You no doubt have heard how important play is for children. It is necessary to fuel and build their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. I have recently been reminded how important it is for adults as well.

I have always been someone who can “read the room” and “act as if”. Whether it’s being the good girl, the teacher’s pet or whomever you want me to be, I’m pretty good at it. Gratefully, through a lot of self-evaluation and concentrated work on my self-image and belief systems, I do not feel the need any longer to have to mold myself to meet someone else’s expectations. The skill set remains, just to be used now for good. 

So, having this “natural acting ability”, wherein I have garnered several awards (in my mind), I decided to take a stab at actually acting in a play earlier this year. Yes, I was typecast as a nun in “The Sound of Music”. Being part of a chorus made it less stressful, especially when trying to remember all those Latin words! And if I did get nervous at all, I reminded myself that I was here to have fun. That shift made all the difference. 

After that wonderful experience, one of my fellow “sisters” suggested a bunch of us take a local musical theatre class. You’d learn how to sing and act, and at the end, there would be a performance for friends and family, where there would be ensemble pieces…and a solo. I had to think twice about that one. I have sung my whole life, from being in the church choir from 1st grade up, to daily serenades in the car (my children can attest to that!) But I have never done a solo. The thought of putting myself out there in front of people I don’t know….it was daunting! I am a professional speaker, so getting up in front of others is not a problem, but singing? That I am definitely NOT a professional at! But, I loved the community of “thespians” I had joined and so went along for the ride. 

Day One we had to introduce ourselves and tell our experience with singing/acting. To a person, everyone was terrified of doing a solo. The instructor, also a middle school performing arts teacher, assured us that we would be able to do it. Just show up and do the work. So, we did. And I was still terrified. Reminding myself that I was there to have fun didn’t really work all that well – I was TOO much in my head. The amount of fears rattling around in my brain about what could go wrong didn’t give any other ideas any room to germinate. Until I remembered my modeling gig…

Years ago, my friend and fabulous designer, Gabrielle Carlson, had asked me to do a photo shoot, showcasing her clothing line. Honored to be asked, I agreed. When I got there and saw the photographer and the set up and the other women, I went right into my head, focusing on what I fool I was, who did I think I was, this is a big mistake, etc. I did a few photo shots and knew I was coming off very stilted. Not a good look. And then, for some unknown reason, this thought came to mind: Act as if. But not like “fake it till you make it”, it was more playful. It was “PRETEND you are a model”. Play with it. Have fun! Who cares? So, I pretended I was a model, sashaying my way down the runway. I found it really fun. And wouldn’t you know, those photos were the best of the bunch!

Fast forward to having to do my solo. The song I chose was from the play “Chicago” – Big Mama Morton, the prison matron, singing “When You’re Good to Mama”. The first time I sang it in practice, I couldn’t hit the notes. I forgot words. I was flat. I was totally in my head and all the things I thought would happen, did. And then I remembered the photo shoot. As soon as I started to play, to let the character of Mama Morton work through me, it wasn’t me who was on the stage – it was her. If she made a mistake, oh well. I was just playing. 

And I did it. And I had FUN doing it. And when the “pressure to perform” was off for my fellow actors, I saw them doing AMAZING performances. They were out of their heads and just playing. It worked wonders.

So, the next time you have a new experience that you are more than a little nervous about, think about “playing the role”, rather than it being all about you. And have fun. It’s good for us all.