Overcoming shyness

Baron with students

“I’m a very shy person, and I think working with Baron will help me overcome barriers and stop being in my shell,” Barbara writes. Every year since 2003, theater professor Baron Kelly has flown to Madison to excite Odyssey students about drama from Shakespeare to August Wilson.

This year was bittersweet: Baron was right here in Madison (having joined our faculty in 2020) but could only “meet” the Class of 2021 via Zoom. While doing tongue twisters and vocal exercises and being coached in scenes from A Raisin in the Sun, students loosened up, laughed and gained a new sense of power. “I had no idea how hard acting was,” Michelle comments. “I struggled to play the part of Ruth. I was nervous because the whole class was watching me on Zoom. I only worked with Baron for a few minutes, but in that time, he helped me be Ruth and to face my fear of public speaking!”

In May and June, as part of our Onward Odyssey program, Baron will offer an intensive introduction to acting course to Odyssey alumni for three more UW credits. Twelve students will meet with him —masked, COVID tested and socially distant — in a UW theater.

“I am grateful that I get the opportunity to share my knowledge about the craft of acting and help open a new path of creativity with the Odyssey students,” Baron says. “I am looking forward to seeing the empathy that will be shared in the class. Odyssey students teach me lessons of openness and to remember to never stop asking questions.”

Odyssey students submitted essays about their reasons for applying to Introduction to Acting 150. Loche shares, “I don’t want to feel like I’m about to pass out when I have to speak in front of crowds. I hope this class will cure me from having my shoulders tense up and wanting the earth to split open and swallow me whole when I have to speak.” Spencer acknowledges that his “acute shyness” hindered opportunities to become involved in acting in the past. “I was afraid of being stared at, but I was pushed out of my comfort zone while participating in Odyssey. With Baron’s class, I want to share my voice and express myself in ways I haven’t before.”

Stay tuned for a summer newsletter with photos and stories about our Odyssey alumni as they overcome shyness and find their voices in our new acting class!