by Donna Marie Berger

Last week I attended an acting class at the Burt Reynolds Institute in North Palm Beach, Florida. I am working on upcoming speaking engagements and wanted some feedback on my presentation. My dear friend, Donna Carbone, who runs the institute invited me to join the class. When I arrived, people were already in groups of twos working on their scripts. This was a completely new experience for me. Never comfortable being the center of attention, my knees would knock when I had to get up in front of even the smallest group. I was amazed at the people all around me, anxious to share their skills on stage.

Class began and, one by one, the actors presented their scenes.   There was a bartender listening to a young woman’s story of how her boyfriend had dumped her, an undercover officer in a sting operation of a sinister fortune teller, a young boy recovering from a traumatic brain injury in a session with his psychotherapist, and the list went on. Fascinating! Donna and Sherman Roberts gave input after each skit, and then, the aspiring actors would redo their scene, incorporating their suggestions.

Then it was my turn. Feeling wholly inadequate, I stood center stage and presented a brief excerpt from one of my Bible study lessons. It wasn’t about the content; I was seeking constructive criticism of my stage presence. Even though I was nervous, I muddled through five minutes of my notes. Then, an amazing thing happened. Sherman joined me on stage, took my notes out of my hand, and encouraged me to just tell my story. He also told me to “Get rid of the glasses.” Donna added that my story is inside me; I didn’t need notes to tell it.

I think I was too stunned to panic. Never having done anything like this before, I had no idea what I would say. Honestly, I didn’t know where the words came from, but I stood in front of 20 people and spoke for 10 minutes.  When I was done, the group applauded. I was overwhelmed. They felt a connection with me and told me that my realness and vulnerability resonated with them.

I learned that I was actually less nervous speaking from my heart than I was reading from my notes. I felt uplifted and encouraged to step off the corner of safe and secure and reach out and connect with others in a whole new way. What came to my mind at that point was Ephesians 4:22-24, which tells us to step away from our sinful nature and former ways and let the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes. When we do that, we become a new person with a new nature, ‘created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.’ It raises us up in our relationship with God and with those we live, work and interact with on a daily basis. It redefines who we are and the motives behind what we do. It excites us to witness to the power and presence of God in our life. It inspires us to want our every thought, word, and action to give glory to the Lord. It convinces us to “get rid of the glasses”

Aren’t you ready for something new?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Heartfelt thanks to Donna, Sherman and their class for caring and sharing and for the wonderful new perspective.

For more information on the Burt Reynolds Institute you may contact Donna Carbone at 561-743-9955, or on the web at

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