We’ve all been there, about to step onto the stage or open your mouth to say your first line but nothing happens. There will always be a moment of “what is happening” or “why am I doing this”, along with some butterflies in the stomach before you start any performance. And that’s a good thing!
Being a bit nervous before you start a show will keep you on your toes and ensure that you don’t get complacent or lazy on stage. The adrenalin surge will also boost your performance and give you a lift. The key is to ensure that the nerves don’t overtake you or spoil the exhilarating fun of being on stage in front of an audience.
Remind Yourself Of Your Goal
Anxiety before a performance stems from feeling like you are going to make a mistake or that you aren’t the right person to be up on that stage. It’s true, you could easily make a mistake. In fact, most performances are riddled with mistakes. The thing is, the audience rarely knows this because good performers can cover mistakes and move on as if nothing happened, leaving the audience unaware that anything wrong has actually happened.
In order to overcome this fear of making a mistake, don’t focus on what mistakes you could make. Instead, before you step onto the stage, remind yourself why you are there. This will pull your focus into that moment and stop your thoughts from running riot through your mind. You can now hone in on who your character is and what they want from the scene about to happen, instead of who is sitting in the audience and watching what you’re doing.
Let Go Of Perfection
As much as we want it to be, no performance will ever be perfect. It just can’t. That’s the beauty of live theatre. You don’t get to yell cut and try it again. Instead, the performance must flow from one moment to the next. The best thing you can do is let go and enjoy that flow of character growth and dynamic interactions between actors and with the audience. You might not get the words completely right, but the emotions will be there and that is what the audience will remember after the curtains falls and the lights go out.
Remember Your Training
The controlled breathing techniques that actors and singers learn are incredibly powerful tools. They can be used while waiting in the wings to calm your mind, slow your heart rate and bring you into the here and now – rather than the what if that comes from panic and stage fright.
Once you’ve calmed your breathing, use your warm up techniques to prepare your body for the performance. This will continue the exercise of focusing your mind on what is right in front of you, and it will make sure that you are physically in the best space to give a performance. Then it’s just a case of trusting that your training and rehearsals will take over as you step onto the stage.