Threat Theater

Threat Theater

Role-playing psychotherapist Barry Spodak creates mentally unbalanced characters to train law enforcement agents who protect politicians and VIPs. (WP)

Barry Spodak is a psychotherapist, actor, and “threat assessment instructor.” He acts out delusional, bipolar and paranoid behaviors for personal protection professionals so that they are able to react appropriately when encountering mentally unbalanced people who menace government officials and other VIPs. Spodak is one of a growing number of live simulation practitioners who create personas such as a schizophrenic homeless man, as well as entire realistic scenarios, so that agents can be trained to elicit information from persons who may pose a threat, but are difficult to interview successfully.

In this Washington Post video, Spodak explains his craft in his own words — interspersed with vignettes of his characters in full costume — showing the viewer just how convincing a role-player such as himself can be. Spodak points out that actual encounters with such people can be frustrating and interviews fruitless due to the incoherent ramblings of the suspect, so authorities must learn to listen carefully for specifics of the person’s delusion in order to properly assess the threat they pose.

Spodak is seated in a chair against a white seamless background on what is obviously a set when explaining his professional role, and the video is cleverly edited between tight shots of his portrayals of his characters, revealing the artifice as the video progresses. Spodak’s ability to succinctly explain his method, then morph between delusional personas, is engaging as well as informative.

CHANNEL: Washington Post

Length: 4:43

Video by Pierre Kattar