Action Methods

Action Methods


Open Story 

Action Methods
The Open Story System

                                                     ACTION METHODS 

Action in Dramatic ArtsAction Methods are therapeutic, healing and wellness processes that involve dramatic action and the participation of a group in a confidential, secure and supportive atmosphere. The group includes a director, an audience, a protagonist who is chosen from the audience, and a stage where the action takes place under the supervision of the director. A standard 2-3 hour session consists of three parts: First, the warm-up to increase the group’s spontaneity and creativity. Then the action segment which features one or more protagonists acting out the "truth" of their life situation on stage. This differentiates action methods from improvisation and other forms of drama. Finally, there is a sharing in which the group, in support of the protagonist, shares their inner experience of the drama. Action methods can be applied to many different situations and issues. Psychodrama is usually therapeutic and is often used for individual issues of mental health, personality integration, and dependency recovery, but it can also be used for personal maturation and spiritual growth. Sociometry, sociodrama, bibliodrama and culture-drama explore and deal with collective social and cultural issues through action. Here the group itself is the protagonist. Action methods are good for therapy, but they are also good for facilitating wellness, maturity and spiritual growth in individuals or groups. For more on Psychodrama and Action Methods see the ASGPP website.

Action Methods
: group processes that involve dramatic action for exploring truth

a method that explores an individual’s truth through action

Sociometry: a method that measures social relations based on tele connection

a method that explores social truth through action

a method that explores cultural truth through action

Bibliodrama: a method that explores social truth through text-inspired action


Spirituality and Culture our approach to action methods is Dr. Donell Miller’s Open Story System. Action methods are inherent to this system. Each of us has our own individual story to tell through action, and each social or cultural group has its own particular story developed over the course of its history and encapsulated in its social and cultural themes.

The emotional expressiveness (affect) of our stories can be nicely grouped into five story categories: (1) anxious-fearful, (2) negative-depressed, (3) angry, (4) mobilized (or those midway between anger and positive-happiness stories), and (5) positive-happy stories.
 The leader or director of a psychodrama or any action method format may easily gauge and categorize a protagonist's affect as one of these five. The Open Story System then fine tunes these five categories to 24 story types or models.

All stories consist in a story line answering to who, what, which, when, where and how. These context questions offer the personal, social and cultural background. The "why", or the plot question is omitted. In daily life the plot is submerged in the living of it. It is hidden from reflectiveOpen Story System consciousness, even as "cultural themes" are hidden from the consciousness of a cultural group. Yet it coaxes and draws forth our 
personal narrative, the protagonist's "raw" or unanalyzed reality. When our life story goes awry or loses direction through anxiety, fear, depression or anger there is the need for redirection and re-connection. But for this to happen the plot must be brought to the surface, discovered by the protagonist him/herself. The psychodrama director midwifes this process.

Simple enactment of the full story using props and the persons present provides an adequate picture of the situation. By taking a closer look through action the protagonist picks up considerations he/she may have overlooked. Next he/she wants to go beyond what he/she has been doing to try something new. The group helps him/her to choose the way by playing out the likely process. This often means moving into the future where an alternative to the old way may prove to be more adaptive to the protagonist's reality. This process, which psychodramatists call "surplus reality," creates hope for a better life-story. 

Each of the 24 models offers roles, which facilitate translation into action, pressing us toward constructing a new identity or self. In the process we move from "who I am not" to "who I want to be", and from there, through anticipating the future, declaring for myself and others, "this is who I am (already)." 

Psychodrama is protagonist centered and the action is meant to meet his/her needs. But the audience also participates in the action as vicarious protagonists. As Aristotle pointed out long ago, catharsis is central to all good literature and drama. Although psychodrama is the most efficient and inclusive mode for employing the Open Story System, it can also be applied to individual and couples therapy, and it can be used for cultural repair and redirection in culture-drama. Furthermore, we don't have to wait until things go wrong in our story, the system serves us well for spiritual growth and personal development. In this case the story line details the successes, hopes and joys of the protagonist or the group as potential for further growth. Whether it is for therapy or for spiritual growth, the basic process is the same—discover the plot and change the story through action.