Taro Alexander has stuttered since he was 5 years old. For years, the actor managed to hide it, until an unintended pause in his speech on stage caught him by surprise.
Before that moment, Alexander says, "I just felt alone and tried to hide it and was pretty successful at kind of fooling people."
"There are a lot of tricks that you can use, where you can avoid certain sounds or certain words that give you problems. You can speak in an accent or try yawning. The easiest one, obviously, is to not talk."
Alexander attended a high school for the performing arts. "On stage, I was mostly fluent, which actually can be a common thing for actors who stutter. So that was great for my confidence."
But when he was about 26, he was performing in Denver when he found himself with a "block" during a monologue.
He had never stuttered on stage before.
"It was probably a one-second block, which can sound like a pause. So if you didn't know that I stuttered, you would probably have no idea that that happened. But for me, it wasn't a choice and it freaked me out. "
He thought he would be fired.
"The second night, I stuttered and it was a little bit worse."
At first, Alexander didn't know who to talk to about it. He decided to confide in a fellow actor in the play.
"I went down to his apartment and I said, 'This is going to be really strange. I know we don't know each other really well, but I have something that I want to tell you. I am a person who stutters.' "
"Really? So am I," the other actor said.
Alexander couldn't believe what he was hearing. It was a moment of revelation.
"That really was the beginning of, 'Wow, there are a lot of us out there, which just kind of chilled me out about it.
"I think a lot of people who stutter, including myself, go through just a hard time in their life with it. But who would I be if I didn't stutter? I would be a completely different person."
Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.