Last month, I wrote about how I had joined a beginners improv class. I was nervous and apprehensive at the beginning of the class, for several reasons. I had zero experience with improv and was afraid I’d make a fool of myself. And I worried about how my stuttering would play into it.
Well, last week I completed the class and actually performed with my group in front of a live audience, after just four weeks of learning and practicing. Guess what? It was fun and I really enjoyed it.
I had disclosed that I stutter in the first week of class, so got that out of the way quickly. Then I just went with the flow and let myself be creative and have fun with my classmates. My worry about making a fool of myself was unfounded because that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do in improv.
Here’s what I learned in improv. You don’t have to be funny to do improv. You just have to be open to what a partner says and respond and build on what they’ve said. One of the rules of improv is “Yes, And.” This means to agree with your partner and add to what they’ve said, whether or not it makes contextual sense.
I also learned that I have the ability to be a deep listener, which is an essential tool of improv and of life. I think stuttering has taught me to be a great listener, because I used to always prefer listening to talking.
And I learned how to be more mindful and in the present moment, which is also helpful in all aspects of life. Being grounded means we can develop better relationships and we need that more than ever in today’s world.
The performance went great. Our group was called the “Slippery Alligator Udders.” We had a supportive audience who laughed and enjoyed our show. My initial nerves dissipated right away as I relaxed and leaned into the creativity and playfulness of our group.
I never thought I’d say this, but improv was good for me. it helped me get out of my head and enjoy something without worrying about stuttering. I’d recommend it for anyone looking to push out of their comfort zones.
I am looking forward to taking the 201 level class and seeing what I can create next.
Episode 164 features Sofia Espinoza, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia, although Sofia is originally from Peru. Sofia works for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. She is an engineer and works in IT, implementing systems.
Sofia went into engineering because she thought it would be a field where there wouldn’t be much talking. When she began her Masters program, she saw it was much more interactive and would require talking and class participation. It was at this time that Sofia began researching support opportunities and found the NSA and Toastmasters.
She threw herself into both at the same time, as well as seeing a counselor. All of these things helped Sofia to graduate.
Listen in as we discuss covert stuttering, baby steps, shyness and anxiety, and the pain of stuttering. We also talk about wearing armor to protect ourselves and how heavy that armor can be to carry around.
Sofia attended her first NSA conference this year, as it was held in Atlanta. We talk about her experiences and her favorite workshop.
The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.
Episode 163 features Chani Markel, who hails from Teaneck, New Jersey. Chani just moved to NYC for a new job as a school-based speech language pathologist (SLP) with the NYC public schools. Chani also keeps busy with yoga and writing.
Listen in as we discuss the transformative experience Chani had with therapy which she sought out on her own when she was a senior in high school. This experience led her to pursue a career in speech language pathology.
We talk about the National Stuttering Association and the impact it has had on her life. The NSA has helped her both personally and professionally.
Chani also shares about her experience with starting a writing group, that combines writing about stuttering, communication and identity.
Chani offers words of wisdom for anyone who stutters thinking about becoming a SLP and offers to talk with anyone who’d like to explore this with her.
The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.
Well, I took a big risk and joined an improv class. I had heard improv was a great way to get out of your comfort zone, practice being in the moment and have fun.
My first class was this week. I had googled a few articles on improv so had a general idea as to what it was, but really had no idea what to expect when I walked into the classroom. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was nervous about looking foolish in front of others and about how to handle the fact I stutter.
It was important for me to find a way to let my classmates know that I stutter so they wouldn’t be surprised when they heard me stuttering.
We started out with doing some warm-up exercises to get to know each other. They were a combination of saying our names and doing a fun action. Before we knew it, everyone was laughing and seemed somewhat comfortable. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who was nervous.
We then moved into learning some of the basics of improv, like establishing relationships and places so that onlookers can get a sense of the scene you’re creating. We worked on collaborating with each other, using the improv strategy of “Yes, and.” This strategy has us agreeing with what our partner gives us and adding to it, forging onward with what we are given. In other words, much of improv is going with the flow.
At one point, the teachers wanted all of us to get to know one another, as our selves, not characters we were creating. We paired up and just talked to each other, asking questions to get to learn about each other.
My partner asked me how my summer was and if I had done any thing fun. Here was my opening to talk about stuttering. I mentioned that I had gone to Atlanta for a conference and naturally she asked what type of conference.
I told her it was the annual NSA conference for people who stutter and that I stuttered. She went with the flow and said that was very interesting. Everyone was watching our “introduction piece” so I advertised it to the group as well. After that, I felt more comfortable letting my stuttering out and just going with the flow.
I am really looking forward to seeing how this class goes. I’ve been looking for something to challenge me since finishing with Toastmasters and this definitely will be a challenge. I’ve been worried about the fact that I am not naturally funny and I’ve read that I don’t have to try and be funny. I can just be natural and work with classmates and think in the moment and work as a team and funny will naturally happen. I’m hopeful that’s true.
Wish me luck. We do a performance in front of an audience at the end of the class, live on stage. I’ll really be stepping out of my comfort zone and hopefully having a blast!
Episode 22 of the very occasional male series features Chaz Bonnar who hails from Glasgow, Scotland. Chaz is 24 years old and is a dancer and freelance creative artist. He works with young kids building their confidence and self-esteem through dance.
Chaz believes that dance has helped him to express himself without words. He has been dancing – specifically breakdancing – since he was 15. Now he works with kids with the hope of offering them the same opportunities for self expression.
Listen in as Chaz shares what has helped him overcome his stuttering. He is a strong believer in the laws of attraction and feels that we have more control over our lives than we have been led to believe.
Chaz also talks about the importance of being completely honest with ourselves with regards to our speech and other areas of our life. And finally, we hit on social anxiety, which has many parallels to stuttering.
Chaz encourages listeners to reach out to him on social media if they’d like to talk with him about his ideas. Instagram: @chazbonnar Snapchat: @chazbonnar Twitter: @ChazB
The music clip used in todays episode is credited to Dano Songs.
Episode 162 features Alexandra D’Agostino who hails from London, Ontario, Canada. Alex is 23 years old and is going into her last year of university where she is pursuing a double major of psychology and anthropology.
Alex is considering a Master’s degree in either music therapy or nursing when she completes her undergraduate work. She loves traveling and music, playing seven instruments and singing in her university choir.
Alex is very actively involved in the stuttering community. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stuttering Association (CSA) where she is part of the social media team. She runs the CSA’s Facebook page. The CSA is holding their annual One Day conference on October 22, 2016. Both Alex and her mom are running workshops.
Alex has also attended conferences of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) since 2011 when she was 18. Her parents have come with her to the annual NSA conferences. Alex served on the NSA’s Teen Advisory Council for three years.
Listen in as we discuss growing up with a stutter, being bullied and speech therapy experiences. We discuss how cyclical stuttering really is and how it affects our life differently depending on what stage of life we are in. Right now, Alex is happy with her speech and feels she has accepted her stuttering.
This was a wonderful conversation with a wonderful young woman who wants everyone who stutters to know that they are not alone. Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.
Every year, the stuttering community celebrates International Stuttering Awareness Day on October 22. It’s a day for people across the world to recognize stuttering, educate others who don’t stutter and raise awareness of an often isolating difference.
For the last 12 years, the community has further celebrated by participating in a three week online conference about stuttering, hosted by the International Stuttering Association (ISA.) The conference is held from Oct 1-Oct.22 and can be found linked to the ISA site.
This year, the theme of the conference is stuttering pride. Yes, we can take pride in the fact that we stutter, that we’re part of a huge community that empowers each other and that can take responsibility for educating others about stuttering.
The conference needs to hear from you, people who stutter, loved ones of people who stutter and people generally interested in the stuttering community. The conference is seeking submissions of papers, audio or video around the theme of stuttering pride. Specific information can be found here at the ISAD section of the ISA site.
Won’t you consider writing something about your stuttering experience? Or sharing an audio or video message? It can go a long way towards the goal of educating others and creating a world that better understands stuttering.