Is Stage Fright a good or bad thing? (From Theatrelife.org)
Being nervous backstage before a performance of any kind isn’t unusual. A lot of people face some sort of anxiety whether they are ‘seasoned pro’s’ or relatively new to the performance game. Stage Fright as it’s casually referred to, can be caused by many different things – maybe something that happened in rehearsal that haunts you in case it happens on stage during a performance, pressure to deliver a particular character or routine or just hoping you memory is up to remembering everything and concentrating for 2 and a half hours. I certainly have had dreams about forgetting lines and dance numbers on many occasions. And since once losing my voice during a run and opening my mouth to barely or little sound coming out – that is also now a recurring worry.
Stage Fright can be obvious in some performers backstage: rapid breathing, trembling, sweaty hands or it can be much more subtle – a dry mouth, a racing pulse or the need for solitude. Some performers have rituals which they must complete before stepping on stage. I knew a gentlemen, who did three tours backstage checking every prop and costume he used before the show and repeating everything three times like a mantra. Some wear lucky underwear and some have to eat or drink certain foods.
Having stage fright isn’t necessary a bad thing as it can help the adrenalin needed to perform and doesn’t mean you are a bad actor or dancer but it can put added stress onto individuals and if takes some of the pleasure out of being in a show then that’s a shame.
I strongly believe that everyone should feel a little nervous before a performance because that drives the energy needed and certainly the adrenalin buzz is a natural high all its own. However, if you are rooted to the spot with fear, nauseous or overly anxious before a show then perhaps either consider taking some natural herbal remedies or seek some help from a professional or counsellor. Performing is a joy all its own and the pleasure of hearing an audience applaud or laugh is usually worth any minor worries before the show.
How does Stage Fright affect you?
I know an actress who has been appearing on the amateur stage for more than 40 years, but who still throws up before every first night. More to the point, she gets back to her feet, hits her cue, remembers her lines and delivers a convincing performance, every time a winner.
I’ve also been doing this 40 years, on and off. I was 16 when I made my stage debut and have been addicted ever since, which makes me an adrenaline junkie without the inconvenience of jumping out of planes. Such is the high of performing I need a regular fix, though the thrill extends to directing too – even if you are like a football manager pacing the sidelines while your cast perform (and no substitutes to send on!)
Unlike the actress mentioned, I’ve never thrown up before, during or after a performance. I get a tingle of excitement, a deep-seated feeling of satisfaction when the audience laughs or applauds and goes home happy. If I have to have a prompt my perfectionist tendencies cause me to feel a failure.
But stage fright? Never, for the stage is my natural home, the place I can live in the moment, put aside the anxieties of normal life, express my creativity and achieve something tangible, the culmination of those months of rehearsal. If I feel genuine terror of forgetting my lines or making a fool of myself on stage, that would be time to quit for good and watch other people doing it better!