Who knew? Actually, many people know that psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung pursued a voluminous correspondence during the course of their famous friendship-at least 1,000 letters in all. But what arguably fewer people may know is that the content of those letters was revealing about each man, to such a degree, a few scholars say, that there is even room to wonder if the solid “friendship” between the men could have been flecked with intimacy.
Probably not, says writer-director Ken Wydro, whose Secrets: The Untold Story of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung has been enjoying a mentally stimulating run at the TBG Theatre (312 W. 36th St., 3rd Fl., through March 10). But certainly the level of emotion and confession contained in the letters represents considerably more than one would have expected from a pair of cold-seeming, mid-20th-century European clinicians, one Austrian, one Swiss (one Jewish, one not).
Still, there is such a monumental trove of material that one can easily understand why Wydro-whose credits as a lyricist and librettist and producer additionally includes the legendary 30-year tuner Mama, I Want to Sing!-sought to dramatize some of the letters, zeroing in on the period from 1907 through 1913, when the art and science of psychoanalysis was young and still in formation, and when the two men themselves were just approaching the peak of their respective intellectual investigations.
Featuring John Michalski as Freud and Cooper Grodin as the younger Jung, Secrets is something you’d better check out-or at least have a good enough reason for missing. Like, lying down on a couch and analyzing your subconscious dreams.
And now, 5 questions Ken Wydro has never been asked:
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked about your work?
“How do you, as an author, access your own subconscious mind? Do you receive flashes from the creative unconscious in words or in pictures?” (The answer is: in pictures.) Also: “How do you know the Muse is knocking at the door?”
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked about your work?
“Is this story real, or does it come from your imagination?”
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?
“Did you write this because your mother died and you needed something to do to ease the pain?”
4) What, precisely, is the untold story of Freud and Jung?
They had a deeply personal love “affair” that was profoundly emotional and complex-though never quite physical. No evidence of that. But they did write 1,000 letters to each other (published in the early 1970s) over the course of about seven years-which averages out to be about one letter every three days. Their “affair” followed the four classic stages of any romance: courtship, honeymoon, disillusionment and divorce. These four stages are played out before our eyes in Secrets with passion and pain.
5) With the recent play Freud’s Last Session having been so popular, and with lots of historical and academic scholarship already established on the contentious relationship between Freud and Jung, what remains “untold,” in particular, about Freud? If you met Freud tomorrow, what would you ask him?
Freud’s Last Session is a complete fantasy. Freud and C.S. Lewis never actually met. There is no historical connection between them. They never did have a relationship or an emotional encounter. In Freud’s Last Session, neither character really wants or needs anything from each other. Neither risk anything. Nothing is at stake in the play. Lewis walks in. They talk. Lewis walks out. So what? What is the drama there? The conflict? The stakes? Little, if any.
In Secrets, just as in actual lives of Freud and Jung, the stakes are high. The characters and the drama are archetypal, not situational. The five characters in Secrets actually lived and had complex interactions with each other. Freud’s Last Session, though well acted and directed, did not have much emotional impact. For me, at least, who knew the real story of Freud who had to flee Vienna under great duress.
My question to Freud: “Why did you not really answer Jung’s question about your ‘Minna’ dream when on the boat to America in August 1909? If you answered those questions, you could have changed the course of the entire psychoanalytic movement in the 20th century.”
6) What psychoanalytical theories or approaches do you personally subscribe to, and how have they informed your work in the theatre?
Jung’s therapeutic method called “Active Imagination.” This is almost a must for any dramatist or dramaturge who wants to get at the depth of any character.