Eduardo Vianna, developmental educator, profiled in NY Times


21COMMUNITY1-articleLargeVygotskian educator Eduardo Vianna is profiled today in The New York Times for his empathic, effective work as a college instructor at LaGuardia Community College.  You can read reporter Ginia Bellafante’s Raising Ambitions, The Challenge of Teaching at Community Colleges HERE.

The profile captures Dr. Vianna’s developmental focus in the classroom which includes engaging his adult students’ oftentimes wary relationship to the educational system.

Dr. Vianna trained as a medical doctor in his home country of Brazil and practiced as a child psychiatrist in Rio de Janeiro. After coming to NYC, he pursued his doctoral studies in developmental psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he received his Ph.D. in 2006. During these years he also studied  “Newman and Holzman’s Vygotsky,” social therapeutics and the work of the Institute.

A researcher as well as gifted educator, he was the recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Early Career Award given by the Cultural-Historical Research SIG in 2010.

Congratulations to our friend, Eduardo Vianna!


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‘Performing the World 2014’ investigates: How shall we become?


More than 400 participants from 34 countries attended Performing the World 2014 (PTW) at the All Stars Project’s national headquarters in New York City. The biennial autumn conference, co-sponsored by the Institute and All Stars Project, Inc., brought together performance activists, educators, therapists, artists, community organizers, social workers and business people — among them, dozens of longtime Institute colleagues, trainees and International Class alumni — to explore this year’s theme How Shall We Become?  The three-day event included five plenary sessions and  83 workshops, panel discussions and performances — an inspiring array of projects showing the power of performance to create new ways of seeing and being. In keeping  with the conference theme, conference presenters worked to keep the question of how and the topic of process front and center.

A grass-roots performance of community building, the conference was produced and staffed by nearly 200 volunteers; in addition, dozens of New York City housing hosts opened their homes so that international visitors had a place to stay.

Two plenary sessions opened the conference: One, titled “Becoming Performances,” explored, “how shall we become” in different countries, cultures and political, economic institutional contexts. Moderated by All Stars Project President and CEO Gabrielle L. Kurlanderit featured: medical doctor and clown Patch Adams; All Stars Project Co-founder and Institute faculty Lenora Fulani; Institute director Lois Holzman; Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company in St. Louis Joan Lipkin, ;  founder of the Smiling League based in Bogota Carlos Lopez; and Rita Omovbude, the leader of Street Project Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria. A second panel led by Dr. Fulani with four alumni of the All Stars’ youth programs discussed the challenges of living in poverty and continuing to develop as productive and creative young adults.

Saturday afternoon’s plenaries gave people a choice of participating in The Verbing of Life: A Bee-coming, a performance workshop led by clowning M.D., Patch Adams; an All Stars Talent Show workshop in Harlem; a visit to the All Stars Newark New Jersey Flamm Center; or a rehearsal of the Castillo Theatre production of Still on the Corner.


The conference ended with choices of how to wrap up/perform Performing the World—musically, conversationally, therapeutically and theatrically—resulting in the creation of an original song that was spontaneously performed on the Fred Newman Stage, a performance space named after Institute and PTW co-founder, the late Fred Newman.

It went something like this:

The magic of humanity
Reflects the community;
Art reflecting life, life reflecting art,
Put on a bee-hat (bzzzz),
Now that’s a good start.
The magic of humanity —
Laughing’s revolutionary —
Dance beyond words, words beyond dance,
Do more, worry less
Gives us the best chance.
How shall we become?
How shall we become?
How shall we become?
How shall we become?
The magic of humanity
Reflects the community;
Art reflecting life, life reflecting art
Put on a bee-hat (bzzzz),
Now that’s a good start.
How shall we become…how shall we become?!
Posted in All Stars Project, creativity and play, Fred Newman, performance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

International educators discover ‘spaces to become a head taller’

Educators from the US and several other countries, in town for the 11th International Transformative Learning Conferenceat Teachers College, Columbia University, spent a pre-conference afternoon with Institute director Lois Holzman. Her workshop, entitled Spaces to Become A Head Taller introduced the Vygotskian-influenced, performatory psychology-of-becoming to a group of 20.

Ellen Scully-Russ

Ellen Scully-Russ

Conference organizers and Institute colleagues, Ellen Scully-Russ (George Washington University) and Aliki Nicolaides (University of Georgia at Athens), gave the 200 conference-goers several options (of which Holzman’s was one) for ways to explore some on-the-ground, transformational spaces in NYC.  Designed to help participants broaden and deepen their exploration of this year’s theme, Spaces of Transformation and Transformation of Spacethe pre-conference day activities helped “bring the outside culture and experience of NYC into the conference.”

Aliki Nicolaides

Aliki Nicolaides

The Spaces to Become a Head Taller workshop started out at the Institute where the 20 participants experientially explored the social activity of creating spaces in which individual and collective learning and development are a unified whole and accomplished through the activity of performing who we are. The group then moved to the All Stars Project National Headquarters on West 42nd Street. There they toured the 31,000-square-foot performance space and heard first-hand from young people and adults about the impact the All Stars programs (and its overall performatory environment) had on their lives and on challenging the limitations of poverty and exclusion.

There were kudos all around for the “spaces that you generated for our conference goers.” “What a way to begin an academic conference! We loved the space you created.”

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A ‘Revolutionary Vygotsky’ takes the stage at ISCAR Summit in Sydney


The expanding influence of ‘Newman and Holzman’s Vygotsky’ at the International Sociiety for Cultural & Activity Research conference in Sydney, Australia — with (l. to r.) Cecília Magalhães, Mike Askew, Wellington Oliveira, Fernanda Liberali, Annalie Pistorius, Carrie Lobman and Lois Holzman (on screen).

The Institute’s director of pedagogy and Rutgers Univ. early childhood education faculty Carrie Lobman was among presenters at The 4th Congress of the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research in Sydney, Australia. The conference drew some 400 scholars and researchers in the cultural historical tradition to the Antipodes.

Keynote presentations were made by: Michael Cole director of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Development at the Univ. of California at San Diego, who reported on the evolution and transformation of his longitudinal after-school project, The Fifth Dimension;  Anna Stetsenko, professor at the City University of New York Grad Center, who addressed how to move From Participation to Transformation and a transformative activist stance for human development and education; and Fernando Gonzalez Rey, a professor at the University Center of Brasilia, who challenged traditional individualistic understandings of motivation.


Carrie led a symposium titled, The Expanding Global Influence of Newman and Holzman’s Vygotsky, which brought together a panel of colleagues who have studied at the Institute and developed a social therapeutic approach in their respective countries. Participants in this lively discussion of play, dialectics and pointless activity included Cecilia Magalhaes and Wellington Oliviera who presented on how Newman and Holzman’s ‘revolutionary Vygotsky’ has inspired the investigations of their Language in Activities in School Research Group (LACE) in Brazil, founded by Magalhaes and Fernanda Liberali. They were joined by Mike Askew from Monash University in Melbourne, who presented on ways Newman and Holzman’s advancements on Vygotsky’s understanding of play has shaped his work in elementary school mathematics; and Annalie Pistourus, an International Class alumna (also currently in long-distance supervision with the Institute’s Therapist Training Program director Christine LaCerva), who discussed what’s it like to do social therapy in Pretoria, South Africa

Posted in Education, Lois Holzman, Social Therapy, The International Class, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Play’s the Thing in Japan


Institute Director Lois Holzman recently returned from an invited speaking tour to Japan organized by colleagues there with whom she has been building relationships since her first visit to Japan organized in 2012 by Professor Yuji Moro of the University of Tsukuba. Moro was joined by Professor Takashi Ito of Hokkaido University and Masayoshi Morioka of Kobe University in creating venues for Japanese scholars, educators and students to meet Holzman and the psychology of becoming that is social therapeutics.  The week-long tour also included visits to alternative communities in Urakawa, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea.

In Kobe, Holzman presented a keynote lecture on The How of Playing: Implications for Educational Psychology at the Conference of the Japanese Association for Educational Psychology. In addition, she led a three-hour workshop for 50 faculty and graduate students on play and performance for learning and development. [READ MORE]

At Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Holzman presented at a Symposium on Reconceptualizing Development, in conversation with two professors who presented on their research using “performance” and “tool-and-result” methodology as a new framework for their work with poor young men in Manila and for empowering the native Ainu people of Japan. The symposium was followed by a workshop on social therapeutics. [READ MORE]


Holzman along with Professor Ito and five university  students visited Bethel House, a unique entrepreneurial therapeutic community run by people who are mentally ill and located in Urakawa, a remote village of Hokkaido. In addition to observing several meetings of members, including their self-directed research, she had conversation with the head of Bethel House and some of the members on their success at playing, performing and socializing their symptoms. Karen Nakamura‘s book, A Disability of the Soul, tells how Bethel has helped confront the intense stigma of mental illness with such highly public events as “The Grand Prix of Hallucinations,” which draws visitors from across Japan annually. [READ MORE]

Professor Moro has been a major catalyst for introducing social therapeutics and Newman/Holzman’s Vygotsky across Japan. Says Holzman:


Yuji is known, loved and respected for his scholarship, teaching and intellectual leadership. He’s a dynamic community organizer, who successfully links students and professors with poor communities. There are 100s of young Japanese teachers, psycholo-gists, researchers and students who are now students of social therapeutics and grappling with how to make use of it in their context. 

Dr. Moro recently completed the Japanese translation of Holzman’s Vygotsky at Work and Play (Shin-yo-sha Publishers) and copies of the newly-minted edition were on display throughout the tour.

Posted in creativity and play, Lois Holzman, performance, Psychology, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New film by Ishita Sanyal “Opens the Doors” on mental illness in India


This report just in from 2008 International Class alumna Ishita Sanyal (second-from-right in photo above)Her new documentary film project, Open the Doorswhich she co-directed with Abhishek Ganguli, recently premiered at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum in Kolkata.  Special guests on hand for the premiere included American Consul General Helen La Fav; dance artist Alokananda Ray; and psychiatrists Rima Mukherji and Satyajit Mitra.

Ishita is a dynamic and unstoppable community organizer who founded the Kolkata-based grassroots mental health organization, Turning Point, 16 years ago in response to the devastating shortage of mental health services on a subcontinent with roughly 600 practicing clinical psychologists. She has been a passionate advocate for therapeutic community, and has continued to promote a social therapeutic approach to mental health.


According to Ishita, this latest film project is part of a broader initiative to explore how creativity can combat mental illness.”  In October, the film will have its NYC debut at screenings at the United Nations and at the Performing the World conference.


Posted in creativity and play, performance, Psychology, Social Therapy, The International Class, Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobman in Kobe Japan at invitation of Dr. Hiroyuki Imai


An enthusiastic Performing the World 2012 participant and Institute colleague, Dr.       Hiroyuki Imai (professor on the Faculty of Foreign Language Studies at Kansai University, Osaka, Japan) was eager to make a creative match:  He sought to bring together Japanese educators working in the tradition of Reflective Practice with Institute and Performing the World colleagues who were advancing a Vygotskian inspired, cultural and improvisational approach to teaching and learning.

And so, he arranged with conference organizer Ken Tami for Institute faculty and teacher educator Carrie Lobman to be a keynote presenter and workshop leader at the recent Kobe City University of Foreign Studies education conference:  Exploring Approaches to Capture Experience in the Classroom.   

Other invited keynotes included educators Carol Richardson Rodgers (SUNY Albany, NY), Mark Monahan (Trinity College, Dublin) and Jo Trelfa (University of St. Mark and St. John, Plymouth).

At Dr. Imai’s request, Lobman introduced her new Japanese colleagues to Newman-Holzman’s particular take on Lev Vygotksy’s tool-and-result methodology. Her keynote discussed  The head taller experience of learning and development, and her practicum/workshop offered a taste of improvisation and improv games to the delight of participants.


Lobman’s visit coincides with the publication of the Japanese translation of Lois Holzman’s text, Vygotsky at Work and Play (Shin-Yo-Sha Publications), which introduces the human development projects generated over the last forty years by New York City’s development community.


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Lobman keynotes education reform conference in Brazil


Institute pedagogical director Carrie Lobman was a recent keynote speaker at the International Conference on Cultural-Historical Theory and Human Development: Key Issues for School Education, at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Marilia, Brazil, and organized by the University’s Association of Marxist Educators.


How can socio-cultural theory inform practices that will allow children from poor families to have the tools they need to navigate the world…and to resist and fight against economic oppression?

This was the impassioned query for many of the 450 conference participants — graduate students in education and practitioners.

Along with Lobman, the program featured keynote presentations by activity theoretic, Marxist and cultural-historcial psychologists Malcolm Reed (University of Bristol) and Mohamed Elhammoumi (Saud Islamic University).


Mohamed Elhammoumi, Malcolm Reed, Carrie Lobman

Education reformers from across the state of São Paulo discussed how to utilize socio-cultural theory and the work of Marxist developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky to develop more effective and liberatory practices in public schools. Discussion addressed the practical/political implications of Vygotsky’s approach for creating a critical pedagogy for the millions of Brazilian school children from poor and working class families. Vygotsky’s idea of young people “performing a head taller,” sparked much interest, and Lobman in her talk, Three Dialectics of Social Therapeutic Learning Environments, relayed ways that we at the Institute and performance activists worldwide are using play and performance to create social, collective zones of proximal development.







Posted in Carrie Lobman, Education, Marxism, South America, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beyond the Therapeutic State” — Time to Advance an Alternative Therapies Movement


images-3How do we bring together critique (of traditional psychologies) and (innovative, non-diagnostic) practice? That question is being asked more and more frequently and urgently the world over.

About 200 psychologists, researchers and therapists gathered in Norway in June at Beyond the Therapeutic State: Collaborative Practices for Individual and Social Change, organized by Ken Gergen and other social constructionists. The event drew 200 participants from 24 countries, including several colleagues, kindred spirits and longtime collaborators, along with Social Therapy Group Director Christine LaCerva who, along with Institute alum and practicing psychologist and family therapist Pal Carlin, led a workshop, entitled, Therapy Interrupted. A dominant sentiment at the conference was the urgent need to challenge the discourse of traditional therapy and to build an alternative therapies movement.


In his plenary presentation, Gergen spoke out against the therapeutic state, the damage done by the medical model and psychiatry’s need to label, predict and control. “Can we come together to do something about the oppression of diagnostics and forced medication?” he asked. “Can we find new ways of helping people with emotional difficulties?” “How do we take more responsibility for what’s going on in the world?”

Other highlights included a short film and presentation by Carina Håkansson, founder of the Family Care Foundation in Sweden. Håkansson places people with serious emotional difficulties on neighboring farms, where their therapy includes taking care of the farm animals. Documentary filmmaker Brian Mackler portrays patients’ development in the course of living on the farm — an environment where they are freed-up from diagnostic labels and constant pathologizing.


La Cerva and Carlin’s workshop introduced social therapeutics as a cultural, performatory approach to human development that “interrupted” patients expectations of what therapy was supposed to be (i.e., “about Me!”) Says LaCerva:

We talked about how social therapy interrupts our fascination with the self and helps us shift our gaze to the group. It stops us from digging deep into our patients’ psyches in favor of helping them create new ensemble performances. It disturbs our patients’ notion that therapy is all about them and introduces them to the other. It challenges the model of traditional psychology in favor of exploring, creating and playing with subjectivity as social relational and cultural activity.

LaCerva and Carlin showed a video clip of a conversation between Gergen and social therapy founder Fred Newman from a 2001 Performing the World plenary session in which they discussed the importance of performance for human development. In a performatory therapy, the group is less concerned with what they are talking about and very concerned with how they are talking.

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Another International Class collaboration: Celiane Carmargo-Borges and Peter Nsubuga


This report just in from International Class (2008-9) alumna Celiane Camargo-Borges, recounting her recent trip to Uganda to volunteer with  Hope for Youth Ugandafounded by fellow International Class colleague Peter Nsubuga.

Celiane, a Brazilian psychologist living and working in the Netherlands, met Peter six years ago when both came to New York as part of their residencies for the Institute’s global training program in social therapeutics, contributing their richly different histories and cultures. 

On July 7,  I began an experience of a lifetime. I took off  for Uganda to work with my friend, Peter Nsubuga and Hope for Youth Uganda. The NGO he founded in Central Uganda’s Mukono District supports vulnerable young people.

Peter does fantastic work; and since meeting him in New York at part of our International Class program, I had always wanted to get a closer look.  Now, six years later, I made the decision to visit; and together with two colleagues, we developed a project to co-create with the community there.


The project we undertook was based upon photo-voice and storytelling.  These are methods which embrace the perspective that life is multifaceted, polysemic and complex where meaning is always created and re-created. However, even though there are many ways to give meaning to life, sometimes dominant (negative) discourses prevail. Appreciative and strength-based approaches aim at introducing other voices that might not be heard or noticed.

And so, that was our focus:  to bring to fore other meanings beyond the dominant ones of poverty, violence and disease. We wanted to generate stories that could also portray the beauty of Uganda and empower its people.

The result was a bricolage of stories collaboratively developed with the youth. We had an exhibition for the community to see their creation, and that too was inspiring and empowering for the kids.

I had a fantastic time working with the young people, visiting the community and learning from the local people. I hope that this summer’s project will mark the beginning of a long and productive collaboration with Peter and the Hope for Youth Uganda community.”

Dr. Celiane Camargo-Borges is a psychologist and researcher, currently working at Imagineering Academy in the Netherlands. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Health and has approached community health care with a social constructionist orientation.  As a native of Sao Paolo, Brazil, she participated in her country’s innovative national health care program, before later taking a teaching position at Yan Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan.

Peter Nsubuga is a community worker in Kampala, Uganda. A trained accountant, Peter switched professions to respond to the need for help in communities suffering from disease, dire poverty and lack of clean water. He is the founder of Hope for Youth Uganda, an organization that provides food, clothing and education for 120 children. Since training with the Institute, he has introduced a creative spin-off of the All Stars Talent Show Network model, along with social therapeutic inspired group therapy for elders.

Posted in Africa, creativity and play, Education, performance, Social Therapy, The International Class, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Performing the World International Organizing Cttee Raises Funds to Bring Activists to NYC

The Performing the World 2014  International Organizing Committee has been doing a great job publicizing the October 10-12 conference. This month they took on a new task—raising travel funds for participants. 

They’re especially focused on those living in countries in Africa, South America and on the Asian sub-continent who otherwise might not be able to come to NYC.  Not only are their air fare and visa fees the highest of any countries, these would-be participants have little in the way of personal resources or outside sources from whom to seek support.

UnknownThe Committee is working to raise $10 000 to contribute to the air travel of people in these countries who want to share and experience PTW this year.   Denmark-based psychologist Esben Wilstrup, who has helped to lead the effort, reports that after just a few days, the campaign has raised over $3,500 via an online crowd-sourcing fundraising appeal.

You can help by clicking on the link to the funding campaign to learn more about PTW and how it has touched many lives.


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Developments in Ciudad Juárez

International Class alums Miguel Cortes, Jorge Burciaga and Institute colleague Mariana Soledad Loya Parra  report on developments at  El Centro Fred Newman Para la Terapia Social — the independent therapy and community center they’ve built over the last five years in Juárez — long at the epicenter of the drug violence in Mexico.

Working with Dr. Maria del Carmen Santos Fabela, director of the masters program in special education at the  Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (where Miguel is completing his masters degree and Jorge is an instructor), the team recently organized a visit for the Institute’s director of pedagogy, Carrie Lobman.


Lobman led a workshop at the Fred Newman Center — Does Juarez Need Therapy? New Approaches to Human Development — which drew an audience of some 30 therapists, community educators, activists and students. They spent the day playing, performing and conversing about ways to offer the people of Juárez opportunities to rebuild the life of their city after years of extreme drug violence.


From Cortes:

There are less people being killed in Juárez, but people don’t talk about the crisis being over. The violence has shifted to other areas of Mexico; but there is nothing secure and nothing developmental.

From Lobman:

The past decade has stifled people’s ability to be social and this has seriously impacted a generation of youth–many of whom grew up being kept inside their houses all the time. They’ve grown up learning to be deeply fearful.


Lobman also led a two-day course on social therapeutics (she describes it as an “interactive play space”) with several dozens of Dr. Santos‘ masters students in special education. Dr. Santos, who came to Mexico from Cuba, is a Vygotskian scholar trained in the former Soviet Union and has developed a Vygotskian-inspired special-ed curriculum for the program, which includes offerings by visiting activist scholars/researchers such as Dr. Lobman.

Carrie shared how Vygotsky’s work has been advanced by Fred Newman and Lois Holzman in a social therapeutic practice, that has proven especially effective under conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. She introduced the hopeful work with multi-family social therapy groups pioneered by Social Therapy Group director Christine LaCerva and the performance-based youth and adult development programs of the All Stars Project. 

Commenting on Lobman’s visit, Cortes says:

The focus of our work is development — helping our neighbors create new possibilities and incorporate methodologies that relate to people as creators of their lives.



Posted in Carrie Lobman, Education, Fred Newman, South America, The International Class, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobman, Perone, O’Neill boost performance activism at The Association for the Study of Play


That’s play maven and longtime Institute colleague and educator Tony Perone (4th from l.) and Institute pedagogy director and play-pal Carrie Lobman (6th from l.) in the pointy-green elf hats — taking a bow after a performance at annual conference of The Association for the Study of Play 

Among the leadership at TASP, Carrie (who also serves as Second Vice President), Tony and Institute alumna and educator Barbara O’Neill are helping to build enthusiasm for revolutionary play and performance activism.  Carrie has been tapped to play the role of convener for the 2016 conference that will be held in New Jersey.

Tony and Carrie led a workshop on Performance Activism, which included (appropriately enough) conducting a poll of participants which asked their opinions on: What is a performance activist? and, Are you an activist?  Then it was time to create a performance piece:  One group created a street theatre scene that challenged the ways adults talk to children. Another group devised an “agitprop” scene that portrayed how people relate to non-English speakers as dumb.

Carrie also presented a first-look at findings from her ethnographic research study of the All Stars Project of New Jersey, entitled,  Performing on a Wider Stage: Developing Inner City Youth Through Play and Performance.

Barbara presented her work Improvisational Play Interventions: Supporting Children’s Play in Inclusive Classroomswhich offered a social-therapeutic approach to helping preschoolers with special needs.

Tony also presented his research on Mexican-American Adults’ Experiences with and Suggestions for Imaginative Play in Formal Learning Environments Across the Lifespan.


Posted in All Stars Project, Carrie Lobman, creativity and play, Education, improvisation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holzman recipient of lifetime achievement award from AERA Cultural Historical Research SIG


Lois Holzman with Cultural Historical Research SIG chair Peter Smagorinsky

Lois Holzman with Cultural Historical Research SIG chair Peter Smagorinsky

The Cultural Historical Research Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American Educational Research Association has named Lois Holzman as the recipient of its prestigious lifetime achievement award.

Holzman’s award will be presented at the AERA annual meeting in Chicago, 2015, where she will deliver an invited presentation on her life’s work.

Posted in Education, Lois Holzman, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Developmentalists take the stage at American Educational Research Association


Lenora Fulani address a special presidential session on “Innovations in Addressing the Education and Poverty Crisis: The Importance of Researching ‘Outside of School.'”

Some 14,000 educators flocked to Philadelphia for meetings of the American Educational Research Association — among them several hundred Vygotskians — members of the Cultural Historical Research Special Interest Group (SIG), who staged some of the more innovative presentations under the auspices of the SIG’s program committee co-chaired by Institute pedagogical director Carrie Lobman and Boston College researcher Emily Duvall. 

A highlight of the Cultural Historical Research business meeting chaired by Peter Smagorinsky was a video showing and lively discussion led by Lois Holzman of Fred Newman’s psychology play, Beyond the Pale. The play — which raises all sorts of philosophical conundrums — was written in 1996 for the American Psychological Association and portrays an imaginary therapy session with a troubled Ludwig Wittgenstein and Lev Vygotsky.

Lobman and Holzman, along with Emily Duvall, Natalia Gadjamaschko, Ana Christina Iddings, Jim Martinez, Ana Marjonovic Shane and Elina Shepel, led a half-day professional development session for the SIG entitled: Cultural Historical Activity Theory Methodologies in the 21st Century: The Intersections of Theory, Research, Policy, and Praxis.

Other cultural-historical offerings by Institute alumni and colleagues included:

Armando Justo (George Washington University) Summer Program: Fostering Youth Development Through Performance and Creative Imitation

Tony Perone (University of Memphis) Listening to Learners: Mexican American Adults’ Suggestions for Imaginative Play in Formal Learning Environments

Jim Martinez (NY Institute of Technology) Service Learning and Creating Zones of Proximal Development in STEM Learning


Lenora Fulani, Bonny Gildin, Karl Alexander

On another conference stage, All Stars Project co-founder, Institute faculty and developmentalist Lenora Fulani, Johns Hopkins sociologist Karl Alexander (whose research investigates the “summer slide” in poor communities),  A.J. Franklin (Boston College), Ross Danis (Newark Education Trust), and four All Stars young people, were featured presenters at an invited presidential session chaired by All Stars V.P. Bonny Gildin and entitled, Innovations in Addressing the Education and Poverty Crisis: The Importance of Researching ‘Outside of School.’ 

Young people representing the All Stars Projectg

Young people representing the All Stars Project

Posted in All Stars Project, Carrie Lobman, Education, Fred Newman, Lois Holzman, The International Class, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobman introduces Newman/Holzman to hundreds of educators and psychologists in Brazil


10151185_10152044924372843_1150806091_nAt the invitation of longtime colleagues Fernanda Liberali, Cecelia Magalhaes and MuriloMocheta, the Institute’s pedagogical director Carrie Lobman spent ten days in São Paolo and Maringa, Brazil, introducing social therapeutic methodology to 225 therapists, special education teachers, public school teachers and psychologists. Lobman’s tour is the latest exchange in a blossoming partnership among fellow Vygotskians across the Americas.  Says Lobman:

In both São Paolo and Maringa, we engaged in serious dialogue about Newman and Holzman’s ‘Revolutionary Vygotsky.’ I spoke on the topic of creating intimacy and the importance of supporting people to develop emotionally — new terrain for many.

Many were curious about the ‘zones of development’ that we’ve built in the U.S. and were heartened to learn about the partnerships we’ve built between people of all races and all walks of life.


In Maringa, where International Class 2009-10 alumnus Murilo Mocheta is a psychology professor at the local state university, Lobman was invited to present on Lev Vygotsky Revolutionary Scientist: Implications for Education and Youth Development. Here, a broad, multi-disciplinary grouping of 140 psychology, education and drama students and faculty attended — many new to the conversation. They had lots of questions about the Institute, New York’s development community and social therapeutics.

1960134_10152033694797843_1904000824_n “Were you attacked in America for following a Russian psychologist?”

“How can middle class academics such as ourselves genuinely support poor communities without being condescending.”


In São Paulo, Fernanda Liberali and Cecelia Magalhaes  (leaders of the LACE research group), invited Carrie to lead a week-long seminar entitled, Creating Intimacy with Students, Environment and Content: How to Make Learning Developmental, which attracted a similarly broader and diverse grouping of 50 students, faculty, and local practitioners from psychology, education and applied linguistics.

Lobman also visited two schools in the favelas (poor communities) and spoke with teachers there.  She notes:

A teacher asked how we paid for the programs. I described how  over many years we had created a powerful partnership between rich and poor. When I finished there was silence, and one of the teachers burst into tears. “It moves me that there are people in the world who care,” she said, “and that you have given them a way to care.”





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International Class alumni partner to bring art and development to Ciudad Juárez

This just in from International Class (2012/13) alumna and PTW 2014 Organizing Committee powerhouse, Sandra Paola Lopez, reporting on a recent collaboration with fellow International Class colleagues in Juarez, Mexico:


Miguel Cortes (FNC), Sandra Paola Lopez (in2), Chris Reyman (in2),  Jorge Burciaga (FNC) and other organizers in Ciudad Juárez have collaborated since meeting at PTW 2012. Sandra Paola, Chris, Miguel & Jorge are all alumni of the Institute’s International Class.

This March, in2improv joined efforts with the Fred Newman Center to bring a week full of developmental activities to some of the most marginalized communities in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

in2improv offered workshops to a broad range of community members, students, educators and staff of several organizations, which focused on developing listening skills, group creativity and collaboration, and exploring the use of the arts in education and social transformation.


Founded by Sandra Paola Lopez and International Class alumnus (2012/13) Chris Reyman, in2improv (short for is an Illinois-based collaborative improvisation project that uses dance and music to foster development and community building. The Fred Newman Center, spearheaded by fellow International Class alumni Miguel Cortez (2007-8) and Jorge Burciaga (2012/13) is a self-supporting community hub and center for Social Therapy in Ciudad Juárez.


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Lots to look-up in Thomas Teo’s Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology


Congratulations to Thomas Teo on the release of the Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology, for which he served as editor. The massive (2400 pages) anthology published by Springer Reference is “the first reference work in English that comprehensively looks at psychological topics from critical as well as international points of view.”

Teo, who is a professor at Toronto’s York University and internationally respected for his work in the history and philosophy of psychology, invited critical psychologists— from humanists to postmodernists, from Marxists and feminists to post-colonialists—to write the 1000 entries that appear in the Encyclopedia.

Lois Holzman was among the contributors, with entries for Social Therapy, The Zone of Emotional Development, Postmodern Marxism, and Performative Psychology. 

Critical psychology is still rarely taught in the United States.



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Lois Holzman named series editor for Palgrave Studies on Play, Performance, Learning and Development

14237_164663378926_666223926_2876374_1092782_nInstitute director Lois Holzman was recently named series editor for a new collection of books — the Palgrave Studies in Play, Performance, Learning and Development.  In announcing the new series, Palgrave Macmillan describes it as “a needed home for cross-disciplinary scholarship linking play and performance to learning and development across the life span, thus educating a new generation of researchers and educators about the promise of play and performance as powerful catalysts for social-emotional-cognitive growth and successful learning.”

.UnknownOver the next three years, researchers and practitioners will have a multi-disciplinary “home” to publish their work and inspire colleagues, students and others.

Lois’s advisory board includes:

  • Patch Adams, Founder, Gesundheit Institute, USA
  • Natalia Gajdamaschko, Simon Fraser Univ., Canada
  • Kenneth Gergen, Swarthmore College, USA and Tilburg Univ., the Netherlands
  • Artin Gonçu, Professor, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago, USA
  • James Johnson, Professor, Pennsylvania State Univ., USA
  • Fernanda Liberali, Professor, Pontific Catholic Univ. of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Yuji Moro, Professor, Univ. of Tsukuba, Japan
  • Alex Sutherland, Professor, Rhodes Univ., South Africa
  • Jill Vialet, Founder and CEO, Playworks, USA

To submit a proposal, write to Lois at

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Christine LaCerva and Paul Carlin to present @ ‘Beyond the Therapeutic State’ in Norway

Social Therapy Group director Christine LaCerva and Enerhaugen Family Counselling Services clinical psychologist Paul Carlin will be presenters at Beyond the Therapeutic State (Collaborative Practices for Individual and Social Change) in Drammen, Norway in June. The conference will draw participants from across the world who are challenging the individualized, medical model and DSM-V, and transforming therapy into something that actually helps people grow. The Institute and Social Therapy Group are among the growing list of sponsors worldwide.


Paul Carlin (l.) at Performing the World 2012

Christine and Paul’s workshop, entitled,  Therapy Interrupted: Performing Social Therapy, will explore a practice of emotional development that ‘interrupts’ the passivity, and victimization of the ‘therapeutic state.’  Other program highlights include keynoters, Kenneth Gergen (Relational Recovery from the Rage to Order), Robert Whitaker (Rethinking Psychiatric Care), Olga Runciman  (The Hearing Voices Network), and presenters  Jim Wilson and John Shotter (No Diagnosis, No Therapy, Just Life-to-Life, Face-to-Face Engagement), Tom Strong, Monica Sesma, et al. (‘Expert Therapeutic’ Discourse…a look at counter-practices), and Rolf Sundet (Collaboration and dialogue — helpers for searching therapists). The event draws from among the many worldwide doing something other than adhering to state-sanctioned, individualized medical model practices.

UnknownRead more about the conference at the Taos Institute site.

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Sanjay Kumar’s Pandies Theatre featured in TDR (The Drama Review)


International Class (2012) alumnus Sanjay Kumar has a new article in the Winter 2013 issue of TDR (The Drama Review) entitled, Performing on the Platform:  Creating Theatre with India’s Platform Children. TDR is the prestigious performance studies journal edited by Richard Schechner, one of the pioneers of the field.

Kumar tells the story of Delhi’s Pandies Theatre, which he founded some 15 years ago, and describes as “pushing the boundaries of activist theatre.” The article shares the history and methods of of Pandies, in which young middle class facilitators work with impoverished boys, taken from India’s railway platforms and incarcerated in state reformatories, to create theatre based upon their lives.  We are told of lives of heartbreaking horror, abuse, hopelessness and violence transformed through ensemble performance.

A creative contributor to the Performing the World community, Kumar holds a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Delhi, where he’s a professor of English at Hans Raj College. He says of Pandies:

Our work is now almost totally activistic. We use theatre to generate awareness around social inequalities…but we  concentrate especially upon working with underprivileged children. …we make theatre with young people as a way to address trauma, contain conflict and create space for marginalized voices…Many certitudes of middle-class existence are being challenged here.

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Conversation w Peter Smagorinsky Launches ‘Making a Conceptual Revolution’ Salon


The Institute welcomed  Peter Smagorinsky, Distinguished Research Professor in English Education at the University of Georgia, to New York for a salon-style conversation with Institute director Lois Holzman and a diverse audience of invited guests. 

In introducing Smagorinsky, Holzman noted:

Peter has taken an adventurous philosophical/political turn in his exploration of education and how people learn — especially in the area of what’s called “abnormality” and ‘developmental disabilities.’  He is using Lev Vygotsky’s lesser-known work on ‘defectology’ to create new ways of seeing and relating to people diagnosed on the autism spectrum and/or as mentally ill.

He is one of the few academics I know who is willing to speak about how these issues impact on him, professionally and personally. I admire his willingness to grow. A recent paper of his illustrates what I mean:  He titled it, ‘Confessions of a Mad Professor: An Autoethnographic Consideration of Neuroatypicality, Extranormativity, and Education.’

Peter is current Chair of the Cultural-Historical Research SIG of the American Educational Research Association, and in that context has worked with Holzman (previous SIG Chair) and Carrie Lobman (current SIG Program Co-Chair).

The Smagorinsky/Holzman conversation is the first in a series — entitled Making a Conceptual Revolution — that will feature  innovators and pioneers in the fields of education and the human sciences in conversation with Holzman.

My guests will be people whom I greatly admire and whose work has or is transforming the fields in which they work, says Holzman.  I’m eager to have my colleagues get to know them, and for them to become acquainted with the Institute’s community.

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Social Therapy Group Joins the National Dialogue on Mental Health

In response to the White House’s efforts to advance a national dialogue on mental health, The Social Therapy Group in New York, the Atlanta Center for Social Therapy and the Philadelphia Social Therapy Group will host an online community conversation on mental health that will go live Monday, February 3 and continue through March 3.


In New York, psychiatrist and Social Therapy Group medical director, Hugh Polk, M.D. has been helping to organize clients and colleagues to participate in the community conversation and to share how they are creating better lives.  Says Polk:

Our society is in emotional crisis. We urgently need dialogue on what to do about it. We applaud the President’s efforts to find community solutions, and we’re eager to engage our community to advance this conversation.

As a start, I believe we need to be considering:  What is mental health? How do we support emotional growth and development? What is the developmental impact of psychiatric diagnosis and  ‘pathology-centric’ treatment approaches? What new ideas — including non-diagnostic approaches — are already helping, and how can they be more fully utilized in addressing the mental health crisis?

To join the conversation, click HERE.

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Play Day! Holzman to present at TedXNavesink



Lois Holzman will be a featured speaker at the upcoming TedX Navesink in Red Bank, N.J., May 10. It’s a day-long forum featuring several dozen presentations and entertainment dedicated to exploring the power and potential of PLAY!  

Here’s how Lois describes her talk which she calls,  Unveiling the Mystery of How Play Helps Us to Grow at Any Age:

Babies and toddlers play their way to growth. They learn how to talk, draw, dance, even think, through playing at what they’re not yet—performing it before they know it. It’s their way of life. Lucky for us non-babies, the mystery of exactly why and how play is developmental has been revealed and put to use with adults! Across the globe, from board rooms to therapy rooms, from hospital wards to refugee camps, ‘play revolutionaries’ are helping people and communities embrace play as a way to keep developing.

In 2012, Lois served as a Great Challenge Advocate at the TEDMED conference in Washington, D.C.  There, she helped organize conversation among delegates on the question: “How do we decide what is normal?”

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Raquell Holmes’ ImprovScience featured in Nature Magazine


Dr. Raquell Holmes, an International Class alumna and  cell biologist, was featured this month in the prestigious international science journal Nature in an article entitled Spontaneous Science.  Raquell’s innovative work to introduce improvisation and collaborative inquiry to the “hard sciences” is featured alongside Alan Alda’s efforts to shepherd the teaching of improvisation to biologists, chemists and physicists at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at SUNY Stony Brook.

Among the growing voices championing collaborative inquiry, Raquell created her business,  ImprovScience, while a student in the International Class. Her mantra to fellow scientists:

Let’s make science more collaborative, inclusive and diverse by taking risks, making mistakes and building with each others’ ideas…Improv is key to that.

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Holzman’s “The Overweight Brain” makes online debut

Overweight Brain 111213d

Lois Holzman’s latest book project — The Overweight Brain: How Our Obsession with Knowing Keeps Us from Getting Smart Enough to Make a Better World — made its online debut at with the publication of a provocative first installment.

Conceived as a non-academic book for anyone intrigued by our obsession with knowing and its disastrous consequences for the world, Lois plans to share the book chapter by chapter, as she writes it, and to solicit readers’ feedback and comments.

In the opening introduction, she comes out swinging:

For all the knowledge-gathering, evidence-based practices, diagnoses, assessments, evaluations, predictions and pontifications, are we any closer to peace in the Middle East or elsewhere, to bridging what educators call the achievement gap between white middle class children and minority and poor children, to eliminating poverty, to ending violence, to stopping the destruction of the planet?

What are readers saying?

Lucid and accessible!….After reading the intro, I’m hooked. Makes me excited to read the entire book!

Thank you!…Today we’re so inundated with information that we forget to live in the present…It tires me to have to constantly keep up… it’s so all-consuming, that at times I lose touch with other people.

I am so thrilled that you are writing in simple language and giving support to a new kind of wisdom:  the wisdom of play…You recognize the important role of play, theatrical performance and development in children’s development.

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Dan Friedman to join international playwriting project in Europe: One Land, Many Faces

Dr. Dan

This just in from Castillo Theatre artistic director and Institute faculty Dan Friedman…  Dan is among six playwrights from as many countries who will travel to Berlin and Budapest in December to take part in an international theatre project called One Land/Many Faces. It’s organized by Paris-based political theatre,  La Transplanisphére and artistic director Bruno Freyssinetand underwritten by the Cultural Programs for the European Union.

The six playwrights — hailing from the Congo, Hungary, Germany, South Africa, South Korea and the U.S. — will write a play together exploring how nations with a mix of cultures can survive/thrive.  The project is a response to the waves of immigrants pouring into Europe over the last few decades.

When Bruno first approached me, said Friedman, I pointed out that the United States has a very different history than Europe in this regard… We have been a mix of ‘many faces’ from the beginning and although we (obviously) didn’t always handle the ‘mixing’ very well, the experience of mixing of cultures is not new for us.

The playwrights will spend a week in Berlin and a week in Budapest talking with immigrants, politicians and scholars and conducting theatre workshops.  They will return to their home countries and write individually for a few months, then reconvene in the spring to create a unified script which Bruno will direct with actors from La Transplanisphére in Brussels.  

Being invited to participate in this project is a gratifying recognition of the community-based political theatre work we’ve been doing at the Castillo Theatre for the last 30 years and a great opportunity to meet progressive political artists from across Europe and the world.

Friedman is the co-author with Lois Holzman of Performing the World:  The Emergence of Performance Activismwhich will appear in the upcoming, Performance Studies in Motionedited by Atay Citron, Sharon Aronson-Lehavi and David Zerbib.  Look out for Lois and Dan’s Revolutionary Conversation on performance activism at the Institute this spring!

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Jeff Smithson at Ted-X: “Our body is a mouth that never stops talking”


Take a look at this video clip of a mesmerizing Ted-X performance by Institute faculty and clowning impresario Jeff Smithson.  An alumnus of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College and advocate for the power of play and performance everywhere, Jeff has brought his skills at pantomime, slapstick and silliness to pediatric wards and executive coaching seminars alike. At Ted x Moses Brown School,  Jeff tells the audience how he uses breath, stance, expression and gesture to connect with others:


Our body is a mouth that never stops talking…We can bring our attention to our bodies…We can choose to be in touch with our breath….we can become more present with another person….to surrender our own agendas and meet them where they are.

Jeff is a featured guest faculty at the popular Institute workshop:  Laughing Matters! with Mary Fridley and Marian Rich.

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Architect Douglas Balder wins AIA award for All Stars Project Newark center


Doug Balder (l.) with Antoine Joyce

All Stars Project National Board Member and Institute faculty Douglas Balder received a silver medal from the American Institute of Architects’ Newark and Suburban Design Awards  for his inspired design of the All Stars Project of New Jersey Scott Flamm Center for Afterschool Development located in Newark’s downtown arts district. READ MORE.

The center is the first performing arts and youth development space to open in Newark. Conceived of as a “station for development and creativity” which includes waiting areas, performance spaces, staff and volunteer work zones, and a centrally-located information kiosk, topped with a 14-foot high reproduction of railway station clock.

I’m happy that the center is getting recognition for its important role in serving Newark’s young people and the surrounding suburban communities, said Balder.  I’m honored to have been a part of its creation.

In his popular Institute workshops and Revolutionary Conversations, Doug has introduced a trend in architecture and design that seeks to create spaces and stages for communities to grow. 

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New International Class makes first visit to NYC

The Institute welcomed its 2013-2014 International Class, which gathered in New York City for a week of whirlwind activity.

International Class Photo

The smiling faces in the photo above belong to (front row, l. to r.) Jelena Aleksic (Serbia), Ksenija Milic (Serbia), Lois Holzman (ESI director, NYC), Helen Abel (California), Shaheen Akter (Bangladesh), Teresa Cavanaugh (Canada); (back row, l. to r.) Sarah Weiler (Brazil), Pauline Warinaar (the Netherlands), Lea Cikos (Serbia), Nilton Mendes (Brazil), and Elena Boukouvala (Greece). Read their bios here.

The class will be back in February and again in June for two more residencies — all part of an in-depth, 10-month training program in the social therapeutic approach that has trained dozens of practitioners, scholars and researchers from cities and villages across the globe since 2004.

Posted in Education, Lois Holzman, Social Therapy, The International Class, Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Japan study group performs Holzman’s ‘Vygotsky at Work and Play’

This just in from our colleague in Japan —  developmental psychology professor Yuji Moro at the University of Tsukuba.  Dr. Moro reports that he has organized a reading group to study Lois Holzman’s 2011 text, Vygotsky at Work and Play.

8The study group includes retired professors, psychologist colleagues, and actors from the Black Tent theatre company, which, by the way, received an Otto Award for political theatre several years ago.

It’s a very interesting experience for me, says Yuji…Very exciting! We’re reading the book, and grappling with some important ideas and conceptualizations and actually  performing them together with some direction from the actors.


Earlier this year, Dr. Moro organized a two-month online course for professors and students to study a performatory, developmental methodology and its Vygotskian roots with Holzman. The course built upon topics brought up during Holzman’s teaching and lecture tour in Japan in 2012.


Professor Moro has studied “Newman and Holzman’s  Vygotsky” for over two decades and is currently writing a book on the All Stars Project and the Institute.

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Violence or tolerance? New book looks at conflict as opportunity for development


This just in from our International Class colleague (class of 2013) Jorge Burciaga Montoya @jorgeburciaga:  The Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez hosted a book publishing party last week for (another) International Class alumnus Miguel Cortés Vázquez (class of 2008) and co-author and colleague Teresa Almada Mireles (director, CASA, Promoción Juvenil A.C.). Their new book, Jóvenes: ¿violencia o convivencia? (Young People: Violence or Tolerance?), is designed to be a resource for teachers and points to development as an antidote to violence. Says Jorge:    

Miguel and Teresa introduce a methodology that’s been effective in helping young people grow….One take-away they share: conflict doesn’t have to be a problem; it can be an opportunity for development. 

In recent years, Ciudad Juárez has been notorious as a bloody center of drug-related crime. Community-based organizations such as CASA offer positive alternatives to young people and their families. (See Holzman’s:  Development Grows in Juárez.)
Posted in creativity and play, Education, South America, The International Class, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

LaCerva and Lobman to present at ‘Psychology and the Other’


Social Therapy Group director Christine LaCerva and Institute pedagogy director and Rutgers U. associate professor Carrie Lobman will present at the third annual Psychology and the Other conference at Lesley University next month. The event is expected to draw several hundred mostly psychodynamically oriented psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, social workers, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, theologians and grad students to advance the conversation on the Other.

LaCerva will lead (and perform at) a featured symposium, Therapy Interrupted: Performing Social Therapy;  and Lobman will deliver a featured address, Social Therapeutics: A Performance Approach to Human Development and Learning.  Sheila McNamee (Taos Institute and U. of New Hampshire) will serve as a discussant for Lobman’s session.

Psychology and the Other describes itself as an international consortium of individuals, institutes and universities that “creates venues to enrich conversations at the intersections of philosophy, psychology and theological/religious studies,” and thereby counter what Eric Fromm identified as the artificial separation of psychology from philosophy and religious traditions. They particularly emphasize scholarship around the notion of the ‘Other.'”

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Fulani and Massad help community develop beyond diabetes

Health care advocate Chermerdene Jordan writes in the Huffington Post this week about  Performing and Developing Beyond Diabetes — a promising, grassroots community health initiative, spearheaded by Lenora Fulani, Ph.D. and Susan Massad, M.D.  Dr. Fulani is the dean of UX, the All Stars Project’s free school of continuing development for people of all ages. Dr. Massad serves on the UX faculty; and both are popular Institute faculty.


Dr. Susan Massad (c.) leads a UX field trip to the High Line in Manhattan.

Jordan’s essay, Diabetes and Development: A New Approach for Community Health, describes the diabetes workshop series, which has included field trips to the High Line and to the Mt. Kisco Child Care Center’s Feed Me Fresh nutrition program.

As part of their “field work,” students also met with produce managers at neighborhood grocery stores to discuss the community’s demands for more fresh fruits and vegetables.

The ongoing UX workshop also featured presentations by Spyros G. Mezitis, M.D.who has reported on the failure of traditional epidemiological approaches to stem the diabetes epidemic in the U.S.

Says Massad:

“While many see diabetes as a medical issue, it’s perhaps better understood as a disease of the community...We cannot expect, wait for or count on the government to take care of the diabetes epidemicIt’s a question of people putting pressure from the bottom-up to create change.”

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Community speaks-out on Psychiatric Diagnoses at Harlem Week


The Institute and Social Therapy Group  were out with 12 volunteers talking to strollers at the Harlem Week street fair and conducting a community poll on people’s attitudes toward psychiatric diagnosis and labeling.  Gwen Lowenheim (pictured above l. with volunteer Vicky Archer) reports that 65 surveys were conducted, and all who participated will be invited to a follow-up meeting in Harlem on September 20.

Conversations were wide-ranging — touching on issues of stigma (“once a child is labeled, teachers give up on them”), over-medicalization (“the drugs turn our kids into zombies”), the need for diagnosis (“a correct diagnosis is necessary to getting the problem fixed”), the harm of diagnosis (“potential employers can see your record”), and thoughts about a social therapeutic approach that helps people grow emotionally without the use of labels (“people need to talk through their problems with someone outside the family”).

The increased use of psychiatric diagnosis and psychotropic drugs (especially among kids of color) has sparked national controversy, coinciding with the publication of the much criticized DSM-5. (See Lois Holzman‘s commentary here and here.) President Obama has called for a national dialogue on mental health and the need for community conversations.

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Helping Aboriginal Kids Tell Their Stories with Video

julie1-102x102We hear from International Class (2007) alumna, educator and creative spirit Julie Vaudrin-Charette that she recently keynoted at The International Conference on Experiential Learning in Lima, Peru, where conference-goers focused on the role of cultural diversity in experiential learning.
Take a look at Julie’s prezi (there are some beautiful images of the young people participating in projects she’s describing in her research) entitled, Cooking Cultural Empathy Through Digital Storytelling.  A French Canadian, Julie did her graduate work in communications at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her analysis is based on educational projects taking place in Canada, Peru, and Brazil, and explores how young people can use digital technologies in ways that build empathy and connection across cultures.
She reports that her workshop presentation also featured a showing of the film Nosotros Somos (We Are) by First Nation colleague Kevin Papatie, and new films from the Peruvian chapter of the community television group, Wapikoni MobileThe filmmaking and community television projects weave together narratives of the young people from Brazil, Peru and from Canadian First Nation communities.
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Summer Interns explore social therapeutics

For another productive summer, the East Side Institute and Social Therapy Group welcomed a cosmopolitan class of summer interns, representing a variety of cultural backgrounds and coming from colleges in the Bronx, Massachusetts, Louisiana, the UK and Spain.


Over the course the six weeks, the hard-working grouping of becoming-psychologists and educators helped produce Institute classes and workshops, conducted research on play and creativity, transcribed clinical interviews, pitched-in on the Fred Newman archives project and otherwise immersed themselves in the social therapeutic, performance-based approach.

In the photo above, students observed a demonstration workshop for Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids. Led by Institute faculty and All Stars Project co-founder Dr. Lenora Fulani,  the workshop brought together over 500 NYPD rookie police officers and community members.

Here’s the line-up of the Institute’s 2013 class of summer interns:                                 Tahani Chaudhury, Wellesley College                                                                         Matthew Gonzalez, Bronx Community College                                                               Lauren Grabowski, Teachers College, Columbia University                                           Leigh Harwood, Tulane University                                                                                     Kelly James,  University of Roehampton, London                                                                 Richard Orta, Bronx Community College                                                                         Marina Ros, Morelia University, Spain                                                                                  Yu-Wen Ru, New York University (NYU)

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Lev Vygotsky Revolutionary Scientist is a Classic (edition)




Twenty years after its debut, Fred Newman’s and Lois Holzman’s 1993 title, Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist, has been published by Psychology Press as a Classic Edition — i.e., among a series of psychology texts designed to present “fundamental ideas to a new generation.”

The book, which was translated into Portuguese in 2002, presents Vygotsky as a brilliant Marxist methodologist unique to his time—and remarkably relevant to ours. His  ‘search for method’ as portrayed by Newman and Holzman challenges the foundations of traditional psychology and its conceptions of human development and learning.


In her introduction to the Classic Edition, Holzman locates Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist in “the global swirl of activity” that in just 20 years has taken Vygotsky from relative obscurity to a broad recognition across a range of academic and practice disciplines:

Unlike in 1993, it’s safe to say that today Vygotsky has at least name recognition in all areas of education, the social sciences and the humanities. Interest in Vygotskian ideas has dramatically increased among scholars and researchers in areas of psychology…education…and afterschool and informal learning.  Among practitioners, too, there is a thirst for the reenergizing that Vygotsky’s approach bring….The amount of published works by Vygotsky has more than doubledthe number of books about Vygotsky has also greatly increased.. Since 1993, forty-two English-language books with Vygotsky in the title are available from Amazon.

As a player in this global swirl of activity, I am grateful to have the opportunity to examine anew Newman’s and my book, the ideas it presents, the practices that inspired it, and speculate on its current relevance in the very changed political landscape of the second decade of the 21st century.

Posted in Education, Fred Newman, Lois Holzman, Marxism, Psychology, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Tony Perone: Imaginative Play Is Key in Adults’ Development


Congratulations to Institute colleague, educator and performer/improviser par excellence, Tony Perone for successfully defending his doctoral thesis in May.   His dissertation—entitled The Presence and Significance of Imaginative Play in the Lives of Mexican-Americans and conducted under the supervision of Dr. Artin Goncu—earned him a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  The work challenges dominant psychological theories that relegate the developmental value of imaginary play to early childhood.  Tony found that spontaneous, imaginative play continues to play an important and developmental role in the lives of the adults he studied.

Tony is off to his next adventure as Visiting Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Memphis’ College of Education, Health and Human Services. He continues to be interested in adults’ imaginative play experiences and how culture shapes and is shaped by play.

Both Tony and Artin are active with the Performing the World community and  presented at the 2012 conference in New York, Can Performance Change Save the World?

Posted in creativity and play, Education, improvisation, performance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Japanese colleagues try out performance of revolutionary conversationalists


Thirteen educators, psychologists, researchers and graduate students from universities across Japan recently completed a two-month online seminar with Lois Holzman, in which they pursued the study of performatory, developmental methodology and its Vygotskian roots. Entitled, Social Therapeutics: Breaking Through Alienation and Reinitiating Development, the course built upon topics brought up during Holzman’s teaching and lecture tour in Japan in 2012,  organized by Professor Yuji Moro of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Tsukuba.  

Says Holzman:

Nearly all the participants were new to online study and to a conversational, as opposed to didactic, style of learning. This, plus the difficulty, for many, of writing in English, proved very challenging! Everyone, including me, had to perform a head taller—and it was worth it. The professors and students alike brought a wealth of knowledge, experience and curiosity to the course.

Professor Moro, a developmental psychologist (and kindred spirit), who has studied “Newman and Holzman’s  Vygotsky” since publication of Lev Vygotsky Revolutionary Scientist (1993), is currently writing a book on the All Stars Project and East Side Institute. Holzman will be back in Japan in 2014, as keynote speaker at the Japanese Association of Educational Psychology conference.

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Lobman in Vilnius, Lithuania, finds kindred (play and performance) spirits



Carrie Lobman (l.) with Milda Bredikyte and Vida Kazragytė (both faculty, Vilnius Pedagogical Institute), and Anželika Charevičiūtė, theatre student.

At the invitation of faculty Milda Bredekyte and Pentti Hakkarainen, the Institute’s director of pedagogy Carrie Lobman led a week-long series of trainings on new approaches to play and performance at the Vilnius Pedagogical Institute and at an off-campus educational retreat for the Productive Learning project. 

Bredekyte and Hakkarainen are part of a multi-national team who have spearheaded a Vygotskian-inspired, play-based approach to early childhood education called Playworlds.  Bredekyte is also a consultant for Productive Learning — an EU project designed  to help at-risk teens stay in school. Students spend a few days each week (productively) apprenticing in  bakeries, kindergartens, computer-repair and auto shops.

On campus, Lobman presented to the psychology “play team” and to faculty in the theatre education departments, introducing the Performing the World conference/community and discussing the “performance shift” in psychology and education.

At the Productive Learning retreat, Lobman led an improv workshop with 30+ high school students and their teachers, in which everyone had the opportunity to play and perform. Says Lobman:

First we performed with some tried-and-true improv games, like ‘Bunny, Bunny.’ But I also asked them to help me get to know them by creating some skits that portrayed a day-in-the-life in their communities.

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Syed Mizanur Rahman reports on Daffodil U. expansion in Dhaka

imagesHere’s a report  from International Class (2007) alumnus Syed Mizanur Rahman, Director of Student Affairs and the Department of Journalism & Mass Communication at Daffodil International University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The university recently completed construction of a permanent campus outside the city. Syed presided over the opening day festivities and shared this video.

WATCH the jubilant video here:  file://localhost/Users/jwootten/Desktop/Syed_Daffodil.mp4

“About 12,000 young people boarded 300 buses for the journey to the 30-acre permanent campus about 15 KM outside the city. I played the role of co-convener and emcee for the days’ festivities, which included speeches, dance and music performances and much joy.

Participants included TV and film stars, national sports figures (National Cricketers, Mt. Everest mountaineers, et al.), architect Yeafesh Osman, heads of state (Minister of Science & Technology), business leaders from the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry and university officials.

With this expansion to the new campus, we will be able to provide quality education to 30,000+ students. We believe in IT and interaction for building a developmental community; and so the university set-up its own internet along with a radio station for the students’ use.

I’ve worked with Mr. Sabur Khan to develop a new course, The Art of Living, designed to nurture the dream of developing future generations.”

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LaCerva to practitioners: It’s all about developing the therapeutic relationship

Twelve therapists, educators and personal coaches from NY, NJ, Massachusetts and Taiwan, joined the Institute’s Director of Clinical Training Christine LaCerva at the Social Therapy Group in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for a day-long workout for practitioners focused on “developing the therapeutic relationship.”

Rafael Mendez, Christine LaCerva, Lois Holzman, Jackie Salit

LaCerva, author of The Community Therapist, helped participants challenge some assumptions about emotional growth and development and supported them to try-out new performances of themselves as initiators/shapers/creators of collaborative therapeutic dialogue. Says LaCerva:

Listening, philosophizing and relationality are the building blocks for creating therapeutic conversations that are curative.  That’s what I want practitioners to take away from this work.

Participants took turns leading a social therapy group, with active direction and supervision from LaCerva.  The next Professional Development Saturday is slated for October 19.

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Inquisitive Visitors “Discover Development” in NYC


Eight new friends hailing from Georgia, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and the Netherlands spent three days in NYC as part of an immersive course of study, observation and play led by Institute director Lois Holzman (second from r., above).  Dubbed Discover Development NYC, and designed as an experiential introduction to New York’s development community, the program debuted this spring.

Across the city, country and the world, people are intrigued to learn of the activities of the development community. We created this program so they can experience it first hand,” said Holzman.

For the inaugural and multinational grouping (Dutch, Italian, Mexican, Russian and North American) Holzman offered a historical look at multi-faceted development programs – built upon 40 years of experimentation and discovery outside of traditional institutional settings and secured by an independent community-funding base.


An awards ceremony for political theater, a talent show workshop with inner-city young people, a stroll through Greenwich Village and dinner at a local bistro, abundant philosophical/political conversation and an improv-skills class — were all part of the weekend program, which will be offered again in the fall.

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Vygotskians CHAT @ AERA Professional Development Course


Institute director of pedagogy and Rutgers University faculty Carrie Lobman co-led a professional development and training course entitled, Cultural Historical Activity Theory Methodologies in the 21st Century: The Intersections of Theory, Research, Policy and Praxis at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in San Francisco. Lobman is co-Program Chair of AERA’s Cultural Historical Research Special Interest Group.

The course drew 55 university professors and graduate students who had the opportunity to work in small groups with eight faculty, whose work represented the diversity of theories and practical approaches that have emerged out of the study of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky and his colleagues.  Lobman and Institute director Lois Holzman were among the presenting faculty, along with Tatiana AkhutinaElena Bodrova, Michael Cole, Emily Duvall, Natalia Gajdamaschko and  Jim Martinez.


Michael Cole, Prof. of Communication and Psychology and Director, Laboratory for Comparative Human Development, UC San Diego; and Tatiana Akhutina, Prof. and Director, Laboratory of Neuropsychology, Lomonosov Moscow State Univ.

A highlight of the course was a tag-team presentation by Cole, Holzman, and Akhutina addressing how Cultural Historical Activity Theory continues to be a living/growing methodology and its relevance to critical issues facing education today–including poverty and development.

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Fulani, Holzman address subjective side of poverty @ AERA

 San Francisco Bay Area All Stars Project youths, Zachariah (far l.), Daniel and Raven (3rd and 2nd from r.), join David Grusky,  Institute director Lois Holzman, All Stars Project co-founder Lenora B. Fulani, and A.J. Franklin for a Presidential Session at meetings of the American Educational Research Association  in San Francisco to discuss Education, Poverty and Development:  Breakthroughs in Addressing the Subjective Side of Poverty.

San Francisco Bay Area All Stars Project’s Zachariah (far l.), Daniel and Raven (3rd & 2nd from r.), join David Grusky, Lois HolzmanLenora B. Fulani and A.J. Franklin for an AERA Presidential Session to discuss Education, Poverty and Development: Breakthroughs in Addressing the Subjective Side of Poverty.

Nearly 15,000 educational researchers gathered in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to grapple with issues of Education and Poverty (the conference theme). A highlight of the meeting was a special presidential session organized and chaired by Institute director Lois Holzman which introduced the subjective (emotional and social-relational) side of being poor into this important dialogue. The presentation, which drew a standing ovation, featured three young people from the San Francisco Bay Area All Stars Project in conversation with Institute faculty and All Stars co-founder Lenora B. Fulani and distinguished sociologist David Grusky (Stanford University) and psychologist A.J. Franklin (Boston College). Fulani delivered a paper entitled, The Development Line: Helping the Poor to Grow,  which points to the failed premise that public education could be the primary strategy for connecting the African America community to the mainstream. It argues for social policy that addresses the subjectivity of poverty and activities, including after-school programs, that foster development.

All Stars VP of Education Initiatives Bonny Gildin shared the All Stars success in developing community partnerships as part of a panel chaired by Montclair State University’s Dean of Education Francine Peterman on Moving Teacher Education Into Urban Schools and Communities: Prioritizing Community Strengths.  Bonny is a contributor to the eponymous book edited by Jana Noel (Routledge 2013).

Posted in All Stars Project, Carrie Lobman, Education, Lois Holzman, performance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ctty Meeting & Fundraiser caps spring fundraising drive

Jim Martinez, Carrie Loman, Lois Holzman, Kim Svoboda, Pam Lewis

Jim Martinez, Carrie Loman, Lois Holzman, Kim Svoboda, Pam Lewis

The Institute celebrated an annual rite of spring with its 6th annual Community Meeting and Fundraiser.   The festive gathering — a hallmark of the Institute’s financial independence — brought together 75+ shareholders and friends along with new colleagues and supporters.  The fundraising event capped-off a successful spring drive to underwrite the Institute’s international and local training and educational activities.

The speaking program, emceed by Christine Helm, featured a conversation with Institute director Lois HolzmanAll Stars VP of Youth Programs, Pamela A. Lewis and tech educator, Jim Martinez on recent advances in social therapeutics. The audience was also treated to an improvised comedy skit with Institute pedagogue Carrie Lobman and Performance of a Lifetime funny man David Nackmanand a presentation by Kim Svoboda on the work of the Fred Newman Archives.  An Institute initiative begun in January 2012, the archives project is assembling materials documenting the life and contributions of Institute co-founder Fred Newman.

Posted in Carrie Lobman, Fred Newman, Lois Holzman, Social Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Holzman @ Psychology Today: “Become a Vygotskian”

Institute director Lois Holzman is now blogging on Psychology Today as one of the publication’s roster of expert psychologists. Her new blog, entitled, A Conceptual Revolution (The Creative Side of Culture Change), offers a postmodern, methodological and performatory twist to the offerings on this popular website.

imagesIn her inaugural post, Become a VygotskianHolzman writes:

I’m a Vygotskian. I find psychology without him uninspiring at best and misinformed and misinforming at worst. I think psychology tries much too hard to act like a science and gets itself into lots of trouble that way….[Vygotsky] tried to study human beings as the complex beings and doings that we are, not as something simpler. His is a psychology of possibility (not prediction), of development (not diagnosis), of transformation (not treatment), of hope (not hype)—and of the very human becoming activity of human be-ings. READ MORE

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Jennifer Bullock and Murray Dabby: Teaching “Good Therapists” to Be Better


Atlanta Center for Social Therapy director Murray Dabby and Philadelphia Social Therapy Group director Jennifer Bullock teamed up to lead a national web-conference with about 80  clinicians — all members of the network.

Entitled, Why Group Therapy: Going From Fixing Problems to Creating Possibilities, the conversation touched on issues of development (what is it and how groups create it), building environments for emotional development, and an introduction to Fred Newman and Lois Holzman’s, Lev Vygotsky, Revolutionary Scientist.

Bullock offers Good Therapists some musings on “Emotional Growth in Social Therapy,” here.  In this essay, she considers her journey as a social therapist —  “going from I and me to we” —  and the radical relationality she helped advance alongside Social Therapy founder Fred Newman.

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Visiting scholar Ananta Kumar Giri presents “aesthetic of togetherness”

In the space of an emotionally nurturing community, we create a new view of the world…We must develop the aesthetic of building connections/relationship, togetherness…Ananta Giri


At the invitation of Lois Holzman, Institute faculty, staff and members of the Developmental Philosophy Group welcomed visiting scholar Dr. Ananta Kumar Giri for a presentation and engaging conversation about his work.

Dr. Giri is an associate professor, Madras Institute of Developmental StudiesHe trained as a sociologist and anthropologist, received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and wrote his dissertation on Habitat for Humanity.  A prodigious learner, he has been a visiting scholar all over Europe and has written on a broad range of topics, including postmodern psychology. He is currently working on several anthologies on human development and social transformation that will include articles by Holzman.

While in New York, he attended the Opening Day of the All-Stars Project of New Jersey’s new Scott Flamm Center for Afterschool Development.

It is very rare to see this combination of all the many and multi-dimensional activities of this community. That is inspiring.

Dr. Giri (l.) on the red carpet at New Jersey All Stars opening day, with Lois Holzman and Dan Friedman
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Carrie Lobman + Tony Perone: Play Movement Is Alive and Kicking

photo 5

Carrie Lobman, Ed.D., and Tony Perone, Ph.D.

Carrie Lobman reports @ Improvisational on her work at the joint meetings of  The Association for the Study of Play and the International Play Association in Newark, Delaware.

Teaming-up with Chicago-based improv artist and educator Tony Perone,  Carrie led a session titled, Revolutions in Play: Advocacy, Research, and Practice

It sparked a conversation….How do we go about bringing a movement into being? 

Carrie and Tony introduced participants to a few of the growing number of play-based grass roots projects around the world including: The Miracle Project and the Hunter Heartbeat Method (theatre projects for people diagnosed with Autism); the Memory Ensemble          (improv comedy for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s); John Bohannon‘s Dance your PhD; and The All Stars Project (after-school programs where inner city youth develop through play, performance, and pretense). Says Lobman:

While there continues to be a concern that play is under attack…there is also a growing interest in and acknowledgement of the innovative ways that play is being used to reinitiate development, to cross ideological and geographic boundaries, and to challenge roles and identities.

Posted in Carrie Lobman, creativity and play, Education, improvisation, performance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holzman and Gildin to address educational innovators in Singapore

227109_10150171730167203_19910327202_7306160_3407745_nInstitute director Lois Holzman and All Stars Project VP for Education Initiatives Bonny Gildin, are invited presenters at the Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference in the Republic of Singapore, June 3-5, sponsored by the National Institute of Education (NIE).

Holzman and Gildin will be joined by Institute colleague and Monash Univ. education professor Mike Askew for a plenary presentation on Learning Through Play.


According to NIE co-convenors, Associate Professors Kerry Lee and Manu Kapur, the conference will bring together educational scholars, practitioners and researchers from East and West to advance innovative practices.

Posted in All Stars Project, Education, Lois Holzman, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

International Class fellow, Jorge Burciaga, brings performance to educators in Chihuahua

406430_473049642729302_1840743773_nInternational Class fellow, Jorge Burciaga recently led a seminar on best practices in Community Education with educators working in very poor communities across the State of Chihuahua, Mexico

The course was sponsored by the National Council for Educational Development and was designed by Jorge to introduce educators to innovative practices in Latin America and the US, including the Institute’s social therapeutic approach to learning and development.

I introduced the concepts of resilience, play and performance as important educational tools, says Jorge.  I’m still learning myself about the power of performance to transform realities.

Listen to a radio interview  on Community and Play in Mexico featuring Jorge and International Class alumnus Miguel Cortez .

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Therapy Play @ American Academy of Psychotherapists


Atlanta-based social therapist, Murray Dabby, led a “therapy play” at recent meetings of the national conference of the American Academy of Psychotherapists, themed:  The Core of Psychotherapy. 

His popular workshop, entitled, The Therapy Play, cast 35 clinicians into the role of collective therapist, as a single volunteer performed as the client.

I want to help therapists experience the activity of therapy, the activity of language. The performance of language games helps everyone let go of their focus on the truth,  and look instead at how we’re building the therapeutic relationship.


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8 Students from Japan to South Africa join a postmodern psychology play


How do you teach a postmodern psychology? Or more specifically, how do you design a seminar to engage the foundations, politics, philosophy and community-based applications of the social therapeutic approach?

(Presumably, pop quizzes and multiple-choice tests are out…)

Institute faculty Lois HolzmanCarrie Lobman and Chris Helm kicked-off their Social Therapeutics Online seminar, a 20-week course that currently includes  educators and medical, mental health and organizational development professionals from Brazil, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and the US.  In the first weeks students explored “the roots of revolutionary conversation” through readings and videos of Marx and Engels, social therapy founder Fred Newman, Holzman, and critical psychologist Ian Parker. Their next assignment? Playwriting.  Students were asked to each write a one-scene play drawing their characters from these authors, the faculty and themselves.

Posted in Carrie Lobman, Lois Holzman, Marxism, Psychology, Social Therapy, Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Murilo Dos Santos Moscheta: Advancing an aesthetic approach to human development

Fotos- Jornada de Psicoligia-22.10.12 055

Brazilian psychologist and International Class (2010) alumnus Murilo Dos Santos Moscheta recently published an article entitled, Performance and Identity:  Notes for an Aesthetic/Relational Appraisal of Development, which appears in the Brazilian journal Nova Perspectiva Sistêmica (NPS), out of Rio de Janeiro.

Dos Santos advocates for a postmodern, activity theoretic orientation to human development:

Modern scientific psychology has exalted the idea of identity and the individual…In this article, I consider identity from a postmodern perspective….I introduce Fred Newman  and  Lois Holzman’s portrayal of Lev Vygotsky’s activity theory and Marxist dialectics… I  consider human development within an aesthetic framework — in terms of creativity, process and improvisation.

Dos Santos is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at the Universidade Estadual de Maringá.

Posted in Africa, Christine LaCerva, creativity and play, Fred Newman, improvisation, Social Therapy, Training | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Now a Classic: Lev Vygotsky Revolutionary Scientist



Twenty years after its original publication, Fred Newman and Lois Holzman’s Lev Vygotsky Revolutionary Scientist will be re-published this coming August  as a Routledge Psychology Press, Classic Edition. The book, which was translated into Portuguese in 2002, presents Vygotsky as a brilliant Marxist methodologist unique to his time—and remarkably relevant to ours. His  ‘search for method’ as portrayed by Newman and Holzman challenges the very foundations of traditional psychology and its conceptions of human development and learning. Holzman is currently writing an introduction to the new edition that brings readers up to date on who Vygotsky has become.


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Performance of a Lifetime’s Cathy Salit Featured in Daniel Pink’s “To Sell Is Human”


Performance of a Lifetime CEO Cathy Salit is featured in best-selling author Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human:  The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. In this, his fourth book on transforming the workplace, Pink devotes a chapter to the importance of improvisation and recites lessons learned from Salit (to whom he refers as “something of a sales whisperer”) about the art of listening.


I’ve come to study with a master, says Pink…She runs a company called Performance of a Lifetime, which reaches business people with improvisational theater—not to secure them low-paying gigs in drafty Greenwich Village clubs, but to make them more effective in their regular jobs. And at the heart of what she teaches is listening.

Salit (with Christine Helm) teaches the Institute’s popular course, Talking to People in Public, coming up in March, and will host a webinar on the Art of Listening, Friday, February 1, at 12 p.m. EST. Read more here.


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The Therapeutic Power of Performance — watch the video


Lois Holzman blogs about The Therapeutic Power of Performance — the subject of a special plenary session at Performing the World 2012:  Can Performance Change Save the World featuring Hector AristizabalLenora FulaniArtin GöncüLin Ching-Hsia,  Christine LaCerva and Charles Rojzman.

Says Holzman:

I live performance and its therapeutic power every day, and I can easily forget that conversations like the one that took place at PTW 2012 are rare…..To hear from these remarkable and inspirng people, watch the video. Here’s a little of what you’ll hear:

Hector Aristizabal:  Performance is a way to come out, to let the spirit come out….What we create is a place for spontaneity, a place for playing, a place to become again the five year olds who can play.

Lenora Fulani:  For many of us who are poor, it’s not that you don’t think we can become things, but that you don’t know there are things to become. So going out and performing and starting to have that experience is extremely powerful

Artin Göncü:  The need to improvise is a very significant part of the human experience…by making variations of the narratives we begin to tell ourselves that there is more than one way of existing in the world, and there is nothing more therapeutic, more healing, than to see we have the power to change our way of being.

Christine LaCerva:   A lot rides on our capacity to be who we’re not.


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Jim Martinez brings NYIT science students to Harlem classrooms


New York Institute of Technology Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology and Institute faculty Jim Martinez engineered an innovative educational program that brought 23 of his NYIT science and technology students to Harlem’s P.S. 241. His students provided professional development for the Harlem science teachers, IT support for the school, and some fun and engaging science lessons for the kids.  Said Martinez in an interview with WNYC-Radio:

The idea here is to bring in science and engineering majors, (students who are in the process of becoming those things), and bring them into school so that their habits are on display in front of the little ones…A great way for children to learn is to watch the people who have the skill set in practice.

The WNYC interview points to the growing demand of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. U.S. students are lagging in math and science compared to students in other industrialized countries, and New York is among many states that spend less time on science now than in the 1990s.

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Rutgers Partners with All Stars Project to Advance Developmental Afterschool

Sue Davies, Carrie Lobman, Gloria Strickland, Bonny Gildin

Carrie Lobman (second from l.) and Bonny Gildin (r.) with Sue Davies (NJ All Stars campaign director) and Gloria Strickland (NJ All Stars founding director) at site of NJ All Stars Center for Afterschool Development in Newark

Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE) announced Friday a partnership with the All Stars Project, Inc. to develop initiatives dedicated to afterschool programming.

For 30 years, All Stars has opened afterschool developmental programs for youth living in urban areas across the country.  Now, with the help of the GSE and other university partners, All Stars will work to establish a professional field — Developmental Afterschool — and promote research in that field as a cornerstone of an innovative approach to addressing poverty and youth development issues in urban communities throughout the United States.

Institute director of pedagogy and GSE professor Dr. Carrie Lobman partnered with All Stars Project Vice President/Education Initiatives Dr. Bonny Gildin to bring Rutgers and ASP together.  Lobman will lead a graduate-level course this spring on Play, Performance, and Pretending: Innovations in Outside of School Programs. The course will include a service-learning component at the $9.2 million New Jersey All Stars Center for Afterschool Development in Newark.

Poverty robs children of play…, something integral to human development, says Lobman. The All Stars’ approach makes use of young people’s capacity and love of play, performance and pretending to enlarge their worlds and help them see and create new possibilities.



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“Fulani’s Tools and Results” by Omar Ali appears in journal Palimpsest

UNC-G historian Omar Ali

UNC-G historian Omar Ali

Palimpsest, a Journal of Women, Gender and the Black International published an article by colleague Omar Ali entitled, Fulani’s Tools and Results: Development as Black Empowerment?  The piece introduces All Stars Project co-founder and Institute faculty Lenora Fulani and examines her social therapeutic approach to addressing poverty and racism in the Black community. Dr. Ali is a professor in the African American Studies Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and  a national spokesperson for the independent political movement. READ EXCERPT.

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Lenora Fulani: Communities coming to learn, “we’re poor”

Diane Smith, Joshua, Ahmad, Lenora Fulani, Carrie Lobman at "Growing Up Poor"

Diane Smith, Joshua, Ahmad, Lenora Fulani, Carrie Lobman at “Growing Up Poor”

Institute faculty, All Stars Project co-founder and UX dean, Dr. Lenora B. Fulani led a special forum on Growing Up Poor:  Breakthroughs in Confronting the Subjective Side of Poverty.  Fulani’s presentation touched on DuBois’ concept of the “color line” and introduced her discovery of the “development line” that currently divides communities. A panel with UX student Diane Smith (left in photo) and Eagle Academy youths Joshua (2nd from l.) and Ahmad talked with Fulani about coming to learn (from Fulani) they were poor and the growing they did off of that. WATCH VIDEO HERE.

In her introductory remarks to 120+ friends and colleagues, Institute and Rutgers Univ. faculty, Dr. Carrie Lobman remarked on the therapeutic and developmental implications of Fulani’s work (whom she referred to as “the quintessential community therapist.”)

Why isn’t every therapy center putting poverty front and center? noted Lobman.

Fulani will present at a President’s Forum at the American Educational Research Association’s spring 2013 conference, whose theme is Education and Poverty: Theory, Research, Policy and Praxis.  She will present on the subjectivity of poverty,  interview young people from the San Francisco Bay Area All Stars and lead a panel discussion with colleagues A.J. Franklin (Boston College) and David Grusky (Stanford Univ.’s Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality).

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Playing with Everything


Carrie Lobman writes at about a recent Revolutionary Conversation she led, entitled: The Play Revolution: Practice, Research and Policy, which investigated what’s new and emerging in the field of play (see: John Bohannon who invites academics to replace Powerpoints with dance; Caine Monroy, a 9-year-old, whose cardboard arcade is inspiring children everywhere to make things, and Playing for Change, creating street music in communities across the world.)


Play puts us in touch with our ability to create. When we play, we can break from the seeming scriptedness of adult life, and perform in ways that are less alienated. We practiced this by choosing activities that we normally just “do,” and we played with them. We explored the relationship between these small moments of play and the need for our species to tap into our ability to be playful with the most challenging of differences.

In the last week, we created a game called The State of Play. It was a double whammy…At some point, we each landed on a square that directed us to pick a card. The cards gave directions for continuing the play once we left the room. For example, my card said, “to ask a stranger to create a poem for you.”  One of the participants pointed out that if we kept creating the game wherever we went, eventually play would take over the world.


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Holmes introduces improv to Harvard grad students

Dr. Raquell Holmes

Dr. Raquell Holmes

Dr. Raquell Holmes, a graduate of The International Class in 2011, recently led a professional development workshop with grad students in the Systems Biology research program at Harvard University. The workshop — which introduced performance and improvisation as a modality for growth — was designed to help students develop their performances as professional research scientists.

I encouraged students to fully commit to pretending and performance — and they did.  They created a development zone in which they could be proud, serious and passionate performers.

A long time friend and colleague, Dr. Holmes has found ever ingenious and creative ways to introduce a performance ontology to the broader science research community. Read more at her website:

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Volker Bunzendahl: Performing Hope in an Alienated World

Read Lois Holzman’s loving obituary for longtime friend,  Volker Bunzendahl

November 19, 2012

This morning I learned that a dear friend of mine passed away last week. Volker was an exuberant  and passionate psychologist and human being… He will be deeply missed.  READ MORE

Volker was in/behind/ahead of/inside/outside of his/our time—a modernist and a postmodernist, a revolutionary and a reformer, a hippie and a family man, a serious player and a playful intellectual, outrageous and traditional. I invite you to get to know him through the videos, audios and writings on his site, Performing Hope in an Alienated World. 

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Performance as Social Activism at Performing the World

Guest post submitted by Performing the World participant: Lauren Jacobs

The seventh Performing the World Conference, convened by the All Stars Project and the East Side Institute, October 4-7, attracted 450+ performance advocates from 37 countries to the  All Stars Headquarters on 42 Street in Manhattan. The question of the weekend:  Can Performance Save the World?

A plenary presentation, The Therapeutic Power of Performance, moderated by Lois Holzman and featuring, Hector Aristizábal, Lenora Fulani, Artin Göncü, Lin Ching Hsia, Christine LaCerva, and Charles Rojzman, raised concerns poetic and political. WATCH VIDEO HERE.

Fulani: Young people in poor communities of color are related to negatively — in terms of  who they are — rather than in terms of who they are becoming.

LaCerva:  How do we help create environments that allow us all to be who we are not?

Aristizábal:  We become policemen of our own imagination. I invite everyone to play…Art is where humanity heals…

A second plenary moderated by Dan Friedman, What Are We Performing and How Do We Know That? featured a presentation by NYU performance studies pioneer Richard Schechner with panelists Marcelo Bratke, Chang Janaprakal Chandruang, David Diamond, Kevin Moore, and Helen White.  WATCH VIDEO HERE.

Schechner:  “By playing deeply, we can explore and build relationships, cross borders, engage in lifelong study, and grow by becoming ourselves and someone else!” 

Friedman: “Performance is an intensely creative and social activity that allows us to develop by creating something new from what exists….We understand oppression, but knowing it doesn’t change it; you change it by the creative process of re-performing it…Performance is social activism.”

Diamond: “Transformation happens from the heart. Let’s not simply tear down what we don’t want – Let’s build what we do want.”

As a result of our participation in this year’s Performing the World conference, that’s exactly what we’ve begun to do.

For photos, videos, program, and presenter snapshots, please check out the website,, and visit Performing the World on Facebook.

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Chris Reyman and Sandra Paola Lopez are in2 improv


International Class members and artists/educators Chris Reyman  and Sandra Paola López are the creators of  in2 improv, a creative arts/community building project which draws heavily on music, movement and dance to help participants discover their social connectedness. Says Reyman:

We think of ourselves as explorers ~ for in2, anything and everything is game. We work (play) together to challenge and revolutionize how we understand our lives and our art. Currently, we are based in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

Of special interest are presence, relationality, creativity, the significance of touch and impromptu composition. Chris and Paola offered a workshop at Performing the World 2012 entitled, in2 Community Building: An Interdisciplinary Improvisation Workshop, in which participants played with inventing non-verbal environments.

in2 improv at Performing the World

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Lobman at All Stars Project’s Afterschool conference

Faculty Carrie Lobman reports on the smashing success of the inaugural Afterschool Growth! conference in Chicago on her blog Improvisational Learning. READ MORE

Co-sponsored by the All Stars Project of Chicago and the newly formed Institute for the Study of Play, the conference brought together 125+ educators, researchers and youth development leaders.

The Institute for the Study of Play is a national All Stars “initiative in progress” spearheaded by VP Bonny Gildin and Lobman.

Conference headliners  Mary Ellen Caron, CEO of After School Matters, Lenora Fulani, All Stars Co-Founder, and  Gabrielle Kurlander, All Stars President and CEO, discussed the role of innovative Afterschool in supporting young people’s development.

Northwestern University’s E. Patrick Johnson (left) and Erickson Institute’s Robert Halpern (second from right) joined Lobman (second from left) and Gildin (right) to lead a panel discussion on Afterschool research. Says Lobman:

…there is growing evidence that [schooling] has been a catastrophic failure for our poorest communities…

Afterschool has always been an afterthought…yet it’s transforming the lives of young people…. not through remediation, but by giving them opportunities to be creative, to be part of an ensemble and to connect to a wider world…READ MORE

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Steve Duncan goes underground at Performance of a Lifetime seminar

Performance of a Lifetime hosted a by-invitation seminar, “Innovations in Development” which featured urban historian and photographer Steve Duncan (center).  Steve’s presentation, “Going Places You’re Not Supposed to Go,” featured an array of starkly beautiful photos (see more at taken in sewer systems and underground tunnels from New York to Naples, Chicago to Calcutta. Steve challenges notions of how we see our cities by exploring the hidden infrastructure beneath our feet.  In Q&A with Steve, POAL principals and Institute faculty Cathy Salit and David Nackman, echoed the challenge of “going places (personally and professionally) where the little voice in our head says we’re not supposed to go.”

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International Class 2012-13: Playful, philosophical agents of social change

On the heels of Performing the World, October 4-7,  and vibrant conversations on performance and social change, the Institute’s 2012-2013 International Class convened in New York City for the first of three residencies.  Members of this playful and passionate class of 14 are eager to advance their educational, therapeutic, community and youth development programs and anti-poverty work back home through a study of social therapeutic methodology.

They are (back row l. to r.) Jaime Rodrigo (Colombia), Carrie Sackett (NYC), Ricardo Lana Pinheiro (Brazil), Qazi Abdur Rahman (Bangladesh);  (middle row l. to r.) Chris Reyman (Illinois), Sandra Paola Lopez (Illinois/Colombia), Nomsa Mazwai (South Africa), Jorge Burciaga-Montoya (Mexico), Ana DaSilva Iddings (Arizona/Brazil); (front row l. to r.) Bharati Bakshi (India), Ranjana Sengupta (India), Regiane Sbroion de Carvalho (Brazil), Barbara Silverman (New York), and Carol Gorelick (New York).

Read International Class biographies and see more photos here

A ‘global learning’ program begun in 2004, the International Class is open to practitioners and scholars with a broad range of educational and life experiences. It combines residencies in New York City with online seminars, supervision and project development sessions. Applications for the 2013-14 program are being accepted through July.

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Christine LaCerva presents on clinical work with families + children

Christine La Cerva, Director of the Social Therapy Groupwill host a four-week online seminar for therapists, educators and parents entitled “Therapy Play with Children and Families.” Using interviews, unpublished case study materials and notes from supervisory sessions, Christine will introduce the multi-family social therapy group, which she has pioneered. For more info and to register, click HERE.

Children are natural performers, says LaCerva. I’m interested in helping young people and their parents create new performances as active creators of their families, classrooms and communities.

LaCerva says she plans to introduce a broad range of conversational topics, such as:  How do you build a developmental relationship with a five- or a fifteen- or fifty-year-old? How do you use improvisation, play and pretense in the therapy room? And how do we play with diagnoses, identities and family roles?

For over 25 years, LaCerva worked with Social Therapy founder Fred Newman to develop a performance-based, group therapy that helps young people and families challenge the limits of diagnostic labels (such as, Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, etc.) and develop their lives.


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UNC Executive Development white paper features Performance of a Lifetime

The consulting firm Performance of a Lifetime (POAL) is featured in a new white paper published by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School entitled,  Leadership Agility: Using Improv to Build Critical Skills. Authored by Kip Kelly, Director of Marketing & Business Development for UNC’s Executive Development, the paper points to innovators in the field of Executive Development, and reports on POAL’s use of improvisation in training talent management professionals. He quotes Institute faculty and POAL CEO Cathy Salit, who explains:

“We use improvisation to establish an environment in which we can move executives out of their comfort zones and support them in taking risks, embracing their mistakes and exercising their creativity. Their abilities, mind-sets and behavioral repertoires expand and the process of professional and personal transformation begin.”

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Steve & Mary Alice host PTW sneak preview with Lobman and Sutherland

Blog Talk Radio hosts and play mavens, Steve Dahlberg and Mary Alice Long, Ph.D., celebrated the two-year anniversary of their show, Creativity in Play with a special “Sneak Preview” of Performing the World 2012 (PTW). The September 25 show features interviews on the power of play for personal and social transformation with the Institute’s Carrie Lobman and International Class alumna Alex Sutherlandsenior lecturer specializing in theater for social change at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. Listen to the full interview here.

“I can’t wait to be at PTW!” said Mary Alice.  Mary Alice, Steve and the Institute’s Carrie Lobman and Gwen Lowenheim will team up to lead a PTW workshop entitled, Creativity in Play:  Performing a Creative World on Purpose.

Our plan, said Steve, is to share some of the audio from interviews we’ve done over the last two years and invite workshop participants to explore and respond in some improvisational ways. We also want to open up the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. It should be fun.”

Creativity in Play is produced by the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination, in partnership with the National Creativity Network, and features dialogues with some of the nation’s leading experts in play, imagination and creativity.

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Crazytown creator, Jude Treder-Wolff, interviews Carrie Lobman

Creative arts therapist and performance artist, Jude Treder-Wolff interviewed the Institute’s Carrie Lobman, for a column, entitled: The Radical Collaboration Made Possible Through Playwhich appeared on the online news hub, Long Island Inter-personal Relationships Examiner.  Treder-Wolff is the creator of the one-woman show, Crazytown, and author of Possible Futures: Creative Thinking For The Speed of Life.

Jude Treder-Wolff in Crazytown

Her column reports on the upcoming Performing the World 2012 conference, Lobman’s Play Revolution seminar, and includes Lobman’s comments on the role of play and performance in human development:

Development comes about from recognizing that we create our lives. We do that by being more conscious of creative activity…Theater, improvisation are a great way to be reconnected to this.. People can develop throughout our lives. But to do that we have to find ways to play and pretend. We have to create environments where we are not constrained by our identities and    can play and perform.  [Click here to read the full column.]

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Performance of a Lifetime exec, Maureen Kelly, to teach improv workshop

Institute faculty, Maureen Kelly, a principal at organizational-change firm Performance of a Lifetime, will lead a special two-part, interactive workshop for coaches, teachers, facilitators (and anyone who works with groups), entitled, “Let’s Improvise!” Planned for Wed. evenings, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, the workshop is designed to teach participants how to build environments where people can take risks, make mistakes, stretch in their performances and grow. Focuses include:  active listening,  being curious, connecting and building relationships with others, and being more creative with the “offers” others make. For more information and to register, see: Events at ESI.

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Social Therapy at Harlem Week

A team of 18 Institute and Social Therapy Group staff, faculty and volunteers participated in Harlem Week festivities on August 19, creating a stage for some good conversation about emotional development as a critical issue for our communities.

The team talked to about 200 people — conducting a short survey on the impact of psychiatric diagnoses and the diagnostic labeling of children of color.  Social Therapy Group volunteers Ashanda Tarry and Brenda Martinez were among those who had pioneered the survey on the streets of Ft. Greene, Brooklyn earlier this summer.

Says Institute faculty, Gwen Lowenheim, who led the team:

We spoke to people about mental health, emotionality and therapy very directly, and people were very open in their responses…We introduced social therapy as a practice that helps people to grow without labeling.

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Lois Holzman travels to Japan as guest faculty

At the invitation of colleague Professor Yuji Moro, Institute director Lois Holzman will visit Japan August 24 through September 3, where she will lead the  Japanese Society of Developmental Psychology‘s  International Workshop,  deliver a keynote  at the Annual Meeting of the  Japanese Association of  Qualitative Psychology, and give a lecture at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Many of the faculty and graduate students who will be participating have been studying Holzman’s book Vygotsky at Work and Play and are eager to learn more about the social therapeutic approach to psychotherapy, youth development and learning.

A fellow-Vygotskian and developmentalist, Dr. Moro is a professor of Discursive Psychology, Learning Science and Cultural Psychology at the University of Tsukuba’s Institute of PsychologyThis past spring, he visited Holzman, the Institute and All Stars Project in order to experience first-hand the activities of these Vygotskian-inspired organizations.

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Marxist psychologists in Mexico: Energized and disgruntled

In a recent post, Lois Holzman reports on the 2nd Marxism and Psychology Conference in Morelia, Mexico, where she presented along with colleagues Wellington de Oliveira (São Paulo) and Miguel Cortés and Jorge Burciaga (from Juárez, Mexico) on,  From Critical to Practical-Critical Psychology: Activating and Developing People and Community in Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

In her commentary, Holzman writes:

(l. to r.) Jorge Burciaga, Lois Holzman, Wellington de Oliveira and Miguel Cortés

Marxism as a practical-critical method for ordinary people to change the world—not an ideological tool for analysis or critique—is what I believe and live…I was especially pleased with a packed-house symposium I shared with Wellington de Oliviera from São Paulo Brazil, and Miquel Cortes and Jorge Borciaga from Juarez Mexico—three emerging grassroots leaders…. Not surprisingly, the young and the activists were excited and energized, while the Marxist scholars for whom theory is separate from and imposed upon practice were disgruntled. I was—I hope understandably—both thrilled and saddened by this.

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Cathy Salit leads performance workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa


At the invitation of Betsi Pendry (third row, yellow scarf),  ESI faculty and Performance of a Lifetime CEO Cathy Rose Salit (second row, center), led a workshop at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa with students, faculty and facilitators from Drama for Life and Themba Interactive — organizations which use drama as a tool in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

Salit delighted her audience by beginning with a performance of kd lang’s Sing It Loud, then recounted her history as a community organizer, entrepreneur and artist  — dropping out of junior high school, starting a free school, meeting Dr. Fred Newman, and later building Performance of a Lifetime as part of the Institute and All Stars community.  The audience joined in as Salit led a series of improvisational exercises and introduced the group to performance as  “pointless activity.” She commended their work using theater-with-a-message to help communities deal with HIV/AIDS and other hard issues and invited them to consider other uses of performance. What would it mean to perform all the time in everyday life?

Development is what happens when you throw out your societal scripts and identities and create new performances with others, said Salit.

Betsi Pendry, a longtime Institute colleague trained in the social therapeutic approach,  reports that 10 faculty and students from Johannesburg have applied to come to NYC, October 4-7, for the Performing the World conference. They will  join in performances with new friends from 30+ countries across the globe.

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Human Development as ‘Resistance’

Lois Holzman will travel to the central Mexican city of Morelia to participate in the 2nd Marxism and Psychology Conference, August 9-11.  She will be a discussant at two plenary sessions: Marxism, Subjectivity and Cultural-Historical Psychology, and Psychology, Marxism and New Forms of Collective Action.  Holzman will also present at a symposium, From Critical to Practical-Critical Psychology: Activating and Developing People and Community in Brazil, Mexico and the United States, alongside talented community educators Wellington de Oliveira (São Paulo) and Miguel Cortés, Mariana Loya and Jorge Burciaga (Juárez).

It’s our opportunity to bring human development as a new form of “resistance” into the dialogue about how psychology can contribute to revolutionary change, says Holzman.


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Summer Interns hit the streets

Staff and Interns at NYC Gay Pride talking to strangers about Performing the World

The Institute and the Social Therapy Group welcomed over a dozen interns this summer, coming to NYC from colleges in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Denmark.  One of their first assignments was to ‘hit the streets’ at NYC’s Gay Pride March, to talk-up the Performing the World event in October.

When they ask me back home what I did on my summer internship, I can say that on my first day, I was at Gay Pride talking to strangers! I love this city. I love the diversity. Lars Hemmingsen, University of Copenhagen

Over the course of 12-weeks, they will produce events, research, create archives, study and otherwise familiarize themselves with the social therapeutic approach. Here are some of their bios:

Avgi Chatzimpalioti, (second row, 3rd from r.) from Thessaloniki, Greece, is a rising junior at Dickinson College (PA), pursuing interests in developmental psychology and therapy.

Victoria Formosa (front row, 2nd from l.) is a rising senior at SUNY New Paltz, with a major in Psychology and minors in Evolutionary Studies and Women’s Studies. She is active with the Feminist Collective.

Lars Hemmingsen (back row r.) is a Psychology major at the University of Copenhagen, where he teaches undergraduate courses in Personality Psychology. He was as an exchange student at Stockholm University, where he pursued his interest in clinical psychology.

Amber Lin (not pictured) is a rising senior at NYU, studying Psychology and Sociology. Originally from ‘mellow’ California, she moved to NYC to create a life that would challenge the opinions she had become too comfortable with.

Raisa Reyes (back row, 2nd from l.) is a rising sophomore at Swarthmore College (PA), with a major in Philosophy and minor in Psychology.  She grew up in NYC’s East Village.

Matt Rosenblum (back row, 3rd from l.) is a rising sophomore at Clemson University (SC), where he studies Philosophy. He attended Livingston High School in NJ.

Julia Sharpe-Levine (front row, 3rd from l.) originally from Long Island, is a rising junior at Vassar College (NY), majoring in Drama and Chinese with a minor in Creative Writing.

Kasper Sylvest-Munk (back row, far l.) is a graduate student at the University of Copenhagen, where he teaches first-year Psychology. He has studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and now at the Institute. Learning and teaching continue to be a driving interest.

Julianna Zuckerman (front row, r.) is a rising junior at SUNY New Paltz, where her major is Spanish. Julie grew up in NYC in a psychology-centered household. She attended Beacon High School on NYC’s Upper West Side.

In addition, clinical interns working with the Social Therapy Group this summer include:

Brenda Martinez is a human services major and senior at Bronx Community College. She was first introduced to psychology through her professor, Rafael Mendez, who is also a social therapist. Rafael introduced Brenda to the work of Vygotsky, and Fred Newman and encouraged her to attend plays at the Castillo Theater. In her spare time, Brenda takes care of dad, administering his medicine and taking him to appointments.

Anarghya Nirbail is a rising junior at Hofstra University and is majoring in psychology. She plans on going to graduate school to become a mental health counselor. After taking her first introductory psychology class in high school, Anarghya knew she wanted to pursue a career in helping people. She was drawn to the Brooklyn Social Therapy group because they offer a new perspective to therapy that was not taught in school. Anarghya also likes to write fiction and design costumes and clothes.

Aziza Khan was born in Trinidad and Tobago and immigrated to the United States when she was four. She received her Bachelors degree from Binghamton University in English and Psychology and trained at Binghamton with noted psychologist, Don Levis. Later, Aziza received a Masters degree in Psychology from Pace University and started her PsyD at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. She has acquired quite a bit of clinical experience and is currently taking time away from academia.

Cecilia Brown is a rising senior at Connecticut College who is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. At school, Cecilia is the photography editor of her school’s newspaper and manages a coffee shop. Her interest in Psychology grew after studying abroad in Argentina, where she worked on a mental illness rehabilitation farm that used new and alternative therapeutic practices.

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Richard Schechner, Leader in Avant-Garde and Political Theatre, to Present at PTW 2012

Richard Schechner — a leader in American avant-garde and political theatre, editor of The Drama Review and founder of the performance studies program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts will be among the 100+ presenters and workshop leaders at Performing the World 2012.  Schechner toured the South during the Civil Rights Movement with the integrated Free Southern Theatre. He founded and was the artistic director of the Performance Group and in that capacity helped to create the practice of environmental theatre. In the 1970s, working closely with anthropologist Victor Turner, he brought into being the academic discipline of Performance Studies, which researches performance in everyday life. At PTW 2012, Richard Schechner will discuss the relationship(s) between Performance Studies and performance activism.

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Zimbabwe’s Daniel Maposa of Savanna Trust to present at PTW 2012

From Zimbabwe, Daniel Maposa is one of the 100+ pre­sen­ters and work­shop leaders com­ing to PTW 2012.  Maposa is the direc­tor of the Savanna Trust, which brings the­atre into the streets and vil­lages of polit­i­cally polar­ized Zim­babwe to cre­ate a space for dia­logue and devel­op­ment. Maposa will share his work in the town of Wadzanayi, where per­for­mance helped restore rela­tion­ships after the vio­lence accom­pa­ny­ing the 2008 elec­tion and allowed neigh­bors to begin work­ing together again, despite their con­tin­u­ing polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, for the devel­op­ment of their community.

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More Scientists at Play (Is this a trend?)

Bonobo at play

Conversations on the value of play continue to cross boundaries of all kinds—age, academic discipline, science and art, scholar and practitioner. Social worker Helen Abel and life performance coach Randy Wilson — both on staff at San Francisco’s Life Performance Coaching Center — and cell biologist and International Class alumna Raquell Holmes were among participants at The Tenth International Conference on Neuroesthetics: The Importance of Being Playful at UC Berkeley. Says Holmes, founder of ImprovScience and an advocate for the use of improvisation and performance in the science classroom:

This interdisciplinary grouping of scientists, artists and activists created a playful energy and clearly had a commitment to play.

Oxford University primatologist, Isabel Behncke opened with a presentation on the fun-loving bonobos of the Congo, for whom play was a matter of species survival. Other speakers included:  Scott Eberle, editor of the American Journal of Play; Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play and producer of the television documentary, The Promise of Play; rap artist Baba BrinkmanShakti Belway, former attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center;  Margaret Boden from the University of Sussex; and performance artist Leonard Pitt. A hit of the event was a slide show by Univ. of Colorado’s Marc Bekoff  entitled, Animals at Play: Why Joy and Fairness Are the Names of the Game. 

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The Human Cost of Bad Science: Therapists need new tools

(l. to r.) Carrie Lobman, moderator, Gil Eyal, Lois Holzman, Christine LaCerva discuss the Human Cost of Diagnosis

The Human Cost of Diagnosis forum brought together Columbia University’s Gil Eyal, the Institute’s Lois Holzman, and Social Therapy Group director Christine LaCerva at NYU’s Vanderbilt Hall. The audience of 100+ therapists, educators, parents and others were treated to three ways of looking at diagnosis with a critical eye.  A critic of the American Psychiatric Association’s clumsy and (at least in the case of the ‘autism’ label) class-biased taxonomy, Eyal recounted his research into the history, sociology and politics of Autism.  Holzman, who has written extensively as part of the outcry surrounding revisions to the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), pointed to how the diagnostic paradigm distorts our understanding of human beings and limits our capacity to help. LaCerva, who trains clinicians in the non-diagnostic Social Therapy group approach, described how young people and families in her practice develop socially and emotionally by participating (and performing) as members of their social therapy group

We’re looking to create an environment in our groups where people can play with diagnosis, says LaCerva.  [See: The Hamburger Syndrome.]

The discussion with the audience drew out two important themes:  While the formal institutions of psychiatry and psychology appear to have become increasingly authoritarian, practitioners are finding creative ways to help their patients – which often don’t conform to the APA’s strictures. Still, most therapists are poorly prepared to help people – the tools they’ve been given are outmoded, and access to developmental therapies and practices is limited. It’s the human cost of bad science.

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International Class graduates complete ‘developmental’ course of study

Faculty and graduates of the Institute’s 2011-2012 International Class gathered in New York City for a graduation ceremony to mark the completion of their 10-month course of study. Pictured above (back row l. to r.) Christine Helm, Andrew Burton, Kim Svoboda, Lois Holzman, Jody BostonChristine LaCerva, David Belmont, Sanjay Kumar; (front row l. to r.) Carrie Lobman,  Gwen Lowenheim, Karlina Salu.

A ‘global learning’ program, the International Class is open to practitioners and scholars with a broad range of educational and life experiences. It combines residencies in New York City with online seminars, supervision and project development sessions. Applications for the 2012-13 program are being accepted through July.

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Fulani and Frazier: Postmodern Freedom Riders

Alvaader Frazier, Esq, and Lenora Fulani, Ph.D.

Faculty and longtime community organizers Lenora Fulani and Alvaader Frazier completed a four-week Revolutionary Conversation entitled Postmodern Freedom Riders, which brought together 45 participants from across New York City to discuss the history and evolution of the fight for civil rights and democracy.  The multi-racial class included high school students from the Congo, college interns, middle-aged people—some of whom had participated in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and others who knew little about it. All wanted to do something about social injustice and poverty.

Said Fulani, Black people cannot change America by being ‘right’ on race — we can’t do it by ourselves. We have to say to white people, ‘We’re poor.  Now what are we going to do about it?’….We have to create circumstances where all kinds of people can come together and grow…We don’t have to wait for the [official] ‘creators’….We can build something ourselves….That’s powerful.

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Gwen Lowenheim helps staff play like kids at Brooklyn’s Children’s Museum

Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights

Faculty Gwen Lowenheim led a play workshop for the staff of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Part of their Altman Foundation PlayNet series, the workshop (entitled, Play, Perform, Grow: Building a High Functioning and Creative Team), was organized by Juliet Gray Moliere, director of Early Childhood Education, and attended by program directors, after-school educators and the security team. Gwen reports that staff played in the developmental way that young children do and explored some practical tools for performing anew with co-workers and museum visitors.  

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Students at St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf perform “Annie”

Carrie Lobman at reports on a youth theatre performance that she attended at the invitation of colleague Anne Alexis at St Francis de Sales School for the Deaf. Anne has studied social therapeutics for years and has creatively incorporated a performance orientation in her work as a speech therapist at St. Francis de Sales. The young people performed Annie, the Broadway classic, using American Sign Language — and the audience responded in kind when it came time for the applause.  Says Lobman, “I’m more convinced than ever of the value of theater for going beyond remediation…” READ MORE

Performing “Annie” in ASL

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Otto Award Winner Hector Aristizábal explores therapeutic power of performance

Lois Holzman greeted 2012 Otto Award winner Hector Aristizábal at a reception for the honorees at the Castillo Theatre (above).  Aristizábala Colombian psychologist and founder of Los Angeles-based ImaginActionuses performance and theatre games to help people deal with trauma. In accepting his award, he shared with the Otto crowd his sense of closeness to social therapy founder Fred Newman, and his understanding that performance is key to emotional development.  Aristizábal will be a presenter at the Performing the World  conference in October

The Otto Awards, named after Guatemalan poet and revolutionary Otto René Castillo, recognize the achievement of individuals and institutions who conceive, produce and foster the development of innovative and socially challenging theatre.  Other winners this year were the Ajoka Theatre, John O’Neal, the Sistren Theatre Collective, and Urban Bush Women.  Grace Jones, president of Audelco, was presented with the Aimé Césaire Lifetime Achievement Award. (See some of the coverage in UPTOWN Flavor.)

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The Miracle Project — Not Acting Normal

Carrie Lobman reports on meeting The Miracle Project

The Miracle Project performs “The Genius Club”

Last night I saw a funny, touching and creative piece of theater called A Brief History of All Things performed by the Miracle Project Players, a theater group made up of children and teens with autism, special needs, learning disabilities, and their siblings….[their] devised musical theatre production began with a meeting of the Genius Club…. As a developmentalist I appreciated the ways the kids were able to be who they are—they stared off into space, they spoke under their breath — and at the same time they were able to perform as other than who they are…At times I could literally see them choosing to support the play, rather than to just do what they “normally” do….

The Miracle Project is headed by Aaron Feinstein in NYC, was founded by Elaine Hall in California, and was featured in the HBO documentary Autism the Musical.  READ MORE

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Alex Sutherland leads prison performances in South Africa

Andile rehearses with the Ubom drama company at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa

Alex Sutherland reports on her work in the local prison in Grahamstown South Africa, where she leads weekly theatre-making workshops. Andile (shown above rehearsing with the Ubom drama company) had been a member of the prison performance ensemble since the group formed in January, 2010, and instrumental in leading and motivating others in the program.  Currently on parole after serving half his sentence, he continues to do so from outside prison.

Alex is a senior lecturer specializing in theater for social change at Rhodes University.  A graduate of  Social Therapeutics Online, an Institute certificate program, and part of the Performing the World community,  Alex uses theatre games and improvisation to help participants create collaborative spaces in which they can develop stories.

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“Discursive Perspectives in Therapeutic Practice,” alternatives to medical psychiatry

Andy Lock and Tom Strong’s new book, Discursive Perspectives in Therapeutic Practice is hot off the presses. It includes a chapter by Lois Holzman and Fred Newman, Activity and performance (and their discourses) in social therapeutic method. Other featured authors include: Kenneth J. and Mary Gergen, Sue Levin , (International Class alumna) Saliha Bava, Lois Shawver, and John Shotter

The book makes the (philosophical) case for a discursive and relational approach to therapy — juxtaposing it to the diagnostic approach of the DSM-5 and medical psychiatry. It presents a range of innovative discursive methods, showing how each can be applied in real therapeutic situations. 

Says Holzman in a video message to the authors: 

Congratulations Andy and Tom!….Protestors who are occupying the American Psychiatric Association meetings in Philadelphia are saying that they want other voices. Other voices mean other choices…and it’s in the spirit of that demand that the publication of your book is very significant — so let’s get people to read it!

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Mary Fridley and Marian Rich perform how laughing matters

Two laughs are better than one….

Marian Rich and Mary Fridley’s workshop this past weekend, Laughing Matters:  A Playful/Philosophical Approach to Creating Humor, drew 25 people interested in learning to create environments to bring more humor, laughter and lightness into their lives. (No small feat!) “We made some magic,” says Fridley. “We talked about the distinction between being funny, making people laugh and creating humor,” says Rich. “People grow when they can create a space for being humorous with others.  We can all do that — even if we’re not funny!”

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Gil Eyal, Lois Holzman, Christine LaCerva to discuss human cost of diagnosis


On Friday, June 8, the Institute will host a conversation with Columbia University sociologist Gil Eyal, developmental psychologist Lois Holzman and social therapist Christine LaCerva , to address the Human Cost of Diagnosis. What are the history, politics and economics of diagnoses? Where is their science? Is the diagnostic paradigm a valid one? What is its human cost? The forum grows out of the controversy sparked by proposed revisions to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A case in point are changes to diagnostic categories along the Autism Spectrum, which have many parents worried about the loss of support services, practitioners criticizing the arbitrariness of DSM-5 diagnostic categories in general, and others questioning the medical/diagnostic model as a whole. CLICK TO REGISTER

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Lobman and Lowenheim Lead Symposium on Teaching Adults

Faculty Carrie Lobman, Ed.D., and Gwen Lowenheim led a symposium on Teaching Adults, attended by adult educators who teach in universities, community based organizations, language schools, hospitals and corporate education programs. Workshop participants performed as both learners and teachers in the course of several interactive performances and improv exercises. Says Lobman, who serves as the Institute’s director of pedagogy and leader of its Revolutionary Conversation adult education forums:

We engaged teachers in the activity of creating collaborative learning environments where everyone is supported to learn and grow. Our experience is that the best (developmental) learning environments are inclusive and conversational. Students are engaged as active contributors and co-creators of their learning. We’ve found that this orientation maximizes the potential for discovery.

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Andrew Burton’s Street Spirits Theatre Wins Arts Advocacy Award

Artistic Director Andrew Burton (3rd from left) and members of Street Spirits Theatre Company —                                             ( R.) Kaiser, Brook, Andrew, Elise, Kayla (front) Travis Charles, Dominique and Isaac

Canada’s Street Spirits Theatre company was presented with the Arts Advocacy Award by the Regional Arts Council in Prince George British Columbia for their work in promoting the arts. The youth driven, social action theatre company was founded by Andrew Burton, a member of the 2012 International Class. Says Burton:

This award recognizes our work in advocating for the arts….I have taught performance and started theatre programs in small communities all over the region…The company offers workshops to teach people how to establish and run youth theatre programs….But moreover, the award recognizes the use of the arts as a means to advocate for social justice and to deal with significant community problems.

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Open House Features a Performance of Social Therapy

Hugh Polk, M.D.

The Social Therapy Group hosted an Open House at its community center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Thirty people attended, including members of the Students and Professionals in Mental Health Meetup.  By way of introduction, Institute faculty member Hugh Polk, M.D., asked members of his Wednesday night social therapy group to perform their therapy. Group members showed how they work to create an environment where people could get help with their emotional problems.

One woman said she found group very difficult; “I hate it, actually.”  “Then why do you keep coming back?” someone asked.  “It helps me,” she said. “I’m doing more in my life. And I don’t want to go back to where I was, alone and depressed.”

A popular teacher of the social therapeutic approach, Dr. Polk’s recent ESI Revolutionary Conversation introduced participants to Emotional Growth in Social Therapy.

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Two weeks to grieve, says DSM-5

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore founder of the M.I.S.S. Foundation

Arizona State University professor and researcher Dr. Joanne Cacciatore challenges proposed changes to the “bereavement exclusion,” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which establishes the (normal) amount of time you’re allowed to grieve the loss of a loved one before you’re classified as depressed — and in need of medication. (It’s two weeks, by the way…) Cacciatore writes in an Open Letter to the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association and to the DSM 5 Task Force:

“This proposal not only contradicts good common sense but also rests on weak scientific evidence.”

Can You Grieve and Not Be Labeled with a Mental Disorder?,  asks Lois Holzman in a recent post encouraging support for Cacciatore’s protest.

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