Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 12:14 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Whether it be on stage or off stage, confidence doesn’t come easy for many.

So, one Lower Richland High School theatre teacher is giving her students some tips and tricks as to how to present confidence in anything they may do.

To get these high schoolers more comfortable with any form of public speaking, Amy Pederson introduced her mock audition exercise to help her students come out of their shells a bit more.

“We practice with speech, we practice with just being more confident in front of other people and speaking in front of other people, just to give them a leg up whenever they go out to the world, and they need to be able to communicate” Pederson says.

During the activity, Pederson rotates the students between three groups: the actors, the casting agents, and members of the gallery; giving them a broader outlook on what an audition process typically looks like.

“The main thing I want them to get out of this is to be able to read something really quick and say it in front of a big camera and in front of people staring at them and still be able to go through the whole thing. They might mess up every now and then but that’s okay.”

After the mock audition process is through, the students all get to sit down with Ms. Pederson and critique each other’s performances.

They take notes, give advice, and see how they can improve going forward.

Although this is technically an acting exercise, the payoff does not only have to live in the world of theatre.

Pederson says she’s teaching universal lessons through this activity.

“My purpose here is to not necessarily make a whole bunch of actors. My purpose is to get people to understand that you can talk in front of other people, and you can do this well.”

It’s not often that high school students get the chance to prepare for any sort of on-stage audition, interview process, or public speech in front of a crowd.

So, for many of Ms. Pederson’s students, the idea was unfamiliar, but intriguing, nonetheless.

Lower Richland High School senior, Ma’Kai Jenkins says he’s always been comfortable in front of a crowd, but that the exercise is still beneficial.

“It was something new that I wanted to try. I was kind of nervous at first, but I’ve done acting in the past growing up. I’ve done talent shows and things like that, so I wasn’t too nervous, but I was still interested in stepping outside of my comfort zone.”

Some of these theatre students have had that on-stage experience in their lifetimes so the idea of building up their confidence didn’t take too much effort.

For others, like Lower Richland junior, Simone Davis, the appeal of this exercise stemmed from the fact that they may not be the most outspoken or extroverted person, especially when it comes to being on stage.

So, the opportunity allowed them to become more reassured of their public presentation.

“I’ve always been a shy person, but this actually helped me to get out of my comfort zone because I don’t really want to speak up, but she gives me notes which really helps.”

Ms. Pederson may have a passion for theatre and performing arts, but when it comes down to it, the thing she cares the most about is her students.

She works to create a safe space for her students to feel comfortable with being a bit uncomfortable.

“The confidence that they get from doing this shows them, once they watch it and reflect on it, that they can do this; and they can do this with anything, it doesn’t have to be something written in front of them.”

The care and positive energy Ms. Pederson puts towards her students lets them feel as if this isn’t just a class in part of their school day; it’s a chance for them to look forward to something new and unexpected as Lower Richland junior Emori Brown points out.

“Usually when it’s almost time to leave class, you’re putting on your stuff, ready to go but I get sad when I have to leave here.”

Pederson isn’t just teaching a class; she’s teaching life skills for her students to carry with them so that they’re a little more equipped to handle whatever may come their way.

“Going through this process helps them move into the workforce and be able to walk into an interview with the confidence of, “I got this, I can do this.””

From the theatre department of Lower Richland High School to the rest of their lives.

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