Teaching Empathy: Acts of Theatre, Acts of Imagination

Dr. Dana Smith
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I believe that every university student should be required to take an introductory course in acting. A suppressed "when-pigs-fly" snicker is the customary response to this belief, but few of us would deny that any significant change in the world must begin with an extraordinary act of imagination and empathy. The UN Millennium Project is one such visionary act, as is Dennis Kucinich's proposed addition of a Department of Peace to the U.S. federal government. Without a significant growth in the exercise of empathy on the world stage, it is unlikely that our industrialized nations will be able to put a stop to the devastation of war, ecocide, genocide, poverty, and starvation. This workshop explores applications of the acting system developed by Constantin Stanislavsky as well as other methodologies that offer easily modelled paths to realizing empathy for another human being. This workshop also presents various strategies for bringing theatre and acting into the classroom for the purpose of stimulating discussion on issues affecting the world. Indirect approaches to the empathic instincts of the student-spectator are demonstrated, with applications across a wide variety of disciplines.

Keywords: Empathy, Acting, Theatre
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication, Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
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Dr. Dana Smith

Associate Professor, Theatre Division of Fine Arts, Truman State University

Dana Smith is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Truman State University in Missouri, where she teaches Acting Shakespeare, Voice and Movement, Play Direction, and Theatre History and Literature courses. Dana earned her Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in 1996. She also studied at the Moscow Art Theatre School, where she finished research toward her dissertation, "Defining Freedom: Moscow Theatre and Drama, 1985-1991." Dana was certified as an NLP Practitioner in 1997 and trained with the Saratoga International Theatre Institute in 2000. Current research interests include service-learning applications of theatre and the creation of documentary plays, such as "Just a Word: The Genocide Project", staged at TSU in 2000. Dana also enjoys adapting children's prose classics for the stage.

Ref: H05P0717