“Art Therapy” may seem at first glance to be an oxymoron, following the modern ethos of “art for art’s sake,” ie. that art is not a means to an end but exists independent of any topic on which it might touch. Historically, however, this is not the only view of art, in particular the theater arts, which likely began in religious ritual as a way of mediating a connection with the divine. “Therapy” has its roots in Ancient Greece (therapeia means “healing”), where the great tragedies aimed to heal the maladjusted through emotional catharsis.
As career artists and arts educators, we know that it can be incredibly irksome to incessantly be required to justify art’s efficacy as a life-enhancing balm. Art is a way in. It circumvents our habitual ways of being-in-the-world. It comforts the afflicted, enriches community, connects the lonely, assails the wicked and restoreth the soul. Where would our designer, Bonnie, be had she not, as a teenager, been tasked with choreographing the high school musicals? Where would “we” (which is to say your editor) be, had his public speaking teacher not marched him down to the auditorium to audition for the junior class play? One shudders to think.
This issue is packed with articles attesting to the power of art (in this case the art of puppetry) to heal those in need of healing, whether from personal trauma [Kaliana, page 8], or massive natural disasters [Mullen, page 4], the criminal justice system [Telnova, page 12] or serious childhood illnesses [Slonimskaya et al., page 30]. Some conditions cannot be healed; Riku Laakkonen has been creating bedside performances with hospice patients [page 38] while Konstantin Mekhryakov has created a theater troupe of children with a range of mental, developmental and physical special needs whose performances help reduce the sense of “otherness” that so often dogs them [page 35]. Along the same lines, Richard Bouchard is the co-founder of ENAM, a training school in Quebec for adults with special needs. ENAM uses puppetry as a way of helping them overcome many of the problems that have made their lives so challenging: unemployment, depression, addiction [page 20]. Joanne Ousseren’s theater is using shadow puppetry as a way of keeping senior citizens engaged with life and with each other [page 24]. Art can be made for art’s sake alone, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be life- enhancing, helping to make individuals whole, and society a more inclusive, welcoming community.
We also have a number of reviews: Claudia Orenstein reports on Korat, a recent international youth puppetry festival in Thailand. Jieun Lee reviews Hamlet Cantabile, a most interesting Korean take on the Bard’s blockbuster, and Jungmin Song, John Bell and Bradford Clark review some intriguing new books.
-Andrew C. Periale