Webpage Supplement to Chapter 2:


Linda Condon, Bjorn Krondorfer, and others

December 14, 2006

1. More on Warming-up (p4):

When first gathering it is important for group members to spend time exploring the unknown connections that exist. This will help them be willing to risk moving forward together in a deeper way. Therefore, the first layer of warm-up has to do with providing or generating generic information that assists group members relax and feel more comfortable or welcome such as, learning each other’s name, job, church affiliation, reason for coming, expectations or hopes and other simple information that invites safe connection. If the group is relatively small and almost everyone has met before, this layer will be very thin and won’t require more than minimal attention. However, if the group is larger, or coming together for the first time, it is essential to spend some time on ‘peeling back’ this layer a bit before moving on. If you choose not to do so, it may make it more difficult to engage the group in the next layer of warm-up.

One way to creatively explore this first layer when working with groups of less than 100 people is the use of spectrograms. A spectrogram is an action technique that can be used to give a group information about its dynamics and invisible connections. It is a form of action sociometry that is used to show how a group measures on specific criteria. Group members are asked to place themselves physically on an invisible line, which extends from a high end (the maximum degree of something) to a low end (the least degree of something). Some criteria that are particularly helpful with Bibliodrama groups might be:

 -How many years have you been a member of this church/synagogue/community?

 -How familiar do you consider yourself with the Bible/New/Old Testament?

 -How many years have you been teaching religious education/scripture?

Exploring these types of questions can provide valuable information about some of the dynamics that may be present in the group. For example, how much knowledge group members perceive themselves as having in Scripture and/or one another will affect how the director moves forward next. Other possible dynamics may include: how cohesive or diverse the group is, how many extroverts/introverts may be present, or how concrete/literal some of the group member’s thinking might be. Attention to this layer, lays an invisible safety net, making it easier for people to step into action later since they are already physically up and moving around the room with each other.

If the group is larger than 100 people or space is limited, it is still possible to warm people up by doing a modified version of the spectrogram. They can be instructed to simply stand up if they meet certain criterion such as:

 -Stand if you have been a member of this community for more than 5 years…

 -Stand if you drove more than 5 miles to get here…

 -Stand if you teach religious education to children/teenagers/adults

 -Stand if you think you are fairly familiar with the Bible or have attended a Bible study

group before

Group members can also be invited to offer their own criteria. By doing so, the director is beginning to warm the group up to their own spontaneity, which will also be useful as the group proceeds.

Sue Barnum, an experienced bibliodrama director from Texas, frequently directs retreats for ecumenical groups. One of her favorite warm-ups is to place a variety of different wisdom texts on a table, such as: the Hebrew Bible, a Christian Bible which includes both New and Old Testaments, a Bhagavad Gita (a major Hindu text), the Koran, a book of Zen tales, a book of Sufi tales, etc. She then directs the group to move around the table in silence and find the text with which he/she has the strongest relationship whether it be a positive or a negative one. Each person is then given a chance to step into the role of the text and make a statement about it’s relationship to the person who chose it. This warm-up provides the group and director with valuable information about each other and also can lead to very deep personal insights in the bibliodrama that comes next.

Another option is if group members are more comfortable with one another and seem to be talking freely with each other during the earlier warm-up. After the guided imagery mentioned above, they could be invited to a “Bible Character Convention.” The director has them wander around the room and meet the other Bible characters that have come to this convention. They are instructed to speak only from the role of the character they have chosen (this sometimes requires modeling) and they are encouraged to ask one another questions. It is enormous fun and usually generates a great deal of creative energy as the most amazing interactions occur, such as: Moses meeting Jesus, Mary Magdalene meeting Eve, a nail from the crucifixion talking to water turned into wine, or any number of curious encounters. After a short time, each character is then instructed to think of one thing he/she really wants the rest of the group to know about him/her and takes a turn speaking his/her truth. Benefits of this method include a rapid increase in the group’s creativity and spontaneity and an easy movement to the next layer of warm-up.

 2. Techniques:

Echoing: “In echoing the director actually goes into role with the role-player. I think of this move as siding with the participant for a moment. And two, in echoing the director extends and deepens the role player’s response. The art of echoing has to do with how well the director is able to match the voicing of the participant, then give it an inflection of feeling that takes the player’s expression to another level. But it is important that the director do this without taking the role away from the player but rather that he give it back heightened and clarified. You want the role-player to feel that you really get what s/he is saying, but not that you could have done it better and that h/she is unnecessary.”(Pitzele, 1998: 44)

Illustrating Doubling:

A bibliodramatist from Seattle, Washington, Cynthia Gayle, was doing an enactment from the story of Noah at the time when God was introducing the rainbow as representing the covenant between God and humanity. One of the characters in the scene (Noah’s son) said, “What is this covenant business anyway? What do you mean you are going to be there? I don’t believe you!” Here is another important opportunity to call for a role reversal. Whenever God is concretized in a scene, it provides a chance for the group’s spiritual questions and issues to surface and frequently anger to be expressed. It can be very valuable to allow the enactors the opportunity to role reverse with God and search their own heart for a response. As they respond, other audience members may wish to double for God as they express their own truth.

More on Story Selection:

Allowing group members to choose which story they’ll enact involves a “sociometric” technique derived from psychodrama. After a generic warm-up like the guided imagery exercise mentioned above or the Bible Character Convention, the selection is made this way: After each person says one thing they want the rest of the group to know from the role they have chosen, the group then determines which character and/or story it wants to examine in greater detail. Sometimes there is a connection between the characters which are chosen even though they may be in different stories. For example, one time half the group wanted to dialogue with Lucifer and the other half of the group wanted to talk to Eve. So, the group ended up doing a scene from the Garden of Eden that included a dialogue between the devil and Eve. Another time, the group was torn equally between three different women: Mary, Sarah, and Jochebed (Moses’ mother). So, there was a very powerful meeting of these three women who talked about their struggles with the role of ‘mother’.

A benefit of this method of choosing the story is that it ensures the group’s interest and energy to support the enactment and it increases their connection to whatever issues might arise during it. However, a drawback is that it requires extra time to go through the selection process. At times, another drawback can be that individuals, who don’t have much familiarity with the Bible might have difficulty assessing a story or character. It’s very rare, though; that a person doesn’t have a bare minimum of Bible literacy (i.e., Noah’s ark, the creation story, Jesus’ birth or death) they just need to be reminded of what they know through osmosis. If using this method it is very helpful if the director has a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, lots of spontaneity and creativity to move wherever the group may choose to go, and a great trust in the process of sociometric choice.

Illustrating sculpting:

Probably one of the easiest and most potent ways to enact a scene is through the use of “sculpting”. After reading a story, group members can be asked to come forward and take the role of a person who they imagine might be present in some way in the scene. They are encouraged to imagine unmentioned people and objects that may have observations or interactions with the main characters. As each character comes forward one at a time, the director asks who they are and tells them to silently take a posture somewhere in the scene.

However, once the characters have assumed positions in a “still sculpture”, the director has the option of bringing it to life by interviewing some of the roles or asking a character to do a brief soliloquy. Sometimes encounters between the characters will spontaneously emerge without direction, or at other times the characters can be asked if they have something they’d like to say to someone in the scene. While the interaction in the scene will usually only involve a few characters, before the scene is over it’s valuable to ask each character in the scene one last thing they’d like to say from their role so that even those who have been silently listening and watching have a sense of closure and a chance to express their truth.

One time a group that Amy Clarkson facilitated did a silent sculpture of the moment Jochebed (Moses’ mother) brought the baby Moses in a basket to the river. Some of the roles which surfaced were: an Egyptian passer-by who happened to also be at the river; the river reeds who were observing the moment; the River Nile which the group came to realize played an enormous role in the story; the basket into which Moses was placed; Aaron (Moses’ brother); Miriam (his sister) and Moses’ father. The group surfaced a whole new dimension and depth to this familiar story. Sometimes just silently taking a physical position in a scenario provides a rich experience without ever adding dialogue.


More on Closing Ritual:

Having each participant imagine a character from the enacted story who then offers a blessing or word of advice can be a powerful closure exercise, providing group members with an opportunity to thank a specific character in the story for some new insight or direction is another possibility. Using ritual to invite some type of spiritual response to the story is another meaningful closure activity. This is particularly useful if the bibliodrama has been chosen as part of a retreat or spiritual growth day. For example, after a session on “The Sower and the Seed”, group members might be asked to imagine the seed within the soil of their being and then invited to make a commitment to nurture the seed in whatever way it needs care (watering it, removing weeds, fertilizing it, etc.). As a sign of this commitment group members can choose to take a “seed” from a bowl while they listen to “The Rose” sung by Bette Middler. The seed then serves as a type of reminder of their commitment. Any type of action that helps group members feel connected to one another and share that connection can be a valuable closure. Having them say a blessing over one another or exchange a sign of peace can accomplish this.

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At http://www.bibliodrama.com/ Peter Pitzele has a rich site with a number of writings: Bibliodrama: Socrates meets Stanislawski: A blend of scholarship and art, philosophy and drama: Combining a close reading of biblical texts with searching, imaginative questions, Bibliodrama offers people of all ages and levels of knowledge an opportunity to experience of a method of creative study that, in the past twenty five years, has changed the way we read the Bible.

Under “Essays and Stories” Pitzele writes a good introductory essay: Bibliodrama: A Call to the Future, that complements Linda Condon’s chapter: http://www.bibliodrama.com/bibpurpose.htm

Rabbi Jack Moline writes “A Bibliodramatic Seder” http://www.bibliodrama.com/seder.htm with some interesting interpretations. (I—Adam Blatner—was reminded on reading this of another interpretation that I encountered some years back, that the Seder could also be a mythic contemplation of the ways we all retain some elements of a slave mentality and continue to need liberation, to contemplate on ways of becoming more free, and the increased responsibility that entails. Much of my personal self-analysis has involved activities to identify and break free from residues of old programming—which is a mild kind of enslavement.)

Susan Ticker wrote another paper that explores the theme of Bibliodrama especially from the viewpoint of education: “The Drama of Tanach: Up Close and Personal.” http://www.bibliodrama.com/closeup.htm

Alex Sinclair, Ph.D., wrote a paper on Bibliodrama in the Journal of Jewish Education, accessible at: http://www.bibliodrama.com/BibliodramaandHermeneutics1.pdf The example explores the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac, Isaac’s mother Sarah’s unspoken feelings, and so forth.

Yoram Kanzler in Israel writes a small paper on Bibliodrama in Israel, the first several lines being in Hebrew, but further down the substance is in English. http://www.bibliodrama.com/bdisrael.htm

Bibliodrama in Europe also integrates Pitzele’s approach with some other approaches that have been explored for some time. A paper titled “Bibliolog,” written by Frank Muchlinsky, explores this overlap with Christian bibliodrama, which has been around for decades, coming from separate sources. http://www.bibliodrama.com/bibliolog1.htm

I encourage you to link to and explore this and related websites.

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Other Approaches to Bibliodrama (by B. Krondorfer)

Others have also been doing psychodrama. In fact, according to Professor Bjorn H. Krondorfer of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, <bhkrondorfer@smcm.edu>, bibliodrama has been used since the 1970s in Europe. It was a grassroots movement, apparently, originating in many centers. One notable pioneer, though, was Prof. Marcel Martin, a theologian at Marburg University in Germany, but there were also many others. The general consensus is that there is not a single origin for bibliodrama, but rather it was just a movement by many different people experimenting with different creative approaches to bible study and bible drama in the 1970s, out of which Bibliodrama eventually emerges. An early PhD thesis on bibliodrama (Jurgen Bobrowski, title:  Bibliodramapraxis: Biblische Symbole Im Spiel Erfahren, 1991) claims that the first published collections of materials on Bibliodrama appeared in Germany in 1979, but this dissertation situates bibliodrama still very much within the pedagogical realm and educational theories of play. It was done mainly in Protestant circles at first, then moved to Catholic and Jewish communities as well. Sam Laeuchli has experimented also with this form applied to various mythological stories. The movement is huge in Europe, especially in Germany and the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Finland, Denmark), and there are over 20 books in German language alone, plus many dozens of articles. Dr. Krondorfer’s 1992 book, Body and Bible, was one of the first to describe Bibliodrama done in the United States (of America).

Some bibliodrama leaders use psychodramatic methods (but certainly not all). In the 1980s and since, bibliodrama has moved from the avant-garde margins to the mainstream, and is presently practiced on a parish, local, regional, national and international level. To put numbers to the movement would be extremely difficult, but my guess is that many thousands of people have been exposed to it (which is not to say that all liked it or are "practicing" it on a regular basis).

I have done some workshops with Peter Pitzele, and facilitated his first German visit to a bibliodrama conference. He is now fairly regularly in Germany. All bibliodrama is improvisational, not scripted like a theatre play would be. The difference in style is rather how directional and interventionist a particular bibliodrama leader is. In actuality, Peter Pitzele's approach (at least, the one I got to know) is more directional and in this sense scripted than most others.

The format is very dependent on the facilitator/leader of a given bibliodrama, but usually, it gives a lot of space for improvisation for the participants. Some are based on dialogues, others on Gestalt and movement, including dance, other follow a more therapeutic format, still others work with masks and visual material, one even works with puppets. Still others have expanded it to work with children. Key is to make the biblical text come alive-within the people experiencing it while, at the same time, not doing violence to the exegesis of a text. Bibliodrama, as I have put it often, comes a live in the triangular relationship of text, the playing self/I and the dynamics of a group. How the "playing" is conducted is where the approaches differ.

The above links to my webpage also contain some more information, including some of the major works in Germany on Bibliodrama. The best link to get more detailed information about the bibliodrama in Germany is on this site "Gesellschaft fuer Bibliodrama."

The Gesellschaft fuer Bibliodrama published TEXTRAUM, a magazine/newsletter 2-3 times a year. They list most of the bibliodrama workshops that take place in Germany. I will take a look at make an estimate. Also, remember, there are not just workshops but a number of training programs that meet, and certificate programs (some of which are 2-3 years in duration) and continuing education or advanced training programs, etc.


There are articles and books in Finish and Swedish and Danish, but I do not have them or have followed their translation since I don't know the languages. I believe also that there is some material in Hungary and in Netherlands, Austria and possibly in Italy. As to the origins, I can consult some of my German books and see how differently they describe it.

Walter Wink (union theological seminary) had written some early articles on creative and dramatic bible work (interactive bible work), and is sometimes credited of having had some influence on the European scene, and so did Samuel Laeuchli when he was still in the States (but your are right, his seminal publications in this area are all in German). Gerhard Marcel Martin, Sachbuch Bibliodrama: Praxis Und Theorie, 1995) traces the beginnings of bibliodrama to the theatrical experimentation in the 1960s, like Jerzy Grotowski's theatre, holy/sacred theatre, and inspirations by Peter Brook (The Empty Space) and Richard Schechner. Most books on bibliodrama no longer feel the need to find the beginnings of it but rather speak of the methodological variety of bibliodrama. Certainly, as I mentioned before, classical psychodrama had used biblical texts for its work, but this does remain distinct from how bibliodrama understands itself today. For an early example, see Alvin Bobroff, "Biblical Psychodrama" in: Group Psychotherapy 15 (1962).

What is missing--and I have been thinking about it for years--to write a book for an American audience, a blend of what Bibliodrama is and stands for (including some historical and hermeneutical and play theory issues) and then some practical advice of how to work with this method. Alas, so far, my schedule and other pressing interests have prevented me from doing so.

Bibliodrama is mostly not done during services on Sunday–or rarely, to my knowledge. More often it is a method used at retreats where people voluntarily sign up for it. One should never do bibliodrama with people unwilling to do it. In that sense, it shares this idea with any kind of therapy, since bibliodrama has therapeutic moments, hence the recent insistence of many people in Europe that bibliodrama leaders need to be trained. Bibliodramas can be as short as 2 hours (mostly as introductory sessions) but most people would not start unless they have a minimum of half a day. Many bibliodramas run for a weekend or extended weekend, some for 4-6 days (just on one particular passage). The text is usually chose by the bibliodrama leader or the facilitating team, and usually announced in advance when particular workshops are advertised. G. Marcel Martin define bibliodrama as a group for 12-18 people, but some have experimented with large groups (especially Peter Pitzele, but he is about the only one); it should not go below 5 or 6 participants, since the method is based on interaction between the people and the text.

Participants are helped to imagine alternative viewpoints, their own questions and hunches about what else might have been going on, innovative interpretations, making these bibliodramas more relevant to their own lives. This is at the heart of bibliodrama: to embellish the background of the biblical texts, which are so strong in foreground, and hence allow us to imagine the motivations of characters and the motives of plots.

For example: Often a specific gesture mentioned in the text will be embodied--but, as we know, as "kiss" is not just a kiss. When the gospel text speaks of Judas kissing Jesus during his arrest, how do we imagine the kiss? The text does not tell us, yet, when we are asked to spontaneously improvise/play with this scene, some (as Judas) might kiss another person impersonating Jesus on the cheeks, forehead, feet, hands, neck or mouth. Each of these embodied gestures carries a very different meaning, and leads to a deepening and opening of the texts themselves.

Alternatives are encouraged to be imagined and performed. People marginal to the text or absent in a story can be embodied and "fleshed" out; you can give objects or animals a voice; create "living sculptures," do doubling and amplification (as in psychodrama) and so on and so forth. Jewishly speaking, it is a kind of living, contemporary Midrash.

Further References:

Peter Pitzele’s rich website:www.bibliodrama.com


Pitzele, P. (1997) Bibliodrama: A Prophetical Advertisement. The Reconstructionist: A Journal of Contemporary Jewish Thought & Practice. www.rrc.edu/jurnal/recon62_1/bibliodrama.htm

 An excerpt from Scripture Windows which was published for this journal.

Pitzele, P. (2000) A Sample of Bibliodrama. Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning.  www.stthomas.edu/jpc/samplebibliodrama.htm

 A transcript of a bibliodrama session directed by Peter Pitzele at Memorial Lutheran Church is based on the story of Nicodemus.

Catholic Biblical Federation. (2003) Bibliodrama: bringing the Bible into play. Bulletin Deiverbum, Volume 66/67. Stuttgart, Germany.

This issue of the journal is dedicated to exploring the use of bibliodrama and provides several articles on the topic written by a variety of European bibliodramatists. An English copy of it may be purchased for $5.00 and $1.50 postage from: Bulletin Deiverbum, General Secretariat, Postfach 105222, 70045 Stuttgart, Germany.Catholic Bible Federation website: www.c-b-f.org

Frick, Eckhard "Psychodrama and the spiritual exercises", The Way, 42/3 (July 2003), Turpin Distribution Service: Hertfordshire, England, 151-160. An interesting adaptation of bibliodrama to the practice of the Ignatian spiritual exercises.

Prof. Krondorfer on his website presents a list of other books on bibliodrama, mostly in German: http://www.smcm.edu/users/bhkrondorfer/biblio.htm

Miller, D. (1997) Doers of the word: how stories come to life through bibliodrama. Redlands, CA: Beacon Reminders, 1997. Introduction to doing bibliodrama which includes several transcripts of bibliodrama sessions directed by the author.

Miller, D. (2000) The parables of Jesus: a creative resource for bibliodrama. Redlands, CA: Beacon Reminders, 2000.

Discusses the use of Jesus’ teaching through parables in the New Testament and provides transcripts of bibliodramatic sessions using these parables as a focus.

Miller, D. (2001) The parable sampler. Redlands, CA: Beacon Reminders, 2001.

A booklet which provides samples of bibliodrama sessions which focus on Jesus’ parables.

Further references on using psychodramatic methods in addressing religious issues (From Adam Blatner’s “Acting-In: Practical Applications of Psychodramatic Methods, 1st & 3rd ed.):

Bobroff, Alvin. (1955). Religious psychodrama. Group Psychotherapy, 8 (3-4), 347-350.

Carvalho, E. S. (1986). Christian reconciliation: A psychodramatic contribution. Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 5(1), 5-10.   Several excellent examples of the use of bibliodrama in a group format exploring relationship with God and reconciliation.

Chase, Philip & Farnham, Beverly. (1965). A report on religious psychodrama. Group Psychotherapy, 18 (3), 177.

Clayton, G. M. (1971). Sociodrama in a church group. Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama, 24 (3-4), 97-100.

Hittson, Helen. (1970). Psychodrama in a church counseling program. Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama, 23 (1-2), 113-117.

Johnson, P. E. (1959). Interpersonal psychology of religion: Moreno and Buber. Group Psychotherapy, 12, 211-217.

Kraus, C. (1984). Psychodrama for fallen gods: A review of Morenean theology. Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry, 37(2), 47-64.

Moreno, J. L. (1948). Experimental theology. Sociatry, 2(1-2), 93-98.

Nolte, J., Smallwood, C., & Weistart, J. (1975). Role reversal with God. Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama, 28, 70-76.

Pitzele, P. (1995). Our fathers' wells: A personal encounter with the myth of Genesis. San Francisco: HarperCollins.

Pitzele, P. (1996). Scripture windows: Theory and practice of Biblical psychodrama. Los Angeles Torah Aura Productions.

Zacher, A. N. (1961). The use of psychodrama in pastoral therapy. Group Psychotherapy, 14 (1-2), 164-168.