Writing papers for a presentation was never THAT hard for me. I’ve always loved English and been very good at it. When the topic was something that didn’t interest me, it made it a little more difficult, of course. But I would research like a good girl should and put it together. The writing was never a problem, the presenting was.
No matter how great my paper sounded, when it came to reading it in front the class, I just wanted to go crawl somewhere and hide. In fact, if I could just face the chalkboard and speak, it would be easier. With all eyes on me as I read something I created, I always imagined they were judging me. Not just judging my words and if they agreed with them or not, but also judging ME. What were they thinking as their eyes bore upon me? Were they judging my hair or my clothes? My mind would wander as I read on every conceivable ill thing they could be thinking of me. BUT reading off the paper was easier than when I had to do a memorized presentation.
THEN I had no paper to look down on to take away their eyeballs from me. I was forced to look into the audience and speak to them as if they were all friends almost. And heaven forbid, the persuasive speeches where your grade depended on making people take YOUR side. I hated speech class, both in school AND in college.
In school, people seemed to understand my fear and I obviously wasn’t the only one with it. Many people have a fear of public speaking and everyone KNEW I was shy to begin with. I mean, I wasn’t shy at home with close friends and family, but in public, I WAS. School was a place I didn’t feel like I fit in due to harsh words thrown my way so I just tended to cower and keep to myself as much as possible.
College was a different story. After getting into Theater, I found a niche and became more comfortable with myself. I started engaging others in conversation without them being the starters of it and speaking up more. BUT giving speeches still scared me to death. Which is when I learned a huge misconception people have. I was always asked how I could be so afraid of giving a speech when I could get on stage and sing, dance, and act with no problem?
Well, in my opinion, I have never understood how people could think public speaking should be EASY for an actor.
When I did plays or performances, I had lines laid out for me already to memorize. The lines were already written by great playwrights and not myself. They all required me to play someone that was not ME but another character all together. I guess for people that don’t act, it might be hard to decipher between performing as a character and speaking as yourself. BUT there really IS a difference.
It’s like you’re putting on a mask…and sometimes, you literally are wearing one. Other times, the mask is invisible to your eyes but it’s still there. I never had the fear that people were judging ME during a play, because when I’m on the stage, it’s not me, it’s my character. I am pretending or “hiding” behind a different persona. I am NOT showing myself to the audience but whatever the play calls for me to be.
When doing a speech, I must write my OWN lines that have never been heard before. Whether they are great lines or not has not been deduced by anyone other than myself. I must then memorize my own words and recite them in front of a classroom where I can’t pretend to be a character. I am literally being judged and graded for being myself. It’s hard to be judged for WHO you are. Even though, daily, we each are judged by others for our words, our actions, the way we live, it’s another thing to know you’re being graded for this. Especially when you’re an actor/actress and a teacher may have the misguided assumption that you should be better than what you are because you get up in front of audiences all the time. If I was told in the middle of a play, I had to give a speech that I wrote, I would have freaked out. If I was told, I could write the speech as a character and play THAT character while doing the speech, it would have been manageable, though. Obviously, speech class…you can’t really do that.
This is not to say ALL actors are scared of it, I’m sure some are just fine with it. In fact, many actors do shows and movies, etc. where they play themselves. Which you would think would be the easiest job ever, right? WRONG.
The hardest acting for an actor/actress is playing themselves because it entails being completely 100% vulnerable. You can’t hide if you’re showing people everything about you.
In the last acting class I did, we had to do a short monologue. ANY monologue we wanted. I searched all over and couldn’t seem to find one I liked enough until I found one that resonated with me so much because it sounded like ME. I just knew I could play the character because I could relate. It’s easier to bring up the emotion if you can relate. But then as I practiced it, I realized this was also going to be the hardest acting I had ever attempted because I was going to be left vulnerable. The words of the character were words that I felt.
*I tried to find the monologue online again, but I couldn’t….or I would have put it here*
It was basically a monologue where the girl is talking about how she is more than her “fat”, more than her weight and being judged for it, etc. It truly sounded like I had just ripped a piece of my diary out and was doing it for a monologue. Which I actually could have and called it an “original monologue”. But at the same time, Can you imagine reading a page of your most private sorrow in front of class? I was exposing true feelings that I had always felt but had always been afraid to tell people.
I did THAT monologue and it was tough for me because I felt like I was just speaking to a class about my own personal feelings. I also got the best praise ever in my acting classes for it, too, because of the vulnerability and I was told that kind of monologue is the hardest to do.
Afterwards, I was proud of myself for being that vulnerable. To have done what I had done before and played a character would have been the easy way out for me. Instead, I basically confronted a “public speaking” fear by doing a character who was just like me. By doing so, I faced a huge fear and I conquered it.