How to Improve Cold Reading
Why I Read Out Loud Every Night
It’s English class, and Mrs. O’brien is asking us to open our copy of Wuthering Heights to page 53. I’m sweating. It’s an automatic response that stretches right back to some forgotten memory as a seven-year-old: I’m hearing sniggering in the corner of the room and I just can’t seem to make the Roald Dahl’s sentences flow. Something in my classmates’ whispers—their quiet mocking—is making me feel stupid. And so I stumble more. Then Mrs O’brien calls my name. I breathe an empty breath and it all begins again. This time it’s Bronte being hacked to pieces.
It was funny how much I struggled reading aloud, because I was known at school to be an actor. I studied drama since the eighth grade, did all the school plays and never got anything less than an A+ for oral presentations in class. It wasn’t the performance element, but the fear of being stupid. That fear was what made me stumble.
Now, as a 26-year-old actor, I am still terrified to read out loud and it impacts my career. Not in any drastic way—most auditions give you ample preparation time and cold reading is rare—but it does. I avoid play reading, and will falter if thrust into any cold reading situation and I have lost opportunities because of it.
Breaking a habit like this, one that journeys right back into those formative, spongey years of primary school takes work. Some in the ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ camp might advocate getting a part in a local play reading and just doing it: facing the fear. This may just cure me, but the simplest approach: make reading aloud a nightly habit. If reading isn’t already a nightly habit sort that out first. I hate it, but make a rule of reading the first three pages aloud before you go back to silent reading.
It’s a small change, but it might just get me the role. And save me some money on deodorant.
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