Monday, January 30, 2017

Adventures In Someone Else's Shoes

We received an enthusiastic response when we premiered our latest offering, Someone Else's Shoes, for drama teachers back in November.  In 2017 we are bringing this program directly to K-5 students and the reaction has been fantastic!

The show treats empathy as a super power that is exercised with three critical steps:

1)  Recognize how another person feels.

2)  Imagination how you would feel if you were them.

3)  Show you care with kind words or actions.

We address the first step with an improvised scene during which our actors wear a wide array of emotions, instantly changing how they feel when the facilitator calls out a new emotion.  Afterwards, audience members discuss how they could tell what the actors were feeling.  Reading another person's facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language establish an emotional literacy that is essential for building empathy.

We then launch into scenes that challenge students to name the characters' emotions and then imagine how they would feel if they were in their shoes.  In the first scene, our actors fail to show any empathy toward a new student who wants to join their group for a project.  After talking to the audience about how the new kid might be feeling, we replay the scene showing our actors begin to flex their empathy muscles by recognizing that the new student is lonely.  This time around, however, that recognition is as far as the actors go toward showing empathy.

The facilitator freezes the action and takes this opportunity to discuss the difference between sympathy and empathy.  We then replay the scene again showing our actors imagining what it would be like to be new to school, but still not responding with kind words or actions.

This is when an audience member takes on the role of an empathy super hero and joins the scene to save the day.  Student volunteers have a chance to be celebrated as they recognize emotions in others, imagine themselves in someone else's shoes, and respond to situations with kindness.

It's really great to see a gymnasium of kids cheer on a peer for demonstrating an empathetic response.

Someone Else's Shoes is likely to be a very busy program in 2017 and we look forward to making this a year filled with empathy in our schools.

For more information on Someone Else's Shoes, please don't hesitate to visit our website.

The Imagination Theater cast after the first student performance of Someone Else's Shoes.

— Jeremy Schaefer, Artistic Director