The more I tried, the more I failed and the more people noticed, and worried, and sometimes laughed. Meeting new people meant saying my name and I had trouble getting over the ‘R’ hump in Travis. I certainly avoided my last name whenever possible because Robertson was just entirely too long. Three syllables!? Come on!
My biggest fear was the phone. Not having that face-to-face meant there was no way to cover, hide or excuse. It was just my voice. Suddenly that inspiration to speak out that I had the year before was dwindling fast, and I became all too happy to sit quietly in the corner, and dream big.
I needed a way out of my own head and back into the world that was only getting bigger and bigger.
One of the things that I missed from elementary school was singing. Mrs. Phelps loved the arts and we did numerous plays and songs in her class. When I left I remember she told me to keep singing and dancing. I was pretty good at it and it made me happy. So I started taking classes and performing whenever I could. When I was on a stage I came alive. I felt like I had a voice and I didn’t stutter. I was a totally different person and yet I felt the most like myself. It was the weirdest little gift life could give me and I’m grateful for it.
I think when I was able to find that again, when I found peace, that changed the way I viewed everything. I still stuttered and struggled day to day but there was also this other place and this other person in me who could catch his breath and easily attach his thoughts to his words. That’s what kept me going.
I got the opportunity to be a part of the Orange County High School of the Arts, allowing me to study more and get better. And by the end of High School I didn’t fear my speech anymore. It still hurt when people would laugh, or if I had a block that I just couldn’t break through.
But somewhere in that time I decided that I wasn’t going to lead by what other people thought of me.
When it came time to go to college and decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I chose acting, stutter and all.
One summer while still at UCLA I went to work my first professional job at a summer stock theater in upstate New York where I had (what I now know to be) a life changing summer. I met and fell in love with a beautiful cast mate, who has since become my wife and the mother of our little girl. And when I visited New York City a good friend of mine introduced me to this other actor named Taro. She thought we would hit it off because we were both actors who stuttered. We shared our similar stories and he told me he’d just launched this theater company for kids who stuttered with the first 7 kids. He gave me his number and said if I’m ever in New York and want to help out to give him a call. He seemed like a pretty nice guy, so I hung onto his number.
After graduation I started working in theater and haven’t stopped since. This year marks my 11th year of being a professional actor. In that time I’ve done numerous shows on and off Broadway from Mamma Mia to Hairspray, and currently I’m touring with The Book of Mormon. I’ve also been volunteering with SAY for the past five years. Seeing the courage and imagination of these students is so familiar and inspiring to me. Working with SAY has given me a profound joy that I never saw coming. And the beauty of it all is that for as far as I’ve come, I only have to look back to this past week to find the last time I had a stuttering block. I still get nervous before a show, but I’m not afraid of what will be.
I’m glad I was able to find a voice in this career. I’m glad I didn’t give up when the world kept getting bigger and I’m glad I held on to Taro’s number. Most importantly I’m glad I’ve learned to love my stutter. Everyone’s story is different but for me, stuttering made me a fighter. I may not have realized how strong I was if I didn’t have something to push against.