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Faculty Interview

CIIS Professor Celebrates Second Edition of Acting for Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance

Dr. Renée Emunah, Founder and Chair of the Drama Therapy program at CIIS, reflects on the second edition of her book, Acting for Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance

December 14, 2023

Editor’s note: The following article focuses on the latest edition of Dr. Renée Emunah’s book, Acting for Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance, published in 2020 by Routledge/Taylor and Francis, New York and London and follows the first edition which was originally published in 1994.

Dr. Renee Emunah

In her most recent edition to her book, Acting for Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance (2020, Routledge/Taylor), Dr. Renée Emunah, founder and Chair of CIIS’s Drama Therapy program, offers readers an exploration into the critical role that drama therapy can play into helping individuals and groups achieve healing, especially when they find themselves facing traumatic experiences in their lives. 

She described the latest edition, which was published during the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020, as a whole new book that goes well beyond the first edition.

“I was asked by the publisher to write a second edition. I agreed, but it did not “pour out” of me the way the first edition did; it was arduous and challenging work to return to a book that was already so comprehensive, and to consider how to change it,” Dr. Emunah explained.

“I ended up doing major altering, deleting, and adding – such that it really is a whole new book, or at least it is more substantially revised than most second editions.”

Dr. Emunah said the second edition contains brand new chapters; one substantial chapter is on drama therapy in relation to social justice. Another new chapter focuses on using dramatic and drama therapeutic methods outside of clinical settings and in the home as ways of “incorporating embodied action processes” to tackle some of the inevitable challenges and amplify some of the rewarding moments in parenting.

At the time her first edition was published, Dr. Emunah explained that there were no other books in the field that described the process of drama therapy in vivid detail nor about work over long periods of time.

“I felt a need – for myself and for the burgeoning field – to write a book that was comprehensive and engaging. The book soon became a classic in the field. Over the years since, numerous people told me it inspired them to enter the field.”

Dr. Emunah said the latest edition offers tools for action-oriented treatment, embodied therapeutic interventions, and creatively engaging a wide variety of clients, including over 120 techniques, categorized by phases in the session and treatment series, and subcategorized by therapeutic objective.

“Most of the first edition focused on group drama therapy; in the second edition I include individual drama therapy. The second edition also describes in much fuller and clearer detail the model I developed in the field – the Integrative Five Phase Model,” she said. “The model has undergone significant refinements since the first edition. I also elaborate in this new edition on a form which I initiated called Self-Revelatory Performance. This form of drama therapy and theatre has been used and developed within our CIIS Drama Therapy Program, as it is a capstone option for our graduating students."

Since the original publication in 1994, the book has been translated into Chinese, Japanese and, most recently, in Greek this past year.

“The first edition had several translations. The first was in Chinese. The translator, Adeline Chan, was a graduate of our CIIS Drama Therapy Program,” Dr. Emunah recalled.

“Adeline had come to the program from Hong Kong, and in the years after her graduation became one of the leaders in drama therapy in Hong Kong. She understood my work well and wanted to translate the book. The translated book was published in Taiwan. Then a Japanese drama therapist whom I did not yet know, Akeyo Onoe, wrote to me saying she was working on a Japanese translation. In more recent years, the book was translated into simplified Chinese. I think that translation came about because of my periodic intensive teaching in Beijing.”

Dr. Emunah said the Greek translation was especially gratifying for her since she had spent almost a year living in Greece as a young adult.

“As with most translations, the Greek translation was not anything I initiated. A translator informed me she was working on the translation of the second edition. The book was released in the past few months in Greece. I was touched by having the book translated into Greek as I have a particular love for Greece, largely based on living in Crete for nearly a year in my early adulthood.”

Dr. Emunah’s recent interview about the book at a remote event in Greece

Praise for the first and second editions has received universal acclaim from authors in drama therapy and psychotherapy fields.

“Renée Emunah’s clinical work inspires me to integrate drama into my own practice and teaching, for it clearly fosters vulnerability, authenticity, mindfulness, empathic connection, and the courage to change,” said Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Ph.D., professor, Stanford University School of Medicine and author of the book, Multicultural Encounters and From Mindfulness to Heartfulness. “This book also depicts the use of drama to promote well-being and inclusion outside of clinical arenas, including acting against injustice, thereby creating a healing force for community."

David Read Johnson, Ph.D., RDT, BCT, the co-director of the PTSD Center in New Haven, CT and Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, said readers will find the most recent edition even more valuable than the first.

Dr. Renée Emunah's book, Acting For Real: Drama Therapy Process, Technique, and Performance 2nd Edition

"This second of Acting for Real is a luminescent polishing of one of the field’s core texts,” he said. “Dr. Emunah’s many decades of experience as clinician and professor lend substance, intelligence, and humility. It’s rare that a second edition is so much more valuable than the first, but such is the case here!"

This past November, Dr. Emunah was interviewed as part of a virtual book launch in Greece during an event attended by several psychiatrists, psychotherapists, drama therapists, students of drama therapy, actors, artists, “theatrologists,” educators, and staff from mental health and social welfare organizations, and people from the general public with an interest in social change and healing.

Dr. Emunah said plans are in the works for an official in-person book launch in Greece in spring 2024.

“I received an invitation from the publisher and Greek educators to come to Athens in late April 2024 (to discuss the book) – they are interested in having me teach a master class for 100 or more people, followed by a two-day experiential workshop with approximately 40 people,” she said.

“I believe they would also like for me to conduct an advanced seminar with some of the leading Greek drama therapy educators and trainers. I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot too; after all, some of the earliest roots of drama are from ancient Greece and I think the sensibilities of many Greek drama therapists run deep.” 

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