Until I hit my mid-thirties, I was a tongue-tied book nerd. In high school, I was an athlete and ‘performing’ in public at track meets and such wasn’t an issue, because I was in my zone doing what I was really good at. For two years, I was colour guard captain for our drum corps and whipped a 10 pound decommissioned wooden rifle into the air doing tricks with five other young women as we marched to blaring horns and pounding drums down the hot asphalt streets of small towns in Ontario and the northern U.S.
At university for some reason, I joined the drama club. I remember one time, in some forgettable play we staged in Burton Auditorium, I had to recite my lines then – all alone in a spotlight on that cavernous stage-pit – loudly sing a song about, “No more parties for me, For I shall be party-free, For I’ve joined parties anonymous, And they are helping me.” How stupid was that?
Now that I think of it, the lyrics were probably penned by one of my Mateus-inspired classmates. I remember that I wore a tight pink fuzzy sweater and a camel-coloured mini-skirt. I teetered on stage in uncomfortable high-heeled shoes. My hair was back-combed within an inch of its life into a beehive style. I wanted to look the part of the wasted ingenue, so I didn’t wear my spectacles.
The audience was blurry so I had to rely on my sense of hearing for feedback. That was the first time I recall not being so nervous that I wanted to puke. In fact, the applause was loud and people laughed in the right places. It was at that point that I finally began to crawl out of my convent-school shell. For me, it was not so much about ‘beating’ stage fright as learning to use it to my advantage. I mean, I made people laugh. What a rush that was!