Want to Become Confident Fast? — It’s Time To Play
How drama classes can transform your self-confidence and give you the freedom to relinquish all insecurity
‘You’re raising your eyebrow.’
‘I’m raising my eyebrow.’
I’m sat opposite Candice, a French girl who’s here to improve her English and meet new people. We’re in an adult evening acting class at Exeter’s Cygnet Theatre School and are scrutinising each other’s facial expressions and verbalising them.
It’s an intense experience to stare into a relative strangers’ face for any amount of time and we both try not to laugh at the discomfort.
Do I really raise my eyebrow that much? Do I really make a strange shape with my mouth? Is it a reflection of my thoughts?
This class is one in a long line I’ve taken since the age of eleven. There have been drama clubs, school workshops, theatre companies and a diploma in Performing Arts.
There have been times when I’ve walked into an improvisation and had no idea where to start, times where I’ve been so close to someone’s face I can see every pore.
It can be uncomfortable, but it can also be immensely freeing.
In March I finished a three day Acting for Camera class at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school. There, not only was I getting up and personal with my fellow students, but I was also analysing my performance in close-up on the screen.
In a class of six, within an hour of arriving on the first day I was performing a monologue. By day two, I had my hand down my scene partner’s trousers placing an imaginary gun into his waistband. On camera.
Human connection at light speed
In a world outside drama classes, it can take months to get to know someone. We revel - or wince - in the face of meeting someone’s eyes for more than a second or two.
In the acting world, there’s no time for that.
There’s no time for embarrassment or beating around the bush. Instead we can stare each other down without a flushing of the cheeks because we’re both in it together.
We can make crazy sounds in vocal warm ups or walk around a room pretending to be a chicken whilst our fellow players try to block our path.
At a fundamental level, it’s play. On a more serious level, it’s stripping down what it means to be human and building it back up, line by line, movement by movement.
Improvisation is a scary process for even the most experienced drama class attendees. After all, you have no idea what to do or say or what will happen next.
But isn’t that an exact reflection of real life?
When you walk on stage to improvise, there is no script, no familiar blocking and no direction. You simply have to listen to what your fellow improvisers say and react to it.
It can catch you completely off guard but there’s no right and wrong. There’s just human interaction whether they’re trying to make you laugh or telling you a sad story about an elephant that they’re making up as they go along.
An environment without boundaries
I’ve met all sorts of people in drama classes. From those who love to be up on stage to those who are there purely to challenge themselves to get up in front of strangers. Some stumble over every word, some speak as though they were born for it.
At Bristol Old Vic we all had some drama experience except one.
Simon turned up still running his Chekhov monologue through his head, never having taken a class. He’d always wanted to give acting a go though and there he was, delivering a complex speech and, essentially, winging it.
He transformed over the three days.
At Cygnet, the ages ranged from nineteen to late fifties, the experience from zilch to plentiful. Over two months, every single person became a better speaker, a more relaxed performer and achieved the same thing; more confidence.
Within the theatre space, there’s no use for inhibitions
There’s a closeness that forms between actors of any level at an artificially heightened speed.
When you’re performing a scene with someone, you have to leave behind your embarrassment and social awkwardness. You’re not you, you’re the character and that gives you freedom you simply can’t experience in the rest of life.
But you can transfer it.
Because actors look at characters critically, it enables them to look at themselves critically too.
This character shrinks away from authority by lowering the volume of their voice and folding themselves up in a chair. Do I do that too? Do we do it for the same reasons?
Drama classes teach stance, presence and inner calm. They dissect the relationship between physicality and voice, between actions and intentions and between movement and meaning.
They teach how to be in the moment and in your body.
And most of all, they teach us that we are all human, and we really are all in it together.
So if you’re feeling a little uncomfortable within yourself or the idea of a networking event is hell — why not try a drama class?
Classes are places where judgement doesn’t belong, where you are both you and not you, where you can do anything you like. They’re places where you laugh at yourself and relearn what it means to play.
Most crucially, they allow you to relinquish all insecurity. Because in a space where everyone is vulnerable, no one is.