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The Empathetic Classroom

by Steven Stack

Why should you take a class on empathy? And why is theatre the perfect vehicle for empathy?

Empathy, the more sought-after and inclusive cousin of sympathy, is the experiencing of someone else’s experience in the world. What it would be like if you were wearing their clothes, their life?

Teaching students to understand the clothes that they’re putting on, the characters and their lives teaches students not how to act but how to be. It allows the students to feel what someone else feels and experiences, which can and should translate to their fellow actors and peers away from the stage. It will lead to a stronger class connection, stronger performances and stronger students who will seek out understanding instead of isolation and fear.

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01 - Step One: Link with Yourself

The first step on the empathetic journey is with yourself. How can you connect with others if you don’t know who you are? Students will explore activities that allow them to think and reflect inward.

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02 - Step Two: Link with Others

The second step on the empathetic journey is forming a link with others. Students take on activities where they have to work together and connect with others.

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03 - Step Three: Link with Characters

The third step on the empathetic journey is forming a link with your character. Students will work to link with characters who are quite different from them.

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04 - Step Four: Link with the Audience and the Outside World

After forming a link with yourself, each other, and your character, the last two links in the empathetic journey are the audience and the outside world.

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05 - Step Five: The Culminating Presentation

Students decide, design, and implement a culminating presentation that uses theatricality to share the concepts of empathy.

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Empathy: It Begins With You

Steven Stack's Keynote speech "Empathy: It Begins With You", from the DTA Virtual Conference, recorded July 2019.

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