Tuesday, October 25, 2016

NEW SHOW: Someone Else's Shoes

Creating new works of theatre is an inherently collaborative process.  Creating new works of interactive theatre brings that spirit of partnership from the creative phase and puts it center stage during performance.  Every Imagination Theater show is a conversation between actor and audience with both sides of the dialogue surprising and challenging the other.  When we build new programs, we do so knowing that we're not only building scenes; we're carving out spaces for new ideas to reshape those same scenes in real time.

For an interactive show to be successful, the collaboration begins before the script ever makes it to the stage.  Great partners are invaluable.

At the start of this season one of our longest partners, Judy Freedman, contacted us with a bold new idea.  We worked closely with Judy to create Ease The Tease, based on her book Easing the Teasing, in 2001.  We collaborated again in 2012 to completely overhaul that program with new scenes.  She is an incredible ally and impactful collaborator.  Her insights, patience, and ability to articulate concepts are fantastic.  When Judy Freedman has an idea, we at Imagination Theater are eager to listen.

This time her new idea was about empathy skills.  She had just created a new parent presentation to help families foster empathy skills and she wanted to work with Imagination Theater to create a complementary show for students.  We thought about it for maybe two seconds before agreeing to partner on the creation of Someone Else's Shoes: Empathy Skills for K-5.

In my ten years with Imagination Theater, I've often said that communication is at the heart of all our programs, whether they're teaching respect, environmental stewardship, or healthy decision making.  However, this project with Judy Freedman has caused me to revise that notion.  At the heart of effective communication is empathy.  When you can walk in someone else's shoes, you can communicate ideas that resonate in both their hearts and minds.

Even adults struggle to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy, so a K-5 program on the topic was ambitions.  This is where Judy's knowledge and experience was invaluable.  With her guidance, we created a program that helps students build emotional literacy, validate the spectrum of emotions in themselves and their peers, and show each other that they care about both who they are and how they're feeling.
This past weekend, we premiered Someone Else's Shoes for drama teachers at an event sponsored by the Illinois Theatre Association.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  The enthusiastic audience agreed that a theatrical exploration of empathy was timely and important for their students.

We are incredibly grateful for this collaboration and excited to bring this performance to students.

You can learn more about Judy Freedman's parent presentation here.  You can learn more about Imagination Theater's Someone Else's Shoes here.  As always, you can learn all about Imagination Theater at our website.

- Jeremy Schaefer, Artistic Director.