Clint Eastwood, the empty chair and psychodrama

What's all the fuss about Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair at the GOP convention? It's a legitimate technique. He just didn't do it very well.

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.

His improvisational drama was self directed -- we call in psychodrama call that a monodrama -- and everyone from The Huffington Post to The Washington Post has been talking about it this morning.

Rachel Maddow called it weird, and a few others thought it was a joke. Obama got into the act by Tweeting a picture of himself, sitting in his presidential chair, saying, "This seat's taken."

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Karen Carnabucci September 01, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Here's another link of interest: http://blatner.com/adam/blog/?p=674
YAMATO September 01, 2012 at 01:51 PM
who cares what pysches say, he got his point across. Only an idiot wouldnt understand and thats the Demonrat party
Ben Smith September 01, 2012 at 10:04 PM
... or you might be the idiot, John, because some of us are concerned not with partisan cheap shots, but artistic quality. Sadly, Eastwood failed in his attempt. Thank you for the article, Ms. Carnabucci.
Ben Smith September 04, 2012 at 03:22 PM
You're certainly entitled to your reaction. However, even though Eastwood's performance drew cheap laughs from some observers, I don't think that it constituted quality work (for some of the reasons articulated by Ms. Carnabucci). An eighteen-year old could have performed this shtick and an icon such as Eastwood should have left this type of shenanigan to people like Charlie Sheen.


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