On Nov. 3, Boston College’s Institute of the Liberal Arts had another addition to their Lowell Humanities Series with a talk from Bryce Pinkham, a well established BC alum and Tony Award Winning Broadway actor.
Titled “Bryce Pinkham: Fear Into Fuel: A Gentleman’s Guide to Stage Fright and Other Scary Things like Climate Change,'' the speech addressed the fear associated with performing both theatrically and academically, such as giving a presentation in class or even having an office hours meeting with an intimidating professor. Tuning in via Zoom, Pinkham used a series of metaphors to encourage students to use their fear for good.
Pinkham initially addressed the audience by acknowledging that he was going to address fear from an anecdotal point of view rather than from a psychological perspective. He connected with the audience, explaining that even as an experienced actor, he still experiences stage fright and feels the same “butterflies in his tummy” that we all do. However, he has learned to make friends with the butterflies and uses their power for good.
Pinkham then began to discuss where fear originated; with hunters and gatherers. Our ancestors learned from the very beginning that in order to survive, we must work together. When there was a threat of danger, everyone had to congregate to fight off that danger, whether it was a fear of starvation or a predator. In order to stay “in” with the group, one would have to remain helpful in those dangerous situations or else they would be kicked out and left to fend for themselves. This explains why in today’s day and age, we are compelled to follow the trends in order to remain “in” with the rest of society.
Pinkham compared fear to a fire alarm and ourselves to the house containing the fire alarm. One does not go into a house and say that the fire alarm is a part of the house, but rather is in the house in order to protect it from danger. This is the same way fear works. Fear is not a part of us, but rather something that can be helpful. It can also be ignored if we so choose. He brought this back to the butterflies analogy, saying that it is possible to "thank" the butterflies for protecting us while believing that they are making a mistake, and continue with the task we are scared of.
Pinkham believes that fear can be used for both good and bad, either as a means of telling us not to do something, or encouraging us to push past that fear and embrace it with open arms. He brought up the fear of climate change, which Pinkham fully realized during the pandemic when he was left to truly think about the problems that surround us, and realized that he had a platform to address those problems.
Pinkham remembered that he did not feel butterflies when he considered being a climate lobbyist or an environmental lawyer, but he did when he thought about bringing the conversation of climate change into the theatre. He hoped to reach people on a human level and connect with them in a way that other people had not attempted. This was the beginning of his new one-man show as he explained the process of meeting with collaborators to create a new, untapped version of theatre. The show focuses on a man who is stranded on a deserted island and the only thing he wants to do is put on a performance of “Singing in the Rain.” This mimics Pinkham’s own feelings as he explained that he also felt as though he was stranded on an island when considering the current climate crisis.
Through a multitude of analogies and fantastic imagery, Pinkham encouraged the audience to view fear as something to embrace rather than cower from. He explained how he used his fear to create something fantastic that addresses serious issues in our current society. By using an enthusiastic and encouraging tone, the actor captivated the audience’s attention and left them pondering how they, too, can embrace their butterflies.