Autism Awareness, Interview, The Human Connection

Women in the Sequel #Werk!

For the second part of my conversation with Bianca and Gillian, we talked about putting yourself out there and public speaking. This is something that is challenging for all of my students, and for many people in general. I’m an extroverted introvert, but I can talk to a wall  (or the internet when no one is listening). If you were to ask Gillian and Bianca, I am never at a loss for questions, comments, puns, or references.  These two do all of these things on a weekly (if not daily) basis, and I really admire them for this. Here’s the second part of my conversation with the ladies of The Hamilcast.

StageSLP: Were you scared/nervous/anxious to put something that you’d created out into the world especially knowing that no one had done anything like it at the time? How did you overcome nerves/anxiety about putting out your first episode, and do you still feel that way now? 

Gillian: I wasn’t scared/nervous/anxious because I HAD to create this podcast. It made so much sense to me, even though I hadn’t seen the show yet. I’d never felt called to create something like this before. But we were so excited to release our first episode that I uploaded it about 10 minutes after we recorded it, with zero editing other than the intro and outro. Like I said, the editor in me regrets that, but the host/creator/producer of the show feels a lot of pride to see our growth. It was so natural to me that I think on some level, back then, I knew I had to get this out there as soon as possible because I know now that people needed it. I didn’t know it intellectually at the time, but I’ve learned over this year and a half that the community was missing and I feel more than honored that I had a part in making it happen.*

Bianca: I wouldn’t say I was scared or nervous at all. We were so excited about it, I think any anxiety I might have experienced was just from that. When we realized there were no Hamilton podcasts yet, we jumped on it and just wanted to get it out there. I think mostly we didn’t put huge expectations on ourselves in the beginning. It was something we wanted to do, and thought would be fun and hoped that some other people out there would come across is and enjoy it as well. I think had we gone into it expecting it to blow up there would have been more nerves involved. So any success and traction we got was really exciting to us.

S: How far out of your comfort zone did this push you?

G: Reading Chernow is really the only thing that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I have ADHD which makes it even tougher. What these men did – as flawed as they were, and they were (to a sometimes-ridiculous degree depending on who we’re discussing) – is incredible and important. I want to make sure I’m explaining it accurately and I want to ensure I’m telling their story in a truthful and respectful way. I said on a whim during a recording that we’d publish the silly and reference-heavy outlines I wrote for me and Bianca to use for reference, and now we do! Because we can’t possibly cover everything that comes up in every chapter. But publishing those outlines adds to that feeling of responsibility. We have a disclaimer on our site that we don’t edit them, because I’m all about transparency. However, as I’m writing them up I have it in the back of my mind that this is going to be published, so if I’m confused about something I will say so in the outline.

B: I don’t think I ever necessarily felt out of my comfort zone. The only thing might be the more difficult chapters–and that’s only because we want to make sure we are summarizing the chapters accurately, properly and also entertainingly, so we want to get it right.

S: In school, a lot of the driving force is about outcome, not its process–what would you say to students who get stressed out/anxious/upset about the process or an unexpected outcome?

G: I totally get it, but if something out of your control is happening? Go with it. Because something amazing might come out of it. I’ve had to change plans on the fly and I’ve been so psyched and pleasantly surprised at the outcome. The ability to be flexible is key. But trust your gut! If something isn’t working and the backup plan doesn’t feel right, don’t settle. You have to make sure you can tell the difference. The process is the most important part because you’ll learn so much about yourself. You’ll be surprised at your not-so-hidden talents.

B: As an actor I really love process. I love rehearsal and crafting. I would say to someone who gets stressed over process, (and don’t get me wrong I definitely stress over it) to just accept that it’s a part of the whole package. You can’t get from point A to Z  without the rest of those dang letters. And when you finally get to Z look at where you are, look at where you started and it’ll most likely be obvious that the process was necessary.

S: In addition to the podcast, you both attended BroadwayCon and got to be on a few panels there. How did you find public speaking to be? Was it different than recording the podcast?

G: BroadwayCon was the best. I’m comfortable with public speaking and I don’t find it any different than the podcast, really. I guess the big difference is that with podcasting, like radio, you can forget that it’s going to eventually go out to the internet. But I’m good with it either way.

B: BroadwayCon was NUTS. I went to the first BroadwayCon strictly as a fan. To know that a year later we were there representing the podcast on panels is absolutely insane. We’re so grateful to have had that opportunity and are so psyched to see what will happen for 2018. The public speaking wasn’t much different than podcasting, except we don’t have the luxury of editing while on a panel. Overall, I think we were just both ourselves and had fun with it.

S: For each of you, what is the hardest part about putting yourselves out there/ for putting your work out there?

G: I just want to make sure the podcast is the best it can be. I focus a lot – arguably too much – on audio quality. I’m an open book no matter what, so I’m really okay with putting what I do out there. The podcast isn’t the first time I’ve put myself out there.

B: I’m pretty comfortable with putting myself out there. Especially when I’m attached to a project that I love and am proud to be a part of.

S: Have you always been comfortable with public speaking? What would you say to people that find this challenging?

G: Yes. My advice is to take a breath, and think about it like you’re talking to one person. Visualize someone who you feel really comfortable with, and talk only to them.

B: Nope, not at all. When I was in college at Fordham and I’d get my syllabus for a new class, if the words “Oral Presentation” were anywhere on it, I dropped the class immediately. I was absolutely terrified of public speaking. Now, this has gotten MUCH better since I was in college. I’m still not totally comfortable giving speeches. I’m currently stressing out over a Maid of Honor speech I need to give in July.  But overall, I’m way more comfortable with public speaking that I used to be. I credit my acting training and stage experience with that. It took me a couple years but I don’t get sick to my stomach with nerves any time I need to go on stage anymore. For people who find it challenging, I’d suggest trying to visualize a person you’re comfortable with. Use them as a rock. Other helpful practices are meditation or even a beginners improv class. All things I found helpful as well. Oh and chamomile tea. Helps calm nerves. The anxiety might not ever go away completely but eventually you learn to manage it.

S: Music is a big motivator for all of my students, do you have a go-to song to boost your mood or make you feel more confident before tackling something outside your comfort zone? I know I’ve created an entire playlist just for this. I don’t get to play Hamilton, but we listen to a lot of Brave by Sara Bareilles and Moana in speech.

B: Oooo good question. I think My Shot will never not be an epic hype track.

G: Yorktown. There was a time where that song was on a loop for me, and Hercules Mulligan’s rap literally gave me life. I have a tattoo designed about it, that’s how much it saved my life. I love that song – the lyrics, the musicality, the choreography, all of it. But Mulligan’s rap… that will forever make me realize that I WILL get back up again, and it’s all gonna be okay.

*Note: I’d like for all of my readers to know that I felt the same way about creating this blog. This was something I felt was missing and needed to create it for my students, their families, and the human connection as a collective. I have really big ambitions, and this blog puts me out of my own comfort zone occasionally, but I cannot begin to tell you how worthwhile it is to pursue!

I know that my students find a great many things challenging for them that others do not; advocating for themselves, speaking up during  group projects, asking a friend to play. I have a few tips of my own for my students, and here they are.
1. Take a deep breath and think before you begin. This will help my fluency students speak clearly, my articulation students plan out their motor patterns, and my language students focus on the content they’re about to produce. For my pragmatic students, it’s to find common ground and ask them to engage someone their comfortable with about a topic of his or her interest. Even if it’s not a shared interest, it may start a conversation.
2. Know your role. What is your part in the group project? What are you bringing to this conversation? What makes your idea new and different? I challenge my students to  think about this. It’s like a character building exercise in every day life, so it’s happening much faster than building a role’s backstory. This is what makes my kids superheroes.
3. Have fun! This is yours. It’s your project, paper, friendship, turn to host the morning announcements. How long have you been waiting for this? So I encourage my students to do it, use the strategies they know to complete the “it,” and enjoy it. I also encourage them to find their song and sing it in their heads before they start. To me this changes daily. Sometimes it’s “The Life of the Party” from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party. Sometimes it’s “Watch What Happens” from Newsies. Always it’s “Wait For It” from Hamilton. If a playlist would be interesting to you guys, let me know in comments and I can publish one–where words fail, music speaks.

So now, I challenge my readers and my students to find something that makes them inch outside of their comfort zone  and put themselves out there. You never know what could happen.

As for the third and final part of this conversation with Gillian and Bianca, you’re just going to have be “willing to wait for it!” Otherwise, you can find them on Twitter at @TheHamilcast, @GillianWithaG, and @_Biancajean_, their website is, and they are TheHamilcast on Facebook and Instagram. You can find their podcast, the most recent episode of which was released Monday and makes me so so happy, wherever you can stream podcasts. Especially for my articulation students, you’re gonna want to hear this one, trust me!

This blog now has a Twitter account–come follow my speech and theatre adventures @StageSLP.

Keep playing with words and see what messages you create!
–Stef the StageSLP


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