When I was 12 years old, I started taking acting classes in one of the most long-established acting schools of Rio de Janeiro. It is called O Tablado; a small theater that was founded by playwright Maria Clara Machado in the early 50s. I did not want to become an actor – never. I was just trying to chase my shyness away, and learn how to speak up. Back then I already knew that I wanted to work in the Arts and Literature world – and I suspected that boldness would be a very important tool to have.
I had become a very timid kid. As I had travelled in my early childhood, moving a lot and living abroad, I had locked myself down into being reserved. I know, deep inside I was afraid of making new friends and having to unmake them. Changes can be hard for a small kid. So, I guess that I adopted this bashful style. Deep inside I knew I was cut out to be an outspoken, vocal person. I needed to access this inner self as soon as possible.
The body language of a shy girl - in my 12s and 13s
No Small Talk
How was my shyness working out for me? Not well. I was the last of my friends to kiss a boy (which would only happen after a year or so of acting classes), even my period came late. I felt boyish, childish, aloneish and somehow what bothered me was the ishes of all of it. One day I got fed up and decided I needed to become bold. I ask my parents to take acting classes and I spend two nights waiting in line to get a spot at that famous O Tablado. Yes, the place would open registration only twice a year, and people would sleep in line to get in. First come, first serve basis – pre-online life. I was number three on the line, as I alternated with a friend to save that precious third spot. We brought a small foldable beach chair that helped us get through those long 48 hours. I remember people where chatty around me, and I wished I could do the small talk. But I was there to learn, not to blame myself.
I got in and by the end of the first few months, I was a totally different person. The stage really is a magical place! Magic for your soul and your mind. No kidding actors are so self-assured (maybe they just pretend, but who cares?). At the end of that first semester, we had an assignment, and only the students who succeeded at it would be able to move on to the next level. The rest would be fired, dismissed, dumped. This place was sweet and very nice, but the rules were more like a Russian Ballet School.
We all had to “act” outside of the classroom. Basically, pretend to be someone else. Make up a name, choose a body language, and convince someone about something, making them believe you were a different person. My assignment was to go to a nearby rather fancy country club, pretend I was a member who had forgotten my membership card, and get in. Remember, back in 1986 we had only paper records. I dressed up for the part, but I remember shaking like a bamboo tree when my teacher hid with the rest of the group behind a parked car, near the main entrance, and sent me out on that mission of convincing the gatekeepers to let me in.
It was tougher than I predicted. The front gate guard said he had never seen my face around and he would need to see my membership card in order to let me in.
I just moved to Rio, I improvised, with an out-of-town accent.
Paris, I improvised again.
He must have felt that I was important because he called the receptionist. I was lying just to an extent – I had moved back from Paris many years ago. That was one of the techniques I had learned when I was taking the classes: bring as many elements from your real life to the character’s life, especially when improvising.
What is you mother’s name?, the high-pitched receptionist asked.
Madame Bovary, I said, with my perfect French accent. I doubted they would know the famous character by Gustave Flaubert, the first thing that came to my mind.
Oh, ok, Madame Bovary, I have heard this name, she said.
I mean, she could tell that Madame Bovary was badass.
As I got in, I turned to see my teacher and my group celebrating my accomplished task. Yes, I had made it, and now I could go on studying the art of acting. Which I did for a couple more years.
In hindsight I can for sure say that this was one of the top five lessons of my life. And it defined myself and my journey. From that day on, I decided to always push the envelope, try harder, go further. Not pretending to be someone I was not – that was completely not the point. But instead, being 100% at ease with who I was, and acting upon it.
Boldness Golden Rules:
- Believe in who you are, and others will. Don’t believe, and it doesn’t matter how far you have made it, because nobody will believe in you.
- Always push yourself a little further. Especially when you are afraid you cannot make it.
- The biggest ego trap is called comfort zone. Don’t even visit this place. Just keep moving. You can have a comfort place (your bed + ice-cream and Netflix) but never a zone.
- Trust your guts and you will receive boldness. Don’t pay attention to what people think of you. That is NOT your problem. It is theirs.