Liat Krawczyk is co-founder of The Jeneba Project, an organization that works to provide youth in Sierra Leone with educational opportunities by building schools, granting scholarships to girls and creating a civil war survivor video/audio testimonial archive.
Breath in. Breath out. That is the usual recital that takes place when I am going to speak to a crowd of people. It has never been easy for me to speak in front of large groups, yet in my line of work–whether speaking about my work with The Jeneba Project, advocating for various human rights issues or standing in front of a large class—I don't have much choice unless I were to let these hesitations dictate my work. So when I heard from a friend that Israeli actress Tali Sharon was teaching a public presentation/acting class, I decided this was a good moment to explore ways to make this process easier and smoother.
Wow, was I in for a journey. Over the past intensive classes, I learned how be more relaxed, how to improvise when all else fails, how to take things a bit less seriously when on stage, how body language affects presence, and so forth - but the things I will remember from this class go way deeper than the public presentation skills I expected to get.
I never thought that acting would be such a catharsis, but over these weeks, I have learned so much about myself. Acting has forced me to look within me for the instances that have triggered the most personal of emotions and to leverage them to both understand the character one plays and have the audience really understand and feel those emotions and messages with you.
It has also taught me an immense amount about human behavior. By looking at my peers performing and analyzing when a performance looks genuine or not, I soon started noticing that while we as society associate actions such as smiling with happiness and crying with sadness, these emotions completely overlap, as do their expressions. For example, how deep anger often does not come in the form of speaking louder but rather much softer.
It has taught me to be much more perceptive of the world and myself in terms of our reactions and mannerisms in response to different events. Up to now, much of my work has focused on being behind a camera as a filmmaker and interviewer so I have seen some of the most raw and painful and beautiful moments pour out in front of me. And while emotional reactions seem obvious when they happen, this workshop has given me not only the ability to see this layer of society around me, but to name reactions, to notice their nuances and to allow me to use what I see around me to be a more effective advocate.
Ultimately, speaking out has been primarily about speaking inwards—understanding where my motivation and emotions come from, identifying them, and allowing them to be a gateway to a new form of understanding and expression.