Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My worst nightmare actually turned out kind of funny

Public speaking. A common enough phobia.

Friends and co-workers told me that I actually wasn't aweful at it. That I hid my nervousness well. But I didn't feel that way. I'm terrified at the thought of getting up in front of people and not knowing what to say.

Last year I took a few classes to help me feel better prepared for public speaking. I was tired of feeling limited by my fears.

I took a four-week presentations class at the local community college, then followed that up with a five-week acting for non-actors class. Funny thing was, people who do a lot of public speaking were terrified at the idea of taking the acting class with me. Personally, I saw no difference. Public speaking was public speaking -- terrifying no matter what kind. So I took that acting class alone.

And I discovered that I wasn't too bad. Some people actually said I was funny. Quiet, little me -- funny?

Anyway, that's a long lead-in to this story.

Labor Day. Five weeks ago. Wookie was in town (thank you for the photos!) and a group of us went to the closing day at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.

We decided to watch a show for a comedian/acrobat named MooNiE. Very funny. He doesn't talk much at all -- most of the show is communicated through body language.

Then MooNiE brought someone up on stage to help with a skit. As I watched, I ran through the possibilities in my head: What if I get dragged up? Unlikely, since we're near the back. But what if? Obviously, play along. He wants his skit to succeed and won't set it up for failure. But, WHAT IF? You've taken a class. You've done improvisation comedy. You can handle it. Just play along and roll with it.

Good thing I had that internal dialogue. Because, not three minutes later, MooNiE tapped me on the shoulder to go on stage with him.

Deep breath. Carefully give sunglasses and purse to husband. Calmly walk up to the stage. Ignore the crowd. Watch MooNiE for cues.

Thank you, he mouths to me.

I smile. (I'm pretty sure I smile.)

He produces two red paper cocktail napkins. Hands one to me. Keeps one himself. Indicates I should follow his example.

Twist. Twist. Twist. Make a tiny tear. Twist. Twist. Twist. Shape the top.

OK, I'm doing my best to follow.

He shows me his napkin. It now looks like a pretty little red rose. A look of flirtatious pride lights his face.

I show him my napkin. It now looks like a limp and twisted red paper cocktail napkin. He looks crestfallen. The crowd laughs. He takes my napkin and tosses it aside.

Then he makes a big to-do about presenting me with the rose. He offers it, then pulls it away. Offers it again. I play along. Each time trying to take it, knowing that he'll flirtatiously pull it away again. Each time the crowd laughs. Each time I laugh.

He gets down on one knee and offers the rose. He kisses my cheek then offers the rose. Then he indicates that I should kiss his cheek.

It's blazing hot. There's sweat dripping down his face. I feel the need to improvise. Oh, no. I look reluctant. I reach forward and wipe the sweat from his cheek. Ah-ha! He laughs.

He runs forward, grabs a towel and wipes his face. He returns to me and presents his now-dried cheek. OK. I lean forward to kiss him.

He turns his head. I end up kissing his lips. D'oh! I didn't see that coming. I *should* have seen it coming.

I laugh. The crowd laughs. He hands me the rose and leads me off stage.

Whew! I'd survived.

"You did good," my husband said as I sat down. "You were funny."

"I've never seen anyone do that before," said the stranger next to me, who's evidently seen the show multiple times before.

I was happy. I'd face my fear. I hadn't died onstage. Two years ago, I never would have done it. But, that day, my worst nightmare actually turned out kind of funny.

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