Actor Clint Eastwood tried out the "empty chair" technique last night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., talking to an invisible Barack Obama.
Politics aside, the empty chair started out as a sociodramatic invention, when Dr. J.L. Moreno introduced it in 1921 in his famous theater presentation in Vienna, Austria, asking for a leader to take the "throne" that he placed on a stage. (No one stepped up.) In later years, Moreno's wife and collaborator Zerka Moreno expanded the technique for psychodramatic purposes, with the protagonist talking directly to a significant person during a dramatic enactment to bring new awareness to a problem.
(Read more here, as Jonathan Moreno, the son of the Morenos, elegantly discusses why psychodrama is so enlivening and valuable in today’s op-ed article in The New York Times titled What the Chair Could Have Told Clint.)
Through the decades, psychodrama has become increasingly valued as an action method that is highly useful in multitude of settings. Although it is most known for its presence in psychotherapy, it’s invaluable for education, business, organizational training, and theological explorations and is becoming especially popular with in the field of law, as Gerry Spence has successfully employed it in his Trial Lawyers College, teaching attorneys how to understand their clients more deeply and tell their stories more effectively.
As Wisconsin’s only nationally certified trainer in psychodrama, I don't think Clint would pass our practitioner's exam. He could have used a director to keep him on task and to encourage him to role reverse with the "other" in the chair. Role reversal -- feeling into the experience of the other -- creates empathy and understanding of the other's viewpoint.
...Something that politics definitely needs more of.