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Does Dramatic Performance Cure Shyness

Updated on October 10, 2017
PAINTDRIPS profile image

With 2 of her own, Denise remarried and brought 2 children from her husband together to explore what it means to be a blended family.

Shy Kid

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I was a Shy Child

If you have a hard time with public speaking or have a very shy child, I have a suggestion. Try dramatic performance. I know this sounds totally absurd for a person already afraid of the public to be thrust into the spotlight but it does work. Here is my story.

Shattered

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My Story

In my grammar school and high school years, I was incredibly shy. I would rather eat dirt than raise my hand in class even if I knew the answer. I’d rather suffer kidney failure than ask to go the bathroom. I’m an artist. We love to be alone working on art in our own little world. When friends suggested that I would make a good teacher, I shut them down. That could never happen. It would mean standing in front of a room with as many as 60 eyes on me. To me that would be a fate worse than death. Giving an oral book report was sheer terror and in college I would rather fail the class than give a speech.

Overcoming Shyness

Divorced

All of this is to say that when I was introduced to drama the effects were more surprising than you can imagine. I had been through a rather messy divorce, which didn’t do much for my self-confidence. As therapy, I voluteered my time and talents to a church drama group, designing and sewing their costumes as well as painting backdrops.

That fateful day came when I was in the back of the sanctuary altering costumes. The group was rehersing and the performance date was only days away for the big Easter production. I could hear the discussion from the director and the core members of the cast becoming heated. Apparently some key member was not going to be present for the performance because of a serious illness in the family. She had one line. They were discussing who could take the pace of the absent cast member. But because of costume changes and songs in the performance, no one else could do it. That’s when someone pointed at me behind my sewing machine and said, “What about her?” The drug me to the front of the church, kicking and screaming, “NO.”

Messy Divorce

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Be Someone Else

The director wanted to know why I didn’t want to do it and I explained that I just can’t talk in front of people. I would ruin their performace and embarrass everyone. “You don’t understand,” I told him. “I’m incredibly shy Denise!” But he wasn’t at all impressed or discouraged. He said that was okay because I wasn’t going to be incredibly shy Denise. He had my attention with that. “What?” “No,” he explained. “You are going to be someone else. Someone else who isn’t shy and can talk in front of people. That’s what acting is all about.” I really had no argument for that. I never heard of that before. The implications were intriguing. I could be someone else! The truth is that I always wanted to be someone else. Now was my opportunity.

Melodramatic Costumer

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I did it!

I was in that performance. I ran onstage, said my line, “Oh yeah!” and ran off. That’s all there was to it and I was hooked. For a few seconds I was someone else. I began performing with them regularly. We did musicals, dramas, comedies. I was never a leading person but I didn’t care. I was someone else.

Shyness Quiz

Teaching is Drama

A middle school teacher friend of mine approached me to give an art demonstration for her class. She thought my art was beautiful and was sure I could capture her student’s attention. “But you don’t understand. I’m incredibly shy! I can’t talk in front of people.” She wasn’t taking that for an answer. She said, “You get in front of people and do dramas, what’s the difference?” “They write me a script for one thing, and I have to be someone else,” I told her. “So write a script,” she answered. I’m sure she didn’t know what I meant by being someone else. It was a thought, I hadn’t thought of. Maybe I could teach. So I went home, wrote and memorized a script.

I was so nervous when I arrived at her class, I felt sick. I went to the bathroom but wasn’t sure which way to face the throne.

Do you have trouble speaking in public?

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I'm the teacher in red.

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Don't Raise Your Hand!

After she introduced me I got up and began spouting my script. I had art to show and they seemed to be liking it. Then the unthinkable happened. A boy in the front row raised his hand. I remember thinking, “What do I do? That’s not in the script.” So I ignored him. I kept on with my memorized monologue until I couldn’t stand the sight of him stuggling to hold his hand up any longer. I found a place I was sure I would remember to break off my monologue and looked at him and said, “WHAT?” But he very calmly asked me a question about how I got into art, I answered and went back to my monologue and art lesson. At the end I felt like I swam the English Channel but in a good way.

From a dramatic church production my children were in.
From a dramatic church production my children were in. | Source

I CAN teach after all.

After this I felt maybe I could actually teach. I memorized many monologues and prepared several lessons and began teaching here and there art lessons in public schools. It turned into something I did almost full time for many years, even without a teaching creditial. All because dramatic performances gave me the courage and confidence to face an audience and be someone else.

In the Spotlight

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Auditioning

Years later, I met a new director. My church drama group knew him, but I hadn’t met him before. He called for auditions so I came. He had written a new Easter production to be performed at the church. I auditioned for the part of the wife, without knowing that he would be playing the part of the husband. The interesting thing is that there were 4 of us auditioning for that part and he had already mentally picked another girl he thought would be perfect for the part. However after hearing my reading he changed his mind. I like to tell people that I auditioned for the part of his wife and I got the part… because years later we married.

Ecstatic

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Confidence!

I feel I owe a lot to drama and the theater. My confidence, my teaching, and my marriage. That’s pretty good for a girl so shy she failed Speech class four times because she refused to get up in front of people.

My kids are a dramatic bunch

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Dramatic comments welcomed

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      lollyj lm,

      Thank you so very much. I appreciate the comments and visit.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 2 years ago from Washington KS

      Great hub and so true. I was much better at performance art than I was at being myself. Well done.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      FlourishAnyway,

      It's my opinion that we shy people are extra intelligent because of our ailment keeping us glued to books instead of people. This isn't proven however so I hesitate to say so. You are just one more intelligent person proving my opinion. Thanks for visiting my hub.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      What a terrific approach! I was painfully shy as a child but have learned to overcome it usually for a specific purpose, becoming in some settings outgoing and gregarious. I taught university classes and loved it.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Stella,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I wish I could have seen that performance. It's something to be proud of, I'm sure.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      You are so right it really does work. When I was a senior in high school I played the part of a psychiatrist and I was not the shy girl anymore. I really felt like that person for 2 hours. Nice hub, Stella

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      BlossomSB,

      Are you a thespian too? Like to act? Are you among the shy? Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      It's so true! Imagining you are someone else makes all the difference. Thanks for a warm, beautiful hub.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      DawnMSamora,

      Thank you, Dawn. I was somewhat irked too. Especially since I knew I was a shy kid too and I'm no dummy. As far as I know, no one suggested to my mother that I should be held back over it. And I did eventually find a way to overcome the shyness. I feel sure that she has overcome hers. She has become a RN and is quietly happy with her family. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      florypaula,

      That is so incredibly awesome. I'm so happy for you! That's a very wise instructor you had. It's funny, I never heard of being someone else before the incident I wrote about. I keep thinking if I had learned this before I may not have married the guy who beat me and treated me so badly. But that's all water under the bridge. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • DawnMSamora profile image

      DawnM Samora 2 years ago from Akron, Ohio

      You definitely did the right thing for your daughter, and I would've done the same. Hearing about the teacher wanting to hold her back for shyness makes me irked! Your daughter is probably very intelligent, and being shy doesn't have anything to do with her education. Good for you for sticking to your guns. :)

    • florypaula profile image

      Paula 2 years ago

      Kim Basinger declared in an interview that she is so shy that every red carpet makes her throw up, and still she made a lot of movies, but, as you said, she was someone else in those moments. I was a shy person too, I'm still in recovery :) Reading your story felt like I was reading about myself. I took 3 years of singing lessons and I had to sing on a stage and the same thing told us our teacher: this is your chance to be someone else, so give your best. And I found out that when I was on stage I felt great and loved every second. This is like therapy, treat your fear by confronting it.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Larry Rankin,

      Well you could be right about that. The symptoms aren't there as painfully if you can manage to speak in front of people, that's all. It helps with confidence too... and everyone can use a little of that.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      DawnMSamora,

      I'm so glad you can relate. I know a lot of people are shy now and again, but I was so painfully shy, it hurt. I know you know what I mean. One first grade teacher told me that she thought I should hold my daughter back in the first grade because she never raised her hand in class... even though when called on she knew all the answers. That teacher told me that my daughter was overly shy and an extra year in that grade would give her confidence. I thought that was the stupidest thing I ever heard! To penalize a shy person because they didn't want to voluntarily speak up in class is ludicrous. I didn't take her advice and my daughter was just fine once we got her into some drama therapy. So there you are! Thanks for checking out my hub.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great article!

      I don't think you ever cure shyness. If you have it, then you always will, but dramatic performance definitely helps reduce it.

    • DawnMSamora profile image

      DawnM Samora 2 years ago from Akron, Ohio

      Denise,

      You are such a great writer! I was SO much like you. I can't believe how "dead on" you were about being shy. I would definitely prefer eating dirt to raising my hand ten years ago! ha-ha... I was brought up to only "speak when spoken to", so I began to hardly speak at all.

      I think you are totally right about "being someone else". This is exactly how I learned how to get out of my "shyness". I did not realize I was breaking my shyness by 'being someone else'. Now at 42, I am able to speak in public, sing in front of people, and give my opinions and views (even political). I have also learned to laugh at myself and my flaws.

      Thank you for writing this, and once again I can relate! Great hub!

      Dawn

      PS-Love the original photos

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Jodah,

      It still isn't easy for me either. I read somewhere that even seasoned actors still feel like throwing up before going on. Yet no one even suspects that they are shy people. I heard an interview with Bob Denver (Gilligan) who said he was very shy also, and Robin Williams too. We aren't alone, we just didn't use it to become actors yet. Thanks for your comment. Good luck with your reading of the minutes.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great hub Denise, thank you for sharing your story of shyness. It is encouragement that it can be overcome. I have always been shy too but have forced myself out of my comfort zone being secretary of a Fire Brigade and charity, having to read minutes etc in front of a crowd. It still isn't easy though.

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