Performance anxiety is a common fear amongst actors but the good news is overcoming stage fright is definitely something you can learn to conquer.
The audience is there to see or hear you. And only you. It’s your gift, your expertise, your unique ability to make the role yours that got them out of the house on a rainy night. Of all the people in the room at that moment, you’re the one who knows more about this character, this performance, this work, than anyone else. Let your mastery of the moment be your guide.
Slow down. We tend to speed things up when we’re nervous, which can increase the likelihood of tripping over our own tongues. Or worse. To counter this, use clocks, timers, or even metronomes during rehearsals to control your speed and force your brain to keep to a workable pace.
The deadliest mistake performers can make involves never feeling the weight of a performance before they have to deliver it for real. If you don’t perform at full volume, at full cadence, and in the venue where you’ll be delivering it, your body and mind will never have the chance to feel what it’s like, or to adapt to the very different reality of a life, in-person performance.
An approach that incorporates the body is also needed. There are two important reasons why this is so. When you speak in public, you’re a body performing in space. Your nonverbal communication—body language, gestures, facial expressions, use of the stage—matter as much as anything you say. Your physicality strongly affects your relationship with your audience because they are watching you as you speak.
The other aspect of the body and public speaking is dealing with the physiological effects of speech anxiety. These too can be powerful: from rapid heart rate and shallow breathing to sweating, dry mouth, shaky hands or voice, and the release of stress hormones.
It may seem ridiculous to pre-plan your errors, but expecting the worst is good practice for managing yourself when the inevitable occurs. Because let’s face it, you will make mistakes. My recommendation: Don’t even call them mistakes or errors. Accept the fact that they’ll happen, and instead focus on how you’ll instantly respond to ensure you can continue with a smooth and consistent performance.
We all know the phrase, “Do Your Best.”
Do your worst instead. In rehearsal, by yourself in your room, completely screw the whole scene up that you are working on.
As an exercise for yourself, work on your monologue or scene as terribly as you can and don’t give a damn while doing it. Say your lines backward, forget your lines, makeup lines… Your objective is to give the worst acting you possibly can.
Rebranding is when you make a substitution. For example, rather than nervousness, replace those feelings with the thoughts of pleasure and happiness. Begin to train your mind to experience happiness and excitement, rather than nervousness and nausea.
Take the necessary time you need to breathe and rest your thoughts. There are thousands of self-help guides online for you to find info on breathing exercises and meditation tactics you can use. Find what works for you. Keep it simple.
By focusing on what your character is doing and then giving yourself completely over to it, you will be too busy living in the moment as your character, rather than thinking about making mistakes in front of an audience or film crew.
If you are grounded and focused specifically on the task of your character in the scene, you will suddenly find yourself worrying less about your nerves and more about the doing of the scene.
On a concluding note, Nothing is impossible. You can do anything you put your heart and mind to in your life.