By Shah Noor Hussein April 27, 2017

How is autobiographical material relevant to theatrical performance? How is autobiographical theater related to therapeutic methods? A new book by Renée Emunah, founder and director of CIIS' Drama Therapy program, reflects on these questions.

The Self in Performance: Autobiographical, Self-Revelatory, and Autoethnographic Forms of Therapeutic Theatre, published by Palgrave MacMillan and co-edited with Susana Pendzik and David Read Johnson, is one of the first of its kind to examine self-revelatory and autobiographical performance as a research, theatrical form, and therapeutic method.

The book explores issues such as the responsibility role of the director-drama therapist throughout the creative process, the role of the audience in such intimate productions, and the dramaturgy involved in constructing such performances. In its 18 chapters and essays, The Self in Performance addresses issues of "identity, memory, authenticity, self-reflection, self-indulgence, and embodied self-representation," through numerous disciplinary and theoretical lenses.

Readers have the opportunity to learn about the impact of reflective and biographical theater performance on the lives of the elderly, the experiences of couples, the journeys of clients in private practice, and the unheard stories of women in prison. The voices of scholars and professionals from across the globe come together in this compelling anthology.

Self-Revelatory Performance

One of Emunah's own chapters, "From Behind the Scenes to Facing an Audience in Self-Revelatory Performance," builds upon the author's extensive experience in the Drama Therapy field, including her initiation the form of drama therapy and theatre called Self-Revelatory Performance. Emunah is also the originator of a widely used approach to the practice of drama therapy called The Integrative Five Phase model of Drama Therapy.

In addition to her position as Program Chair at CIIS, Emunah is a Board Certified Trainer in Drama Therapy, holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology, and has combined theatre and therapy since her early undergraduate and graduate work. She is recognized as a pioneer in the field of Drama Therapy and an established leader in expanding the field's practices and perspectives.

In 1996, the North American Drama Therapy Association honored Emunah with the Gertrud Schattner Distinguished Award for her Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Drama Therapy, which represents the highest level of achievement in the field (requiring recipients to have excelled in four key areas: publication, education, practice and service). She has been a keynote speaker for the NADTA as well as at various conferences internationally.

Emunah's early clinical work was as a drama therapist with groups of adult psychiatric patients and with at-risk adolescents. Soon after, she started a theatre company with former psychiatric patients, for which she received a Commendation from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (for Innovative Work with Ex-Psychiatric Patients). Some of her publications in the field revolve around the ways theatre impacts the self-esteem of emotionally disturbed people, creative ways of working with and understanding adolescent resistance, and the relationship between drama therapy and psychodrama.

Acting for Real

Her book, Acting for Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance (Routledge, Taylor and Francis, 1994), is considered a classic and definitive text in the field of Drama Therapy, and is used in Drama Therapy training programs internationally (it has been translated into Chinese and Japanese). Additionally, she co-edited the second edition of the essential book, Current Approaches in Drama Therapy (Charles Thomas, 2009) with David Johnson, which has been translated into Korean.

The Self in Performance: Autobiographical, Self-Revelatory, and Autoethnographic Forms of Therapeutic Theatre, is available through Palgrave MacMillan press in both e-book and hardcover form.


Shah Noor Hussein is a CIIS Writing Fellow and CIIS Anthropology and Social Change student. 

The Self in Performance: Autobiographical, Self-Revelatory, and Autoethnographic Forms of Therapeutic Theatre. Edited by Susana Pendzik, Renee Emunah, and David Read Johnson (2016). Palgrave MacMillan: New York and London.

Drama Therapy, Faculty News, Psychology, Wellness

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