Joanna Bessey: How I Grew Up Learning Confidence

Passionate for acting and performing arts since a young age, Joanna Bessey, Head of Enfiniti Academy shares her personal learning experiences towards performing arts and theatre; her goal is to raise the Malaysian arts education to a world class experience.

How would you describe yourself as a child?

I am a shy person! When I tell my friends that I am actually a shy person, they all laugh at me in disbelief. Perhaps I no longer seem shy but I do remember feeling very shy as a child, especially in front of strangers and adults.

I was very comfortable, friendly and loud with friends and family. But as soon as a new stranger arrived or if I found myself in "intimidating" new situations (like starting at a new school, activity etc.), I was very inhibited. It would probably take me several months to get to know a new environment and for me to lose the sense of hesitation.

As a young person, I often found myself at odds with myself in new social settings and wishing I could bring out my true, friendly self out faster. I often had the sensation of not really being myself.

If you could recall, what was your favourite memory of school back then?

When I was 11 years old, I had my first opportunity to play a role in my school play. I was fortunate to go to a school which would turn the whole school into a theatre-company and put on a yearly show, after our exam period! This, in my opinion and in retrospect, was genius on the part of my then headmistress and Arts teachers.  

I also learnt how to paint sets, write scripts, sew costumes and sell tickets. The student body had to band together to work on every aspect of staging a marketable show and be responsible for everything from stage management to lighting to acting to public relations and so forth. And we were allowed to "work" in different departments every year, depending on our interest. Our teachers were only present for guidance and direction.

What type of responsibilities and skills did you learn during school years?  

I learnt everything from responsibility, job ownership, communication and drama skills for onstage and behind-the-scenes. Every year the whole exercise taught me competence and working to tight deadlines. It taught me how to have fun while working under pressure. I learnt team-work and made life-long bonds of friendship which last until today.

How did you discover acting was your passion?

I discovered how to utilise my creativity and artistic skills to the benefit of an organisation and a business. Most importantly, I found my voice. In the art of acting because I was playing a character, who was not me, I lost inhibition. Because I was portraying someone else, I found the freedom of my expression.

What can you share with your readers on how you improved your skills?

I attended every workshop, class and theatre play that I could AND got generally amazing results in my exams. There is no doubt in my mind that my major critical thinking skills began when I began learning and acting in theatre.

How did acting skills help you to become who you are today?

I fell in love with acting and dramatic storytelling and I found a productive and creative channel for my emotions. Later in the years going into my hormonal teens, this was especially useful. Understanding and portraying a character who was different to myself, gave me the chance to feel compassion and understand what it means to be human.

Gradually, over the years of classes and performances, I started to lose my self-conscious side. I began to be able to see the world objectively and was no longer introverted in new situations. Problem-solving became an exciting and enjoyable challenge. Obstacles became "games'' to figure out. Rather than turning myself into a ball of nerves and insecurity.

Of course, school and education helps with this and I found great benefit from Communication courses and other self-development courses. And a major factor in helping improve my confidence, team-work and self-esteem was from the theatre.  

It is with great honour that I got the opportunity to be the head of Enfiniti Academy; bringing a similar learning experience to you, our students, is the joy of my job and what I strive for.