Several times in my early childhood when I had to stand up in front of my classmates and give a presentation, I began dreading it weeks before. Just the thought of speaking to a big group of people made my heart pound in my chest, my face would get red and feel like fire, and my stomach would tie up into so many knots you could use it for a fisherman’s net. The moment I was walking up to the front of the classroom, I would think to myself, “Yep. This is it. This is how I’m going to die.” I would stumble through every presentation. You’d think that after five years of ballet, being on a stage with audience eyes staring at me would not be a big deal. But in ballet, one doesn’t need to speak. I would just enter the stage, dance, exit the stage. End of performance. But when I was ten years old my mom found a theater class that she thought I would enjoy. Remembering all my previous “near death” experiences, I exclaimed “I don’t want to go! I don’t like speaking in front of people!” My mom, looking at me with the ‘I know you very well, trust me’ look said, “It’s only a ten week class, and there are non-speaking roles. Just go. You’ll have fun!” So what could I do but go?
During the first class I learned a secret to not being nervous by imagining everyone in their underwear. I found that disturbing and never used that tactic. I did however, learn that the more times I’d speak on stage, the less nervous I would get. So I made the leap. The leap I never thought I could make. The leap I compare to Jackie Chan’s stunts. I was scared just like Jackie is before he goes flying through the air. But I did it anyway just like Jackie does when he pushes his fears aside. It was the leap that I took to start speaking on a stage. When I made that leap, I discovered that I really enjoy the theater.
When the ten week class was over, I wanted to take more theater classes. I jumped at every opportunity to be in a play. I still do. I am such a crazy, animated person that it is great to have a place where I can focus that energy. When I’m onstage, and the lights are on me, and the whole audience is wondering what I am going to do next, I feel like I have the responsibility to give people a good show. I feel that whatever character I am, I need to make it the best it can be. Whether I am sassy, evil, clumsy, stupid, mysterious, cocky, or proper it needs to be convincing. I want people to walk away from a show thinking “Wow. Who was that girl that was completely into her character?” I have been in a total of seven plays since I took my first theater class, and I’m currently preparing for a skit that will be performed in June. I am also proud to announce that I no longer have a phobia of speaking in front of people. That fisherman’s net has turned into an excited swarm of butterflies. Recently I found a community theater in Vancouver called Magenta Theater, and I have been working with them since September 2008. The artistic director of Magenta is ironically the same woman who taught my first theater class. Theater has become a passion, and my career choice.
As I recalled this life changing event, my mom smiled and smugly declared “I told you so!” Sometimes I wonder where I would be today if my mom hadn’t talked me into going, and if I never made the “speak on stage” leap. Even though I was scared at the beginning, I tried something new. When I did, I learned something new about myself. So, if Jackie Chan is scared before he does a stunt and goes through with it anyway, I know that I can face my fears too. Now I depend on my voice and actions to entertain. I am very grateful that my mom talked me into trying the class. So the next time you’re scared and don’t want to make a leap, think about it a little bit more. You never know what could be hiding around the next corner.