THE BLOG
12/03/2014 03:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Beyond Therapy?

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In a recent Times piece "Therapist and Patient Share a Theater of Hurt," (NYT, 11/5/14), Robert J. Landy, director of N.Y.U.'s drama therapy program makes the following statement,

"With certain forms of mental illness that do not respond to conventional treatment, we need a more radical approach, which therapeutic theater can provide."

That approach apparently can involve turning therapy sessions into dramatic works that sound like they could even make money. The article describes rehearsals for Borderline, a musical based on the interaction between a therapist named Cecilia Dintino and her patient, Jill Powell, an actress who appeared in As the World Turns and on Broadway in Grand Hotel, and Damn Yankees, but but whose career had become sidelined by mental illness. One, of course, can only have sympathy for the suffering Ms. Powell has endured. Acting is no cakewalk and she wouldn't be the first actor to exploit their own difficulties in the service of art. The method acting technique employed by the The Actor's Studio is based on using inner emotions and conflicts to create a character. But it's one thing to reach inside one's autobiography and another to titrate actual therapy into theater. If this were to become a trend it would also raise some humorous possibilities. For instance, Freudian analysis is notoriously long, longer even than the legendary long rehearsals Wally Shawn and Andre Gregory have undertaken for their productions of Vanya on 42nd Street and most recently A Master Builder. With all the years it takes and all the silence in which the analyst says nothing, patients in Freudian analysis might contemplate the idea of producing a musical called When Will This End? Perhaps if it were successful such a musical would amortize the cost of this notoriously expensive form of treatment. Cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal therapy would be just a few of the other therapies represented with Greenwich Village, Park Avenue and Upper West Side offices being turned into the equivalent of 42nd Street's theater row. No need to enroll at Juilliard or Yale, just tell it like it is. Maybe this was what Chris Durang was thinking about when he wrote Beyond Therapy?

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}