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Undercover theatre

In Washington DC, unsuspecting shoppers, diners or park goers can find themselves suddenly witnessing what appears to be a shoot out or someone being chased by federal agents, but it’s all part of a new kind of street theatre, dubbed ‘threat theatre’ in which the audience are extraneous. The point is not to entertain, but to train.

Barry Spodak a psychotherapist who spends his time role-playing mentally-ill people who might present a threat to US security. He helped establish role-playing as a training technique for the security services after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981. As the times change, so do the characters: from a mentally ill trash picker in the 80s, a man who believed Joan of Arc wanted to kill Bill Clinton in the 90s, and a Muslim man who claims to have sacrificed a kitten to Allah in the 00s. There’s also a sudden demand for actors to play white supremacists.

The Capitol Police in Washington, DC, hires actors, college students, teachers and psychologists. They all come via a defense contractor – MPRI – which has a cast of 500 role players on its books:  many are security cleared having previously worked in the police or in the military.

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

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