Acting can be a nerve-wracking experience – especially when you consider live performances. The thought of being on stage with a live audience ready to react to your every move can be a scary one, even for the most prepared actor. When dealing with stage fright, you begin to imagine the worst possible outcomes. What if I forget my lines? What if I miss my cue? What if I enter enter from the wrong side?
Nerves themselves can be a good thing. They importantly remind us that what we do matters, that we care about our work and want to do a good job. Nerves are not the enemy – but how we deal with them can negatively affect our performance. This is why it is so important to learn how to handle our nerves.
Here are 3 tips for dealing with nerves on stage:
Relaxation can come in a variety of different forms. Some actors like to listen to soothing music, while others prefer to sit and prepare in silence. Experiment and find what works best for you and your concentration – and don’t be afraid of trial and error.
Relaxation can be passive or active. Passive relaxation can be achieved through breathing exercises and meditation work, whereas active relaxation can come from yoga, The Method chair work, or other forms of physical movement. It may be helpful to find multiple relaxation techniques that work for you that you can perform either together or separately depending on your needs, the space available and any time constraints.
If possible, it can also be helpful to find a secluded area away from the rest of the cast to perform these activities, as distractions can make it harder to concentrate. Space in the dressing room, green room, or wings can be limited but stepping away, even for a moment, and taking the time you need for yourself and your relaxation can go a long way before a performance.
Preparation is key in reducing nerves on stage. The more prepared we feel, the more confident we are. Take a moment before a performance to review any part of your script or blocking you feel needs polishing, and ask a stage manager for clarification on any pressing concerns.
When it comes to being prepared, however, it is also important to know when your work is done. Obsessively reading over your script or reviewing your track at the last second is not helpful, and may only make you more nervous. Remind yourself of the time and effort you’ve put in throughout the rehearsal process that will undoubtably carry you through your performance.
Whatever goes on in our personal lives affects our performance and, sometimes, our efforts to get rid of these thoughts and feelings are futile and a waste of time. Instead, acknowledge how you are feeling in the moment – even if that feeling is nervous. Accept the nerves and allow them to happen. You never know how nerves may spark or motivate your performance, or what beautiful art may come out of the nervous energy you’re trying to get rid of!