Stage fright is unbelievably common, but in most cases, you can hardly tell because the actors have learned to master the art of confidence in the face of stage fright. At the New York Acting School for Film and Television, it's an acting block we deal with and see all the time. Luckily, through classes and coaching, it's a block that can be overcome.
In the meantime however, here are some tips we'd like to share for dealing with stage fright and actor's anxiety:
- In order to talk, you have to be calm and breathe diaphragmatically. Diaphragmatic breathing allows more oxygen to come to the brain and for the blood to circulate more slowly, resulting in a naturally more calm state. This isn't a natural skill and will need to be developed with practice. If you're a trained vocalist, this will come more naturally to you. But with everyone else, it's an important skill to master.
- Remember, the audience isn't hear for you. They are here to see a performance that has nothing to do with you. Today, you happen to be part of the performance.
- Expect, and accept, that you will feel anxious, especially at first. That's OK. If you allow yourself to work with the anxiety, not against it, you'll be able to calm down and proceed. If you resist the anxiety, you'll make more trouble for yourself.
- Take the emotions and passion you feel for your subject or artistic expression and channel it into your performance. Don't try to "hold it down". If you try to suppress it, it will work against you. Express it!
- Your focus should be on your material, performance and the audience's reaction to it, because your task is to inform or persuade them. You therefore want to be aware of how they are responding, so that you can connect with them in various ways.
- Establish contact with the audience through eye contact and talking directly to them. Ask them questions to get them involved in your talk (i.e., How many of you here have ever had this experience...?) While your natural instinct will probably be to avoid the audience as much as possible, just like the reviewer cited above, you will actually feel less anxiety once you get the audience involved with you.
- Where you don't want your focus to be is on yourself and your anxiety. This is why it's so useful to develop an accepting attitude toward the anxiety, to take a few steps to calm yourself a little, and then shift your focus to the task at hand.
Actor's anxiety and stage fright can easily be overcome with the right training and practice. Don't be discouraged. The New York Acting School for Film and Television is ready to get you through it and on your way to success.