Several years ago, I participated in a theater group. One of the classes involved choosing, memorizing and reciting a piece. When something has meaning to me, I am able to connect with it and recite it with presence. Otherwise, I’m not very fond of public speaking.
This is the piece I chose to recite–an excerpt from a book entitled Woman and Nature by Susan Griffin:
“He says he is not part of this world, that he was set on this world as a stranger. He sets himself apart from woman and nature.
We are the bird’s eggs. Bird’s eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep; we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and sprigs of wallflower. We are women. We rise from the wave. We are gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls. We are woman and nature. And he says he cannot hear us speak. But we hear.”
Herein lies one secret to speaking in front of an audience. To feel connected to what you read or recite brings power to your voice. I see acting as something quite different. In that case, you stand outside of yourself to play the character or you in some way inhabit the character. However, that feels more difficult and less desirable to me. To feel passionate about my topic infuses my ability to stand up in front of an audience and speak with authenticity.
I like to be prepared. I had to become deeply familiar with Susan Griffin’s words. I would have expressed my love of and deep connection to nature in different words. Her flow of words, her particular associations, although they expressed a shared belief, weren’t my own. Memorization of her words and where to put the emphasis when I was reciting was somewhat challenging. Yet, I met the assignment. It occurred to me that my audience’s values were different than my own–that the subject matter might be something they hadn’t deeply considered. Regardless, I recited with passion and the hope that my message was understood at a level deeper than the words themselves.
Finally then, it is not up to me how anyone receives what I say. It is not up to me how anyone interprets my art. It is only up to me to share it. That’s what I came here to do, it seems. For now.