The desire of overcoming stage fright is probably more
sought after than audiences realise, for it seems that a large number lot of
people who perform as amateurs or even as professionals suffer from fear in
Some budding actors and singers unfortunately succumb to that unpleasant state and the public never get to witness the innate talent that has never been permitted to blossom.
Where would you rather be?
Anywhere but here
When will the time be right?
Anytime but now
The doubt and the fear I know
would all disappear
Anywhere but here
Others though do get through it. Some get over it completely and it never
returns; others battle on and put up with the symptoms. However they do or don’t deal with it, the
symptoms are very real.
It is not a question of feeling only nervous; it may involve trembling or shaking, cold sweats, pounding in the chest, a dry throat, sickness or diarrhoea, among others.
Around 17 or 18 years ago a prominent and well-liked English actor disappeared from a West End production after only the third night of the show.
Telephone calls to his home were met with an answering machine message which said words to the effect of I am sorry, I am terribly sorry. There were reports that he had attempted to take his own life.
Since then he has returned to public
life but it was only in the last few months that he returned to the stage, and
he has stated publicly that he suffers from bipolar disorder and is receiving
treatment for it.
That, you may think, took a great deal of courage, but it is important for all to know that even the greatest performers suffer but many of them find a way of dealing with it.
There is a lot you can do to help
yourself before you ever need to get upon the stage. In my view, the single most important piece
of advice is to prepare well. If you are
to act a part, learn your lines so that you know them inside out and
Study your character. Get inside the part. Live the character. If you don’t know your lines properly, don’t expect to be perfect all of a sudden. Without proper preparation you will intensify your fear of failing on the stage, and you are unlikely to want to go on.
Deflect attention away from
yourself. Concentrate upon the people
who are coming along, and may have paid money for which they have worked very
hard, to see the performance.
have come to see you. Most, perhaps,
might have come to see the performance in which you play a part. They haven’t come along expecting to see
anyone fail. Neither will they rejoice
if somebody slips up.
They are much more likely to feel a little sympathetic. So concentrate on them. They have attended to enjoy themselves. Set your mind on entertaining them rather than dwelling on the perception of your own fears and inadequacies.
Appearing as an advocate in a court
of law is a similar experience. The
difference is that the court room is the lawyer’s stage. But when the lawyer speaks for the client, or
cross-examines a witness, he is not being himself; he is acting a role.
He needs to convince a jury that he believes in his case. So he has to argue his case confidently, sometimes passionately, in order to persuade them that his line of argument is the one to follow, and it is his client who should get the verdict.
At different times, particularly
early in their careers, actors, musicians and lawyers all have a strong desire
to run in the opposite direction the moment the time comes for them to perform
on their respective stages.
But they all have duties and responsibilities to those who hire them or who come to watch them, and by concentrating on their customers or clients it helps shift their focus in a different direction and assists in overcoming stage fright.
When it is your turn to act in
whatever role it may be, take time to sit quietly and think about your
performance. The actor will know that he
has learned his part and can get inside his character.
The musician will know her score and will have mastered her instrument. The lawyer will know his brief and his law and the nature of the arguments he has to make and the questions he wishes to ask. Now make a picture in your mind and see yourself in that picture performing your role confidently.
When you can see yourself doing that,
imagine not only that you are confident but see yourself excelling at what you
do. Double the size of your mental image
and make it brighter. Hear the audience
Feel what you would feel, hear what you would hear and see what you would see. If smells and tastes are appropriate, imagine those smells and tastes. Bring as many senses as you can into the image. Then double the picture again. This in itself should immediately improve your confidence. Hold that picture there and feel really good.
That exercise alone should help
you in overcoming stage fright. But it may be used as the first
part of a swish pattern. Imagine now
that you have created that picture and associated all the different
Now shrink the picture, make it quite tiny and mentally place it on one side. We will refer to that as your cue picture. Having done that, bring up the picture that makes you nervous but look at it through your own eyes (that is to say, don’t see yourself in it). It gives you a bad feeling and everything seems to be going wrong. Drain the colour from it.
You can now bring back the tiny cue
picture and place it in the bottom left hand corner of your nervous
picture. Now, in one swift movement,
shrink the nervous picture down into the left hand corner and expand the bright,
happy cue picture and, at the same time, make a S-w-i-i-i-s-h sound out
You have before you a large, bright picture of yourself succeeding and it has completely blotted out the negative picture. Double it in size. Repeat that exercise about five times, and you should feel much better.
Practice those exercises in the days
leading up to your performance and they will help to give you confidence. You should also learn about NLP anchors,
something that many leading sports people use, and find out how they too can
benefit you and get you the result you desire.
In the future you may take pleasure from your performance knowing that you can seriously diminish and even banish the pain altogether.
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