While there are plenty of jokes about the rituals performed by actors to ensure a good performance, the reality is that stage fright can strike even the most experienced and talented actors. First-night nerves are entirely different from the sort of crippling fear which can leave performers literally shaking in the wings or even force them to leave the profession. Stage fright is, ultimately, illogical, it can’t be cured with a prescription, but there are ways to increase your focus and fearlessness on stage. Here are our top 5.
You’ll see this tip over and over again in a variety of context and it’s invariably true. Long-standing professional success invariably rests on a foundation of study, practice and commitment, in short preparation. Newcomers in particular benefit from taking formal lessons to help compensate for their lack of experience. Even long-term professionals can benefit from going back to the classroom from time to time as Michelle Keegan did when she decided to leave Coronation Street and take her career in a new direction. Then prepare for each role specifically and thoroughly so that you feel confident you know your character rather than just your lines.
Identify any specific weaknesses or fears and take steps to correct them
You might find it helpful to talk this through with someone. At the very least have a good, long think and be honest about whether or not there is something specific which bothers you, even if it seems irrational. For example, if you are terrified of drying up, even though you know you have learned the whole of the script to perfection, then it might help you to take some improvisation classes so you can be confident that if anything does happen you can, literally, talk your way out of it. If you’re scared of being heckled try some stand-up comedy classes.
Treat your mind and body with respect
Acting is both a physical and a mental profession. This means that giving your best and most focussed performance means having a healthy mind in a healthy body. You probably already know the basic rules about good physical and mental health (eating well, taking exercise, getting plenty of sleep…) so apply them, at least most of the time. Having the occasional wild night out is fine, as long as you don’t have a matinée the next day, but a continuous unhealthy lifestyle will end up taking its toll on your focus and your performance.
Take prompt action to resolve any personal issues which could affect your performance
The stage may be its own world, but you’re unlikely to be able to give your best on a consistent basis if you’re continually troubled by real-world issues. From time to time you’re going to have to go on stage when you’re in a foul mood or you’d rather be somewhere else, but if it’s happening on a regular basis then it’s going to drain you and deprive you of focus and confidence. Take action promptly to resolve personal issues, even if it’s painful, it’s better than letting it drag on causing more pain in the process.
Remind yourself that you love acting just before you step onto the stage
You act because you love it. If you ever stop loving it, it’s time to find another job. Remember the love that brought you to where you are and take a few moments to appreciate it before you head out into the lights.
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