Bibliodrama uses the tools, methods and techniques (often called “interventions) of psychodrama and applies them to the reenactment of literature and biblical stories in small groups of participants. When used to examine the bible, bibliodrama is non-fundamentalist, and does not seek as its aim to proselytize or preach any specific religion or religious principle.
Instead, bibliodrama has as its aim the movement of an individual from simply reading to instead deeply experiencing the stories of the Bible, and to do so in a unique and different way. Thus, while bibliodrama does use psychodrama as a sort of root modality, it nevertheless is not personal, that is, it does not have as its purpose any sort of personally therapeutic goal.
Though similar things have existed, Bibliodrama when used to study the stories of the Bible, was effectively developed or invented by Dr. Peter Pizele. Peter has a Harvard PhD, and later also trained in psychodrama. Peter started to experiment with an early form Bibliodrama when, about 35 years ago, he was asked to stand-in and teach at a Rabbi training institute. This was a new experience for him, so he decided to be spontaneous and draw from his primary training in literature and psychodrama.
Soon after this experience he learned that what he was doing with the students as a form of biblical exploration was essentially a modern day expansion of the Jewish tradition of “midrash,” which is a form of biblical storytelling. The Hebrew root-word for “midrash” means to investigate. What Peter did was to compellingly apply the methods of psychodrama to the midrash investigation.
According to Peter, “the seeds of bibliodramatic enactment are to be found in a way of reading the Bible. You read the words on the page, and you read into the spaces between the words on the page.” To understand what he means by this, it is important to understand that in midrash, there is a way of looking at the Bible as having been composed of “black fire” and “white fire.”
The black fire is the words on the page, while the white fire is the spaces between the words. Bibliodrama respects the fact that the words are immutable. On the other hand, the white fire is a function of the reader’s interpretation, meaning it is influenced by the reader’s cultural context and personal history. It is the “white fire” that bibliodrama brings to life within the context of psychodrama.
In bibliodrama a variety of psychodrama interventions are utilized, such as the empty chair, role-reversal and doubling. Also, the intrapsychic lives of the bible characters can be explored, and various objects in the story, mentioned or not, can be personified. The only limit is the spontaneity and creativity of the group and the director!
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