Impromptu Man


320 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $19.99
Trim Size (H x W): 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781934137840


ISBN: 9781934137857

Share on Goodreads

Impromptu Man captures the remarkable impact of a singular genius, J.L. Moreno, whose creations—the best-known being psychodrama—have shaped our culture in myriad ways, many unrecognized. The record will be set straight for all time by this can’t-put-down biography, a tribute by Jonathan D. Moreno to his father’s masterly legacy.”

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

see more reviews hide reviews

“No matter in what direction you turned, J.L. Moreno was there: a creative, charismatic force, challenging the psychiatric hegemony of the times and daring to create theory and methods to promote growth in individuals, groups, and society. . . . [Impromptu Man] should be required reading for all graduate students and group practitioners in this field.”

Group Psychologist

( link)

“[Jonathan] D. Moreno’s book is an especially engaging read, particularly for his attention to the effects of his father’s work on popular culture, and his ability to recount anecdotes from childhood, such as that he literally ‘grew up in a mental hospital.’ . . . Read [Impromptu Man] for an intimate account of what it was like to grow up in the Moreno family and how one might imagine, in serendipitous ways, that experience may have led to J. D. Moreno’s eminent career as a professor of bioethics.”


“Fascinating. . . . Instead of a couch, [J.L. Moreno] used dramaturgy: a stage, role players, and an audience to put the patient’s concerns into heightened awareness and action. Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, and Alan Alda were among many theater people who attended Moreno’s psychodrama demonstrations. . . . The essence of Moreno’s contribution to dramaturgy is that theater is spontaneous, co-creative, authentic, and transformative action.”

Broad Street Review

( link)

“A candid, engaging biography of an important pioneer in social psychology.”

Library Journal

“An adept introduction to an innovative thinker.”

Kirkus Reviews

( link)

“Well researched. . . . Between the Encounter movement of the 1960s, military morale, humanistic psychology, Second City improv, and psychodrama training for trial lawyers, J.L.’s influence appears across domains and ‘it’s hard to exaggerate the extent to which [his] pioneering ideas have penetrated the culture’ since.”

Publishers Weekly

( link)

“Jonathan D. Moreno has written an informative book about an amazing man who, over one hundred years ago, saw improv theater as a way to change the world. Today his ideas are more relevant than ever.”

Jonathan Fox, founder of Playback Theatre and editor of The Essential Moreno

“A splendid account of one the most creative social scientists of the twentieth century. Impromptu Man is filled with fascinating anecdotes, many of them about famous and infamous people, and brilliant insights as to how Moreno’s work transformed vast segments of society and eventually eluded his control. This book is frank, funny, fascinating, and long overdue.”

Stanley Krippner, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Saybrook University

“A captivating memoir cum sixties cultural history by the son of the radical but forgotten psychotherapist who planted the vibrant seeds of our social network society.”

Sally Satel, MD, coauthor of Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience

“Jonathan D. Moreno’s thoughtful assessment of his father, J.L. Moreno, pays overdue tribute to a pioneering maverick in psychology whose concept of ‘psychodrama’ also made an important impact in the arts. Tracing Moreno’s connections with and influence on such organizations as the Provincetown Players, the Civic Repertory, the Group Theatre, the Federal Theatre Project, and the Actors Studio, this intriguing book adds a new layer to our understanding of progressive American theater in the 1930s and beyond.”

Wendy Smith, author of Real Life Drama: The Group Theatre and America, 1931-1940

“J.L. Moreno, who fathered psychodrama, set a new world in motion. I doubt he ever dreamed his life’s work would change the lives of trial lawyers and the people they represent, providing us with a new way to communicate and give justice a chance. This book restores him to his rightful place in history.”

Gerry Spence, author of How to Argue and Win Every Time and founder of Trial Lawyers College

“J.L. Moreno was a pioneer of twentieth-century theater and psychotherapy. A remarkable work, Impromptu Man should be required reading for therapists and dramatists alike.”

Jeffrey K. Zeig, PhD, founder and director of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation

J.L. Moreno (1889-1974), the father of psychodrama, was an early critic of Sigmund Freud, wrote landmark works of Viennese expressionism, founded an experimental theater where he discovered Peter Lorre, influenced Martin Buber, and became one of the most important psychiatrists and social scientists of his time.

A mystic, theater impresario and inventor in his youth, Moreno immigrated to America in 1926, where he trained famous actors, introduced group therapy, and was a forerunner of humanistic psychology. As a social reformer, he reorganized schools and prisons, and designed New Deal planned communities for workers and farmers. Moreno’s methods have been adopted by improvisational theater groups, military organizations, educators, business leaders, and trial lawyers. His studies of social networks laid the groundwork for social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Featuring interviews with Clay Shirky, Gloria Steinem, and Werner Erhard, among others, original documentary research, and the author’s own perspective growing up as the son of an innovative genius, Impromptu Man is both the study of a great and largely unsung figure of the last century and an epic history, taking readers from the creative chaos of early twentieth-century Vienna to the wired world of Silicon Valley.



Excerpt from Impromptu Man

Jonathan D. Moreno discusses Impromptu Man and the life and contributions of J.L. Moreno on WHYY’s Radio Times and on Medscape Close-Up.

At Slate, Jonathan D. Moreno explains how J.L. Moreno’s 1930s experiments at Sing Sing and the New York State Training School for Girls ultimately led to today’s group therapy and social networking practices.

Read an excerpt from Impromptu Man and an interview with Jonathan D. Moreno in the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Jonathan D. Moreno shares the story behind Impromptu Man, his biography of his father, the influential psychiatrist and psychodrama founder J.L. Moreno, with Psychology Today and the journal Zeitschrift für Psychodrama und Soziometrie.