I couldn’t stop shaking. A combination of the chill in the air and my own anxiety had a hold over my body. These people didn’t know me yet, what would they think of me? What if I tried too hard and nobody laughed? I could never recover from that! Thoughts like these swirled in my mind as I sat in my first class at the Performing Arts Academy. I had no idea then that the academy would change my life, but it did.
I enjoy order; knowing what to do and when to do it. I can excel in areas where something must be prepared because I can’t stand not being prepared. Making lists and checking things off of those lists make me feel capable, confident, and elevates my self-esteem. As you can imagine, the unexpected puts my mind into an absolute frenzy. So then, put me into a situation where I am totally unprepared, have to work with people I don’t know to create a skit that I don’t feel confident in, to present before the entire class of said people that I don’t know. I was given all of the ingredients to create my own mental disaster.
That first year, I dreaded class. Ironically, that year, the topic we were studying was improv. That meant a lot of thinking on the fly and creativity. Humor was an integral part of classes. Even though it was not encouraged by our instructor, humor was a go-to thing for the students. After all, everyone likes to laugh. That was the root of my insecurity. I don’t consider myself a funny person, so I was worried that I would somehow say or do something that was supposed to be funny and would take a very awkward turn for the worst.
I had every intention of quitting. I really, really hated it. First, however, I had to take part in the big musical that the academy presents at the end of the year. On casting night, everyone was nervous, hoping that they would get a good part. Ironically, this was the only time that I had come to the academy not nervous. I had no confidence that I would get a big role, and had decided to be happy with whatever I was given. I was cast as a small role in a tap dance number along with several other girls from my class. I didn’t know it then, but that was the best role I could have gotten, not because of it’s size, but because it stopped me from quitting. I got to know the other actors more in that short amount of time than I had all year.
The next year, there I was in class again. Later in the year I had to conquer another fear and audition in front of half of the academy and all of the teachers. In my opinion, it is far easier to act in front of a crowd of hundreds of people that you don’t know than under fifty that you do know. I had prepared a vocal arrangement and I was going to give a monolouge from the musical Annie Get Your Gun. I sang for the panel of casting directors and that went alright, but then we moved onto the next portion of the audition. The part where I had to get up in front of everyone. Just me, in front of all of the people I desperately wanted to impress. People who I felt were looking for me to mess up.
The director called my name, I walked to the front of the room and said “Curtain”. My monolouge had begun. It started off great, but all of a sudden, I couldn’t remember what came next. My world came crashing down in those few seconds that felt like hours. I racked my brain for the words but it was as if they had never been there. I realized that I had to skip the middle entirely and end with the last sentence. I chose one person to focus on, the most intimidating director. I looked her in the eye, delivered my final line with confidence, and she smiled.
That smile was a tiny victory for me. After that night, I knew that I had conquered my fear. I had done something that I never would have been able to do before, and I learned that I don’t need to be afraid of failure, because failure is only failure if you view it that way. The academy has given me confidence. I know that I can do anything I set my mind to, I can be whoever I want to be, and I can do whatever I want to do. Life is like a play, you only have control over the lines that you deliver, it’s up to you to make yours the best they can be.