Blanca Portillo


"If we deprive children of art and culture, what kind of world are they going to build?"

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In many countries, drama is a compulsory subject. I think it's something that everyone should do once in their life. But in childhood, with children, it's a difficult time because they don't have the tools to move around in life. I have taught children. They lack tools. And there is so much fear— it's a time to face the outside world when they have their world at home, more or less comfortably. Drama allows you to make earnest contact with others. This is a curious thing to nuance. When you are in school, you share what can be shared in school. But when you're making theater, the first thing you have to share is fear, emotion. You work on your emotions, and your sense of ridicule. To lose the feeling of ridicule.

The right to make mistakes is something that studying drama allows you to do so constantly. In fact, the basis of theater is getting it wrong. To learn, you must make mistakes in order to do it well - make mistakes, get it right, work out how to do it better. That way, you open up your mind and lose the fear. I remember when I was teaching that there was a boy who was naughty kid of the class. There was a kid who was pretty sure of himself. The others were afraid of him. When he made a joke, everyone laughed. Then, I decided to give him the most serious character, the most sensitive, the one that was saddest. And he discovered, within him, that not only did he not lose authority within his classmates, but showed others a side that he did not know he had, and that made others really like him, or admire him. Because the boy took it very seriously and started working really hard. So he started being a leader in a different way, a much more honest way, because he was crying, because he was able to cry in front of his friends. And that had a knock-on effect with everyone else. Well, on that occasion, I had a problem with the teachers because the children wanted to stop taking all kinds of classes, because they just wanted to do drama. It opens up a lot of paths, especially in your mind. And in the way you relate to others, and losing inner shame.

"In the face of fear of speaking in public, it's good to know that it doesn't matter if you're wrong or your mind goes blank"

We do so much, or we stop doing things, because we are embarrassed, because we are ashamed. "I'm not going to be able to do this." Why not? We made Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Inevitably, you start talking about mythology, talking about Shakespeare as a writer, not just theater but the age. They begin to learn all sorts of collateral things about general learning, which they see through their own bodies. And they awaken their curiosity in an incredible way. And then they start learning that, without the other, you are nothing, and that is also important. It is not a question of being the best, but about being a good strong link in a strong chain. And a team is formed, a group where everyone helps everyone, and rivalries are eradicated.

On 99% of occasions, an actor does not speak with their own voice, but through a character. So I already know what I am going to say, because I have learned my lines. And I don't say it, she or he says it. That takes half of the problem away. I understand that talking is when I face a series of people who are watching me and I don't have a script; I don't know what I am going to say, and it is me who is talking. This time I am me, it's not a character. The first thing I think you have to assume when you are going to speak in public is that it makes you nervous. We don't want to make a fool of ourselves. One thing is being used to doing it and another thing is not being afraid of it. It's always scary, and this is something I think we to accept. On the other hand, it is good to know that it doesn't matter if you make a mistake or your mind goes blank. The world won't end. The only risk is your own fear of making a fool of yourself, the standard you set yourself, the bar. I think sometimes we find it difficult to think, when we speak in public, that people are there are willing to listen.

One of the great challenges of speaking in public is getting people's attention. Capturing attention. And the only way to get people's attention is to give. Give. It is an act of generosity. And that is very noticeable in politicians. Have you not noticed when a politician does not speak for us? They turn their gaze inwards, and speak just for themselves or for the crowd.

Speaking in public is an act of generosity. "I have something to give you." And from that moment on, people are with you. Unless you say something stupid. Or something inappropriate. We believe that public speaking for a man or a woman to do in front of others who do not exist, or a crowd. But that's not true. They are individuals, and they have their interest. When you stop thinking about that, you start communicating with the other, breathing and being a human being who has something to share, nothing else. It's nice, isn't it? Because if you see it like that, the fear is lifted.

Blanca Portillo is an actor, director and producer, and holds a degree from the Spanish Royal School of Drama and Dance. She won the National Theater Award in 2012 and also has a Max award for best stage management for the play "La avería." She is also well known for having played numerous roles in both cinema and television.