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Stage Fright

April 3, 2013

I am grateful for theatre because it calmed and focused this nervous wreck into a perfectly happy human being. I was an anxious child on the verge of a panic attack and now I’m a still somewhat anxious young adult who’s been recently suffering from performance-oriented panic attacks.

Yeah, that’s what I wrote: performance-oriented panic attacks, more commonly known as “stage fright”.  The sudden temperature change, the tight throat, shakiness, emotional reactions, the instinct known as fight-flight-or-freeze kicking in—all of the above. I’ve become a nervous wreck all of a sudden and I don’t like it one bit.

I’ve never had attacks over performing before. In fact, I’ve gotten through my last two shows this year without a hitch! As a kid, it was whenever I was unsettled or uncomfortable: fire drills, going to the doctor or dentist, adults yelling at me, that sort of thing. Performing wasn’t something I was afraid of. But this semester, I decided it was long overdue that I start singing, get back into the world of musical theatre again and that was when my anxiety kicked in on overtime. Part of my Intro to MT class requires singing and instead, I’ve started choking on cue every time I have to sing solo.

I have my various theories on why all of a sudden I find myself in a worry over singing: an experience with a bad teacher, having gone too long without singing, I need more training, a fear of vocal inferiority compared to my more talented/trained classmates? I’ve considered them all but the reality is, I need more help than this one class can offer me. Even more difficult than having these panic attacks is admitting and asking for help in dealing with them. I truly miss singing,  especially now that I’m a much stronger performer since I last sang for an audience. Speaking of an audience, my MT final is a showcase at the end of the semester where I’ll be performing in some group numbers and I’ll be doing a duet, so I need to work out my issues, whatever they are.

So I’ve started looking into what other vocal classes I can take next semester or if there are any professors offering affordable voice lessons. Acupuncture can help with anxiety, so I’ll be having an appointment soon. I’ve also signed up for counseling…something I haven’t done in a long, long time but if I’m training to be a professional performer, I can’t having stage fright keeping me from performing.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. The Mothering Actor permalink
    April 3, 2013 10:11 am

    I love Wendy Braun’s site I uses her Creating Powerful Auditions before every audition and find it really helpful. I wonder if something similar would help pre-performance. She also has great advice re: fear and excitement – that is shows up the same way physically in the body and even reframing/renaming can help. I also get “excited” pre a theater performance but not for film. I once read that Cherry Jones, who I LOVE, gets horrible paralyzing stage fright, which made me feel much better too. If one of the great american theater actresses has the same issue, I”m in good company. The important thing is to not judge yourself and not let it stop you doing what you love. I’m sure you will figure it out!

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