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Dr. Charcot's Hysteria Shows

Ohio Theatre

Freud called Jean-Martin Charcot, the late 19th-century director of Salpêtrière, the Parisian asylum, an “artist, a man who sees.” What Freud and other doctors saw were Charcot’s présentations des malades, “hysteria shows” in which the doctor staged demonstrations of his experiments with hypnosis, seeking to analyze, control, and correct hysterical behavior. To 20th-century sensibilities, his methods come off as equal parts snake-oil charades and progressive medical practice. Charcot was among the first to insist that hysteria was a genuine affliction, and he used art as an important diagnostic tool, establishing a photographic studio at the hospital to make systematic, Muybridge-like visual studies of the expressions and poses of hysterics.

Intellectually complex and theatrically juicy, Charcot’s story provides plenty of material for a performance. Dr. Charcot’s Hysteria Shows, a collaboration

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