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Showoffs in Print

"Standing up to Stage Fright"
By Tereena Berry
The Ryersonian

Even the shyest person has the potential to become a show-off after a few classes with performance coach, Art Nefsky. Nefsky, who studied theatre for three years at Ryerson, started Showoffs Studio for shy folk in 1987. He aims to help free people of performance anxiety and help them capture a crowd's attention.

He has helped people perform without sweaty palms or shaky knees, "this isn't the 10 or 12 steps of how to overcome shyness or how not to be nervous," said Nefsky. "I just chip away at all the excuses that have made you nervous until you have no other reason to be nervous."

"I was so nervous at first," said Fenulla Jiwani, a 22-year-old York University student. "But all of a sudden I was engaging each person and after the show people came up to me and said that was truly amazing."

Nefsky gives a variety of exercises to bring out his students' personalities. He has them sing in front of the class. Then he concentrates on vocal technique.

Students concentrate on eye contact with individuals in the audience, body movement and then copy the gestures of audience members. Nefsky also provides personas for students to act out while singing -- for example, a diva-superstar-bitch who has bad gas.

"It's not about being vocally correct, it's about having fun," said Jiwani.

Nefsky has years of experience in the entertainment field and now he's trying to help others fulfill their dreams.

"I had a television series hosting the monster movie of the week on CityTV. I had a night club act for years and all of a sudden I got this kick out of helping people get their own dream," said Nefsky. He runs Showoffs Studio out of his basement, which he transformed into a cozy performing studio with a small stage, sound equipment, a video camera, lighting and seats.

Barbara Macel, 18, belted out "Criminal," by Fiona Apple.

"I could never do that before on stage and now I can sing in front of strangers instead of friends and family." After five classes, Macel has advanced to the second level.

"When I see someone is ready, they go on to level two," said Nefsky. "It's hell because you have to do whatever I say. We can be outrageous in level two. People dress up in costumes. We had a woman who came from the corporate world just for shyness, and she dressed up like Cher and started bopping away, singing 'Believe'." These classes are not just for people who want to be singers or actors. Nefsky has coached people as young as three and as old as 71.