Living Truthfully: A Student’s Perspective

Living Truthfully: A Student's Perspective

by Emma Close

Emma is 16 years old and has been a student at our Grapevine location since the fall of 2011, when she was only nine. She wrote this essay about learning to live truthfully for a school assignment in early 2018 and has given us permission to share with you all.


My heart rate rises, and I can feel the heat in my face as I rehearse the passage I’m about to read in my head for the third time. I don’t speak in class often, and I need to make sure that I don’t make a complete fool of myself the few times that I do. “I wish they’d just skip me,” I think to myself. It’s my turn. I look straight down at my book and hide in my hair while I get through the paragraph as quickly and painlessly as possible. As I finish the last sentence, I shrink back into my seat trying not to make eye contact with anyone.

As a kid, this is how school was for me a lot of the time, especially when it came to speaking out loud. I was embarrassed to present to my classmates or ask questions because I was afraid that they would think what I had to say was stupid. My fear of being wrong was getting in the way. I worried that if I missed something–seemingly simple to everyone else–and asked a question about it, everyone would see me as the idiot who can’t do basic math for the rest of the year. So I never said anything.There were only a few really good friends that I was able to open up and be myself with besides my family. Comments from teachers would often appear on my report cards asking my parents if I was always this quiet. Of course my parents replied with no. Something was different environmentally between school and home that just caused me to shut down. Maybe I felt intimidated by other students I didn’t know who were smarter than I was. Maybe I was afraid to be made fun of. Maybe I didn’t believe I was actually smart.

My fear of being wrong was getting in the way.

I never thought a single Groupon would change my life. Heck, I didn’t even know what Groupon was. But I had been bugging my mom about signing me up for acting classes for months (I know, an odd request coming from an introvert). Finally my mom found a Groupon for the Acting Studio. The learning started the second I walked in. When I was asked to define acting, I learned that they taught the Meisner technique. I also learned quickly that I was surrounded by people who liked the same things I liked, supported me, and wanted to help me grow not only as an actor, but as a person. They taught me that mistakes are a necessary part of life, and that it’s not the mistake you make that matters, but how you recover. These were the sorts of thing Sanford Meisner believed in, and I started to believe in them, too.

Sanford Meisner defines acting as “living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.” And as I continued making friends and finding my style of acting, living truthfully soon became a subconscious mantra inside my head, beating in time with my heart. It reminded me of everything I learned at the studio, of all the people I had there for me, people that I could bust out into song and dance with and would just follow my lead. Slowly, I started to gain confidence. I became more outgoing as I performed in front of my friends. Before, there had been two separate versions of myself: the me I was at school, and the me I was while performing. Through my experiences at the studio, they started to become more similar. I noticed I was no longer terrified of speaking my mind in fear of having “the wrong opinion.” I sang constantly, and even found myself busting out a timestep or two in the middle of the hall between classes, or doing the splits just because I can.

I’m not embarrassed anymore. I smile to myself hidden under the set where I’m waiting for my entrance. Standing in the dark with friends I’ve had for years now, we check to make sure everything’s in place for my song. I quadruple check the metal hooks poking out from the side of my costume to make sure they’re easily accessible for the flying carpet. Butterflies flap around uneasily in my stomach, but everyone else feels them too. It’s an energetic hum of electricity coursing through our veins that connects us all to each other. There isn’t a single person in the world who could walk by and not feel the excitement flowing to their lungs with every breath. I look to my friends and laugh, we can feel that whatever is coming next is going to be worth remembering . We get my chair in place to roll out. I grab my glass and take a deep breath as the lights start flashing and the stage fills with smoke. We roll out my chair and I take a seat. I strike a pose and smile toward the hundreds of people in the audience then stand up and stretch–“Ten thousand years in a tin can will surely give you a crick in the neck!” I’m not afraid and I don’t need to be, because I love what I do. Not too much later, I’m walking offstage and into the wings pumping my fists in the air mouthing “Nailed it!” as we go to intermission. Many high fives and such are exchanged as I dance my way back to the dressing room.

I noticed I was no longer terrified of speaking my mind in fear of having “the wrong opinion.” I sang constantly, and even found myself busting out a timestep or two in the middle of the hall between classes, or doing the splits just because I can.

By now, I’m sure I’ve said the phrase “life skills through stage skills” more than what was thought to be humanly possible. But really, there’s nothing I’ve learned to better myself as an actor that hasn’t also bettered me as a human. I’ve found the kind of person I want to be while on stage, and now, I’ve figured out how to be that person. I discovered a new part of myself when I joined the studio that day; it was a part of me I don’t think anyone knew existed, but it’s easily become the best part of me. I found what I wanted to do with my life. I found my thing, the thing I can’t live without. Above everything I’ve learned onstage, learning who I am was the most important.

  1. Tears. And a smile. That is all.

  2. Beautifully said, Emma! Thank you for sharing your story, you are an amazing young lady!!

  3. Beautifully written Emma!

  4. Great read! Obviously, acting is not your only talent!

  5. BRAVA! An A+ essay—just like your mom wrote in my English class at Hockaday. A powerful message & an authentic voice. Enjoy the journey.

  6. Smiling, happy tears. I love this story Emma, so personal and moving. Simply beautiful, just like you. Thank you for letting us see things from your perspective.

  7. Way to go Emma!!

  8. Thanks for sharing Emma!

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