"Scream right!" - How I learned to be straight on a weekend

She is small, petite, has gray hair, red glasses and her "Good morning" vibrates like a promise through the seminar room. It's Saturday morning, I did not have any coffee and I'm "scared" as we say in Northern Germany. Together with eleven strangers and our lecturer I sit in my chair in a rehearsal room of the renowned Hamburg Stage School. Here, budding musical stars are usually trained in dance, singing and acting. Today we sit here to polish our self-confidence with the help of a drama teacher. How to do it on a single weekend? No idea!

That's the way it goes!

We do not get much information. First, everyone should say why he is here. Inside me, the truth turns with a "nice answer" in a circle. The truth is: I've known myself for 33 years now and quite honestly like it. I think I'm funny, smart and mostly I'm a pretty nice person. The latter is not always a strength. The older I get, the more my own compulsion to be "nice" animal strikes me. When I talk to people, I quickly lose sight of my own interests. I become a yes-sayer, apologize for things that I have not done wrong, and say things that annoy me in hindsight. If that were all, I would handle it. But the thing has another catch: always nice people takes no one seriously. I can even understand that, frankly. Because I always understand everything anyway. Dreadful!

"Confidence has a lot to do with concentration"

Our first exercise: learning names. But ragged. We have a few seconds to remember the first names of our comrades, then it starts. Someone points a finger at me, I have to give his name. Not an easy task for a dreamer. "To be confident, I am not allowed to drift off and have to remain alert to the situation," explains Karin Frost-Wilcke. There is something on that. After a few laps, we are at first name, city and flower. My brain smokes. Then it will be exciting. We are divided into boss and employee, the boss is to confront his employees each with an unpleasant topic. I realize with a start that I'm relieved to be allowed to cash in on the bill. All better than embarrassing another person. I'm doing a good job. I can plug in. But I was happy too soon: we should swap roles. My task: I should point out to the over two-meter-tall man in front of me that it is rather awkward to receive customers with a garlic flag. Nice first. I can do that. Then I should pronounce the last warning. I'm supposed to be mad. "Cry, come on, you've already told Herr Maier a hundred times." Oh man. I should shout at a huge man. Because of its garlic flag. I, who think it's terrible to say friendly to my closest friends when something annoys me. "Mr. Maier," I begin with a frown and half-hearted forefinger. "It would be really nice if you ..." "STOP!" Cries Karin Frost-Wilcke and looks at me dumbfounded. "So you want to prevail?" I nod. "Well, if I say it carefully, then ...." I can not get very far. My petite teacher rushes toward the confused student with an angry expression. "Mr. Maier!" Thunder thunders through the room. We all scare back. "If I see you here again with garlic flag, then you are OUT!" Dead silence in the room. "Attention, that is not a guide, how to be a good boss!", Says our lecturer in a calm and firm voice. "It's just about showing you what power voice and body can have." We are right.

Day 2 brings the breakthrough

One day later we are sitting together again. I unfortunately with a fat hangover and exactly four hours sleep behind me, because on Saturday I went "short" on a birthday. My voice sounds hoarse, they should not have played the Backstreet Boys yesterday, so I would not have had to scream like that. Well. In the end it was maybe not so bad. The tiredness and the dizzy head are somehow uninhibited. We do vocal exercises, elocution exercises, walk through doors, make improvised speeches, roar and flirt. I stand only a few inches in front of a strange man and should endure the closeness without giggling. "We chuckle and squirm mostly out of embarrassment," I learn. "You can endure a lot when you concentrate." It is true. We look at each other and keep it simple to get too close. Then it gets angry again. I plan to do better this time. "Come back!" I scream through the room. "Come back!" After the fifth time I am satisfied. Our lecturer too. "Exactly so," she praises me and I am strutting back with my chest swelled with pride in my place.

What I have learned

On the second day there is a lot of feedback.We give tips on posture, tell us how we interact. It comes out: The others do not find me so "nice". What sounds hard at first, is good news for me. "I think you radiate a lot of sovereignty, you do not seem a bit nervous when you speak in front of people." I am flat. I? Sovereign? "You would be a great boss!" Another student member tells me during her lunch break. Please what? I look around in disbelief. "Seriously now?" The others confirm the opinion. "I think you can express your opinion well and are very assertive." I think about her words and realize that she is right. Yes, I can indeed. Not only screaming, but also arguing and enforcing me. I've done that for two days now. In real life out there, I just do not do it because I'm scared to tease. "But people who tease are much more authentic and often more popular than the others," says Karin Frost-Wilcke. I go through a few people in my circle of acquaintances and realize: Yes, that's exactly how it is. The people I like the most are not necessarily the most comfortable. They do not always make me feel good. They give me honest feedback. And they also say NO.

Does that last?

On this Sunday evening I go home differently. Alone my posture has improved and I notice: My body gives the soul the direction. A raised head, a proud breast, all that makes me bigger, also inside. The next day I can try out directly, if the weekend has brought something. I'm supposed to present to another department how we solved a problem. I walk with firm steps forward, smile friendly and go. Inwardly I shake and tremble. Since yesterday I know: Nobody will notice. "It does not matter to anyone what it looks like deep inside you," I think in a continuous loop and notice how I slowly calm down while speaking. No one here in the wild will tell me that I did that confidently. But I can tell the faces that it is like that. After the lecture, a colleague comes to me. "Can you send me another mail afterwards to remind me of the appointment tomorrow?" I'm amazed. Why should I promise to remind you of your appointments? Three days ago, I would have said yes anyway. Now that's different. "No," I say firmly and give her a post-it. "Here you can write it down." I see that she is not happy with that. I do not care. Because it's me. Because I was just not nice to her, but it was all the nicer to me.

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© Karin Frost-Wilcke / Private

Workshop Director Karin Frost-Wilcke
Photo: Dennis Mundkowski

Straight From Basic Training - Episode 5 (July 2020).