Drama Therapy is Helping Actors Reach Their Potential, According to Eric Morris
Eric Morris believes in taking a therapeutic approach to acting in order to reach your full potential.
“In order to be free to act from a real and organic place, the actor must first eliminate all of the obstacles, inhibitions, fears, and blocks that he has, so that he can impulsively express his uninhibited emotions,” writes Morris in his book A Second Chance at Life.
Many obstacles we face over the course of our lives are related to traumatic experiences. Thus, in considering what needs to be overcome, an actor has to be able to face past trauma head-on, intent on eliminating its residual effects.
He continues, “Because most people have been damaged growing up in our society, eliminating that damage is a journey onto itself. I believe that there is no separation between living and acting and that actors who are blocked by the damage are only able to impose the emotions that then do not come from a real place. That issue is what impelled me to create a system of work that addressed the actor’s problems instrumentally.”
Morris has spent over fifty years creating and working with techniques and exercises that have helped actors to liberate themselves from whatever has kept them from being able to their emotions freely without self-condemnation. Morris’ techniques somewhat mirror drama therapy, in which a licensed therapist will set up a hypothetical scenario based on a participant’s real-life experiences and allow them to enact a scene to heal from this scenario. There is a protagonist and antagonist identified to help facilitate this process. Onlookers (not unlike audience members) can review the scene and add their input to help the protagonist overcome the obstacle.
Morris started his work after holding a year-long intensive workshop in which he started using similar techniques and listening to one of the actors recall a tough relationship with this father, addressing an imaginary antagonist much like in drama therapy.
He recalls, “When he finished the imaginary monologue, we all sat quietly, having been affected by the story. I sat there for some time trying to digest everything that he had shared with us, and then I said, ‘Jason, why don’t we try something: Tell us that same story about what happened in the garage, only this time change all of the elements. Make what he said and how he related to you very positive and nurturing, and totally change the outcome of the experience.”
The technique worked for Jason, and the rest is history. Morris has since been able to help many actors since with his revolutionary approach.