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Are You in the Business of Empathy?

by Gayle Allen

Before last night’s performance began (August 3, 2013), Bill English, Artistic Director at San Francisco Playhouse, had the following to say about empathy:

Our theatre is an empathy gym where we come to practice our powers of compassion. Nelson Mandella, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Ghandi; these are the Olympic athletes of empathy. But the rest of us need to go to the gym. It’s tough to be compassionate in everyday life. . . . It’s tough to be empathetic. But from the darkness and anonymity of our seats, we are safe to risk entering into the lives of the characters on the other side of the proscenium.

We feel what they feel, fear what they fear, love what they love, and hope for what they hope for. And along the way, with our one hundred hearts beating together in the dark, we realize that under the skin we are the same. And as we leave, we take that miraculous spirit of unity out into the world to make it better.

Feel what they feel. Fear what they fear. Love what they love. Hope what they hope.

I thought I could only do this through teaching. Over time, I worked to do this as a school leader. Now I’m part of a team working to do this through a company.

As part of a team of dedicated educators, I like to think we’ve created an “empathy gym,” a place where we strive to feel what our customers are feeling, fearing, loving, and hoping, in order to develop analytic tools that help make the world better for students, teachers, and families.

I like to think we’re in the business of empathy.

See source: Gayle Allen



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