishing. Howarth P., (1987) Origins of Psychodrama, The Living Newspaper (Lebendige Zeitung), article in the Journal of the British Psychodrama Association, Vol 2, No 2, Spring. Jennings S., (1995) Dramatherapy with Children and Adolescents, London, Routledge. Leach R., (1994) Revolutionary Theatre, London, Routledge.


Newton, R., (1937), Acting Improvised,London, Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd. Marineau, R., (1989) Jacob Levy Moreno 1889 - 1974, Tavistock/Routledge, London. Moreno, J. L., (1925) Rede vor dem Richter, Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, Berlin. Moreno, J. L., (1983) The Theatre of Spontaneity, Beacon House Inc., Pennsylvania. Moreno, J. L., (1985) Psychodrama, First Volume, Beacon House Inc., Ambler P.A. Moreno Z, (1997) personal communication: letter following her reading of the first draft of this paper. Moreno Z. (1999) personal communication: letter following her reading of the second draft of this paper. Salas J., (1993) Improvising Real Life, Personal Stories in Playback Theatre, Dubuque, Iowa, Kendal/Hunt. Sayler, O. M., (1922) The Russian Theatre, New York, Brentano’s. Schutzman M. and Cohen-Cruz J., (1994) Playing Boal, London, Routledge. Slade P., (1975) An Introduction to Child Drama, London, Hodder and Stoughton, Unibooks. Stourac R., & McCreery K., (1986) Theatre as Weapon, Workers’ Theatre in the Soviet Union, Germany and Britain, 1917-1934. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Styan, J. L., (1996) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice, 3, Expressionism and Epic Theatre, Cambridge University Press. The Reel Truth, (1997) Channel 4 T.V. programme about the history of early cinema and propaganda, Large Door Productions Ltd, 2 Tunstall Road, London, SW9 8BN Weiner R., (1997) Personal Communication about living newspaper in Leeds. Yablonsky L., (1978) Psychodrama, Stuttgart, Kleet-Cotta.

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