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How Actors Can Overcome Stage Fright

Your big moment has come! But instead of feeling excited and confident, you’re scared out of your wits. You have stage fright: performance anxiety when you have a live audition, appear on stage, or face the camera. However, it’s arguably worse when you appear live because you’re worried about failing in front of an audience with no second chance to redeem yourself. 

This may seem like cold comfort, but no matter how self-assured your fellow actors may seem, there’s a good chance that they know how you feel. 80 percent of actors experience intense stage fright at least once in their careers. For some, it’s just a bad case of “butterflies:” sweaty palms and a hurried heartbeat. For others, nausea and even visual disturbances are distinct possibilities. 

Since you’re by no means alone in battling stage fright, you can learn how to overcome stage fright by taking advice from experienced actors. Here are their top tips. 

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Rehearsals, learning your cues, practising delivering your lines at home in front of the mirror: whatever you do, be ultra-prepared. Reach a point where your logical mind knows that your stage fright is irrational. This will help you to reassure yourself if you suddenly find yourself getting cold feet before a performance.

There are also ways to get some practice in dealing with stage fright. If you’re new to the performing arts, finding roles where you perform without a visible audience can help you build confidence. For example, you can volunteer to work at a local radio station or start a YouTube channel or podcast. Although you know you have an audience, they’re not physically present, and with time, you’ll learn to trust your abilities more.

Start small and work your way up. The high-stakes nature of some auditions and performances can leave actors feeling almost paralysed by stage fright. After all, important people are present. Some lower-stakes work in smaller, amateur productions will help you to take the edge off your fears. 

2. Get Some Exercise

Exercise helps to reduce stress hormones and builds resilience, so put this biological mechanism to work in your favour. Take a brisk walk or go for a run in the hours before your performance. You’ll arrive feeling more relaxed and your stage fright won’t be quite as intense. 

3. Go Easy on the Coffee and Chocolates and Don’t Skip Meals

Caffeine jitters or a “sugar rush” will intensify your stage fright. Instead, prepare yourself by eating sensibly and not skipping any meals before the performance. This will optimise your energy, helping you to feel more positive and better able to cope when performance anxiety causes the adrenaline to kick in. 

4. Arrive Early

You really don’t need extra stress to compound your stage fright. Hurrying to arrive on time will elevate your stress and aggravate your stage fright. Arriving early means a leisurely journey to the venue and plenty of time to get into your costume and do your stage makeup. You’ll also have time to adjust to the environment, making you ready to feel more confident as the excitement begins to build

5. Breathe Deeply, Clear Your Mind

Stage fright increases the more you allow your fears to have free rein. Focus on something else. Deep breathing exercises help you to calm your body’s fear response and distract your thoughts from all the things that can go wrong but probably won’t. Be mindful of negative thoughts that pop up and make a conscious effort to put them aside. Try to enter a meditative state in which you can notice your anxiety-inducing thoughts but allow them to drift away without affecting you. 

6. Visualise Success

Your anxiety is causing you to visualise failure. Turn the tables and visualise success instead. The casting director is impressed by your performance, or the audience enjoys the show and gives the cast a standing ovation. After all, you’ve worked hard to get here, and there’s no reason on earth why you should fail. 

7. Get Moving

You can shift your mental focus from your stage fright and work off some of your nervous energy through movement. Do some warm-up exercises, try some yoga stretches, or execute some dance moves. As an added advantage, getting in touch with your body will help you to move better during your performance. 

8. Live in the Moment

Don’t look too far ahead – or too far back. Remain in the moment. If you make mistakes, just keep on going. Focus on your role, not on yourself. You can always do a post-mortem of your performance to see what you can learn from it later on. For now, the show must go on! 

As a footnote here, it’s worth remembering that most people aren’t as observant or as critical as you may think them to be. For example, a musician can stumble on a note, but as long as they keep playing, most people won’t notice it. The same is true for actors.

9. Play to the Back of the Room

In stage productions, you need to project to the back of the room anyway, so play to it. You can even imagine someone you feel comfortable with sitting in the back row and imagine you’re playing to that one person. In your mind’s eye, the audience becomes a single entity instead of the mass of hyper-critical individuals your fear makes you imagine.

10. Use a “Lucky Charm”

You don’t have to be superstitious to use a lucky charm to reduce stage fright. The point is to have an object that means something to you, even if it’s just a matter of liking its look or feel, and that you can look at or play with as a distraction. Some people say it’s a “prop” rather than a charm, but whatever you call it, its purpose remains the same: positive associations. And in case you were wondering, there’s even research that proves “lucky charms” work.

Are There Medicines for Stage Fright?

Beta-blockers can reduce stage fright – but they can also cause some nasty side effects and may make you psychologically reliant on a medication you don’t really need. Avoid using prescription meds or relying on “Dutch courage” to combat stage fright. If you really think you need some help, try Rescue Remedy, use essential oils, or make yourself a cup of relaxing herbal tea. 

The Best Medicine: Build Your Confidence Every Day

Even very confident people can experience a degree of stage fright, but feeling positive about your ability to deal with strangers will help to reduce your jitters. Working in the service industry gives you that exposure and requires acting skills. Your task is to make your “audience” feel good – even if you aren’t feeling at your best and brightest yourself. 

There’s just one problem: even if you wait on tables, employers aren’t always as flexible as you’d like them to be – and they’re often none-too-happy about taking the back seat to your acting career. But there is one exception: RSVP.

Here’s how it works. RSVP is a customer service provider representing top brands – and just about everyone who works here is an actor. That’s because we recognise the value of using talented actors to represent our clients. After all, actors are articulate, empathetic people who understand role portrayal and know how to engage audiences. Is this you? We thought so! Find out more about working with us today. Conquer your stage fright by building confidence and enjoy flexible hours that work for you.


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