National Stuttering Association

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Being a person who stutters, I never thought I could get up on a stage in front of over a hundred people. I never thought I could act or sing because of my stutter. I never thought I could get the lead role in a play and be the first to remember all of my lines. 

But that’s the thing about life. You never know what you can do unless you actually try. And if you do try, you will surprise yourself with what you can do as a person. The only reason I joined a theater class in the first place was to get a credit hour from it.

You know, your usual high school stuff. However, from the moment I picked a character and read the script, I knew I needed to have a big role in this play. Apparently, all the other students in my class saw it too, even my teacher. I properly auditioned for the part and I got it. Going from the classroom to the stage for rehearsals was difficult in the beginning, but I was not going to allow my stutter to scare me out of doing this. I was not going to be that kid that is always in the background of everything, and instead be in the center of it. The cast and I had a hard time working together to get this play going during rehearsals and it sometimes even drove my stress and anxiety levels to new heights.

Two big questions went through my mind before we performed the first night (we performed two nights), and they were, “What if I block while I am on stage?” and “What if I fail?”. It took a lot of my energy to keep myself from not walking out of the school altogether. Thankfully, when the day came to actually perform it in front of a crowd, it went very well (with a few mistakes here and there). One way that my anxiety was eased was that before we performed, my teacher asked me if she could put a little note in the playbill saying that someone in the cast was a Person Who Stutters and to be patient, and I agreed to it. I only actually stuttered one time both nights and it was the kind of stutter that many would not even notice. The audience knew there was a person with a stutter on stage, just not who. The crowd loved us. Hearing the massive amount of applause after the first scene gave me the confidence to see this whole play through to the end. 

My experience with the stage was not something I expected to happen. There are two things I learned from this experience, and it is this. Do not be afraid to try new things, you never know what you can do unless you go out into the world and try it. And do not let your stutter (or whatever challenges you face in life) hold you back from being the star of the show. Be the star that shines the brightest and see where it takes you, because I have a feeling it will be somewhere amazing.

Author Eli is 17 years old and a student at Henry County R-1 in Windsor, Missouri. He attended his first NSA conference in 2017 and has attended each year since, including the virtual conference in 2020. Eli has been a life-long Person Who Stutters and feels that it is more a gift than it is a curse. In his free time, he enjoys exploring, traveling, bowling, playing video games of almost any kind, and he recently learned that he is a good actor and will be the lead role in the upcoming school play. 

This piece is part of an ongoing series, written by our NSA Teens.