What Rules Y/Our World?

The XVIII Congress of the International Association for Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes (IAGP) was held in Cartagena, Columbia from July 16-21, 2012.  The theme “Between Worlds and Cultures: Social Transformation” recognized the dynamic interplay of many cultures in the social transformations of the 21stcentury. Cartagena de Indias, one of the oldest cities in the Western Hemisphere, is also known as the Heroic City and the Pearl of the Caribbean. The city is a symbol of diversity and multi-cultural influence.


The Red Well Theater Group was pleased to present a dramatic reading of God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton. An audience discussion followed. The cast included John Dluhy, Mary Dluhy, Rosemary Segalla and Rob Williams. Bob Schulte directed the reading.

Our introduction to the workshop quoted from an article in the current issue of GROUP, titled Philosophy of Life: J.L. Moreno’s Revolutionary Philosophical Underpinnings of Psychodrama and Group Therapy by Peter Howie:

“Moreno believed that spontaneity and creativity are the propelling forces in human progress… that love and mutual sharing are powerful, indispensible working principles in group life.  It is imperative to have faith in our fellow man’s intentions, a faith that transcends mere obedience arising from physical and legalistic coercion… and that a super-dynamic community based upon these two principles can be brought to realization through mutual encounter and engagement.”
Moreno’s ideals are put to the test in God of Carnage, a dark comedy about two families struggling to balance self-interest with concern-for-the-other.  The play dramatizes a meeting between two couples that have come together to address an act of violence that has occurred between their eleven-year-old sons.  From a geopolitical perspective, the play might also be viewed as a parable about nations responding to an act of “armed” aggression with a diplomatic overture in hopes of a peaceful resolution.

Our workshop was presented just hours after the Aurora, Colorado shootings had occurred back in America.  Scores were also killed and wounded on the streets of Damascus, Syria that day. These shocking headlines gave painful immediacy to the intersubjective question, “What rules y/our world?”

The audience was appreciative of the actors’ passionate portrayals of the characters and the discussion was engaging and insightful.  The dramatic tension between retaliatory aggression and empathy as alternative pathways to conflict resolution emerged quickly as a central theme.  The difficulty of being understood and recognized when the atmosphere is one of mistrust and fear was thoughtfully explored as relevant to both our clinical work and broader efforts of reconciliation and community building around the world.
Upon returning home, we all took a moment to reflect on our experiences in Cartagena.
Something Old, Something New…
 “My trip to Cartagena started with me feeling anxious anticipation. Upon arrival, and beginning with a wild taxi ride to the hotel, this quickly turned into curiosity and pleasure. The old of Cartagena is magnificently represented by a walled city dating back to the sixteen hundreds.  The new is represented by an enormous development of high rises on the beach, much like Florida. I felt drawn into the past by the old city and pushed into the future by the rapidly evolving new city. I imagine the slaves building the great wall and I imagine the newly rich inhabiting the sparkling highrises. Meeting up with fellow group therapists, particularly colleagues from AGPA, was delightful. Being with Macario Giraldo in his native land was a special joy. The play was well received and I was rewarded with many compliments, especially about my capacity to accurately portray Annette’s vomiting. This was definitely a new acting challenge for me!

The Actor Prepares…

 “The first and second time I read the part of Michael Novak, (at previous conferences this year) I felt dysphoric at the curtain.  In Cartagena I spent more leisure time with the cast in what I call informal rehearsal, with me staying “in character” throughout.  The week of touring, the heat and the humidity, combined with meeting old friends—and at least one old enemy—all led the way to a deeper and more complex performance experience …I see this immersion experience as a new way of preparing for future performances.  I was glad to have spent the week in this foreign land in such an intimate way with my other cast members.  It was a singular adventure.”
Too Much Reality

 “In the week leading up to the performance, I was enjoying the life that my character, Alan, a high powered international attorney might have led. I spent the week on vacation at an exotic Caribbean location, learning to scuba dive.  I was rested, relaxed, and ready to go. However, my own God of Carnage intervened with a severe case of traveler’s diarrhea or perhaps food poisoning. While Rosemary was acting like she was vomiting, I was doing the real thing in my hotel room….a little too much reality. I am happy to have fully recovered, but have a real sense of loss in missing the workshop and not being there with my fellow actors. I look forward to the next workshop, when I can step into the role of Alan and bring him alive again.”


Hamsters Unite…

“When Rob got sick and I had to fill in at the last minute as lawyer Alan, I was filled with a curious mix of dread and excitement.  My experience helped me better understand a subplot of the play, one that concerns a pet hamster that is let out of its cage, abandoned curbside to fend for him self. Not quite sure if the hamster will be able navigate this unexpected, newfound freedom, the characters speculate wildly on the fate of the never-likely-to-be-heard-from-again hamster.  I could identify! Let out of my directors’ cage, I quickly joined with the other hamsters (actors, are after all, hams at heart!) and soon I felt the comfort and protection of our natural habitat, the stage. We ham-sters lived the truism, ‘the show must go on’, and I feel the wiser for it… I was relieved when Rob recovered quickly and I will be glad to see him back on the stage for the next performance of God of Carnage.”

Poetry in Emotion…

The heat and beauty of Cartagena …
Heat in our performance
Heat in the global issues
Heat on the beach and on the pavement
Beauty in the vibrant colors
Beauty in the people
Beauty in the music
And beauty and heat in the walled old city
Loved being in and with the heat and beauty of our group
Our next performance of God of Carnage will be Thursday morning, October 18, 2012 at the 35th Annual International Conference on the Psychology of the Self in Washington, D.C.  The conference theme, ‘Is Self an Illusion’ will be an interesting new vantage point from which to consider the characters and action of the play.  We hope you’ll consider joining us there.  To learn more about the conference, go to www.iapsp.org.
Rob, John, Mary, Rosemary and Bob