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Since joining the staff at an elementary school as a Special Education aide in January, I have found opportunities to reference my work as an actor. It may be an acting exercise or a short story pulled from my career. It’s not a glamorous story usually but it always serves its purpose to enlighten and entertain. Today’s story was no different.

Before I get to today’s story, let me make a point about acting stories. I never use them to glorify myself. I use them to teach a point or correct a myth. Usually the story involves me humbling myself from the beginning until the end. Today’s story was no different.

Like many of my stories, I have virtually no time to prepare. I just reach into my mind for a memory that seems suitable. I tell myself I need just enough story to fill the time allowed and no more. Today’s story was no different.

At 2:45 pm, I got called into the office and asked if I could pick up a 4th grade glass from music at 3:15 pm and take the students back to their classroom for the remaining 10 minutes of the school day. I agreed to do it, then returned to finish working with a special education student. I didn’t give the 10 minutes at the end of the day anymore thought until walking them back to class.

Once in the classroom, I invited them to gather around me. That’s when I realized the story to tell involved my one day on the set of a film called Puncture in Houston. I was an extra called in to work in a scene at a courthouse. At the time I didn’t know the lead actor in the scene, although he was recognizable to many other people.

As I told the story, I conveniently left out his name just like I am leaving it out now. The students were captivated. They were so eager to find out who I was talking about. They shouted out guesses as I made references to how this actor worked in a superhero film and became better known for playing a different superhero after Puncture was made.

The guesses continued as my story moved forward. Not a single person said his name. It helped the anticipation build as I described our brief meeting and the quick handshake I got from the actor. I added how not knowing him made me feel more at ease being in the scene because I wasn’t distracted by his name or fame.

I stretched what could have been a 30-second mention of the experience into an 8-minute story with the payoff of meeting the man who went on to play Captain America, Chris Evans. Their eyes got wide. The students were stunned. The story choice worked.

Now I ask you, what’s your story? When you have an opportunity to talk about acting, do you have a go-to story to share to fit any occasion? If you don’t, start looking for one.

The story doesn’t have to be written down. It doesn’t need to be memorized. It just needs to be told with a sense of purpose.

Once you get a chance to tell your story, tell it again. And again. And again. In different settings. To different ages. Maybe it won’t kill every time but you’ll learn how to shape raw material into a real commodity. Just like you’re going to do with your acting career.

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