Most of my readers didn’t know me when I was in my early teens so I believe this will make a good post. If you met me at SJC you might think I always this gregarious, outgoing and modest guy with impecable comedic timing. I was not, surprisingly, always like that.
When I entered junior high in grade eight, I was painfully shy and reserved. I had just moved on from a small elementary school to a huge (at least to me) junior high school that had grades eight to ten. Maillard Junior Secondary received grade eight students from at least four different feeder schools. I was perhaps a tad overwhelmed at all these new students and the older kids in grades nine and ten.
In grade eight, you only had one elective class to choose for yourself. You could either take drama or band class. I discounted band easily since I didn’t want to be one of those band nerds lugging around an instrument case. Plus, using anything that had a spit valve just didn’t cut it. The only other option was drama, so I marked it down for my elective.
I was deathly afraid of that class though. I’d heard from other students the things they made you do in Drama 8. I’d have to stand up in front of my classmates, basically all strangers, and do things. All eyes would be on me. For a small, meek grade eight student who just wanted to melt into the background, I was having serious anxiety about this class.
Being a first class nerd, I couldn’t let myself get a bad grade either so I had no choice but do my best. It was tough though at first. Our drama teacher would have us to class exercises like “be a tree” or “now you’re an orange”. I felt really awkward at first. Then came the individual assignments. One was lip sync a song. I nearly died when I heard she wanted us to do that. She wanted us to pretend sing a song in front of other people? I remember I didn’t even have a decent cassette player at the time. I practiced after school for about a week. I closed the door to my room so my family couldn’t see what an idiot I was. When the time came for my performance in class, I did the most nervous rendition of Like a Virgin you ever heard or seen. I think my face was red the entire time.
It got better after a few weeks and things took a good turn when the teacher asked us to do five minutes of stand-up comedy. I’d been watching stand-up comics since I was very young and this was something I actually was looking forward to. I tried writing some original material but most of it sucked. I wound up stealing jokes from comics I liked, including (no lie here) a young Jerry Seinfeld before his TV show days.
As the term wore on, I found myself enjoying the class a lot more and I was drawn to improv scenes and scripted scenes. The improv was fun and kept my mind sharp because you had to be to keep things going and most importantly to be funny. The scripted stuff was also great because I just loved to being someone else for five or ten minutes.
I remember one time I had a scene with another girl named Jeanette. I think we were some sorta old couple or something. We had briefly rehearsed the whole thing once and I took it really seriously even though it was comedic scene. I somehow adopted the attitude that even when you’re trying to make people laugh, you gotta be serious about it sometimes. Anyways, the time came for us to present the scene. It went really well but near the end, the script calls for Jeanette’s character to kiss my character. In rehearsal, we glossed over this quickly because I was concerned about our blocking. Anyways, when the time came for real, she planted a nice one right on my cheek. Drama or not, she became the second girl to kiss me and I couldn’t help break out of character. I totally reverted back to a 12 year old boy and my eyes widened in surprise and I forgot my line. Well, my drama teacher thought this was hilarious and started howling in laughter. I stumbled to recover and found the inner strength to finish the scene.
Before the end of the term, I noticed a remarkable difference in my social confidence. I was no longer shy around people. I also realized that, yeah, it’s pretty cool sometimes when everyone is looking and listening to you, and you alone. I think my family even noticed a big change in me as well. Since then, they’ve had to live with my complete fearless ability to act like a kid in public.
When Drama 8 ended, I wound up getting an “A” which was unthinkable when I started junior high. I wound up taking Drama 9 and 10, and they became my favourite classes in my three years at Maillard. There was some crazy stuff that happened in Drama 9 and 10, enough so that I might make a separate post about that.
I really have to credit that initial drama class for helping me be more social, less reserved, and more confident. It gave me the chance to be more expressive and I found out I like being expressive. It’s why I have no fear of making presentations, meeting people at parties, and speaking my mind.
It’d be interesting to see what I’d be like now if I hadn’t taken that class. I wonder…