“Why are you taking a public speaking class if you’re already an actress?”
I could write a novel about why that statement is inaccurate, but for now, I’ll just write this roughly-500-word column.
By the time I was ten, I already felt comfortable on stage in front of a full house. The idea of eyes watching me from that perspective did not intimidate or deter me from acting at all. Surprisingly, at the age of eighteen, the butterflies in my stomach would not leave me alone when it came to giving a 10-minute persuasive speech in front of twelve other 18-year-olds who probably were not even focused on me at all.
I took a public speaking class in twelfth grade, and it was not because I like acting and I thought it would be an easy A - contrary to the belief of the entire student population. I’m terrified of speaking in front of a crowd, actually. I get more anxious about introducing myself before an audition than the actual audition. When I am on stage, I am not thinking about how many eyes are judging me, or if I am going to flub a word. When I’m standing behind a podium, with all lights on and the central focus being me, I'm worried about the eyes watching and about everything that could potentially go wrong.
I like acting, but I don’t like stand-up comedy. I will stand on stage and belt as high as I can, feeling nervous, but not anxious. I will perform in a two-hour, six-person play with less fear than I would have if I were reading three lines off a piece of paper in front of my English class. There is a reason for this.
What I love most about theatre is how it presents the opportunity to get out of my own life, and memorize words that come from someone else’s mind, and say them as someone who might not even be the same gender as me (been there, done that).
Performing with theatricality means that an audience is about to watch you be someone other than yourself. You are not supposed to act or seem or even look like yourself, and if you do, you are not doing your job as an actor. But, when it comes to public speaking, you are yourself and your audience is judging you as you. While this might not present a challenge to everyone, it’s a huge one for me.
Small talk freaks me out, but a full page Shakespeare monologue does not. In my eyes, you cannot even compare the two. Some of the best actors I know are also the shyest people I know. I think that introverts, like myself, are able to use theatre as an outlet to portray themselves as a character that might be the complete opposite of their own personality, which allows them to escape their own social limitations.
Why would I take a public speaking class if I’m already an actress? Acting isn’t public speaking, and public speaking isn’t theatre. I adore one but despise the other. I get butterflies in my stomach for both, but they are different and incomparable. That’s why.
PERSONAL NOTE: I 100% understand where the writer of this article is coming from. Which is why I've developed a specialized Communications Coaching Workshop to help alleviate these fears, for everyone - not just actors.