We’ve all been there. Rehearsals have been going great, you’re feeling cool as a cucumber but, suddenly, it’s the night of the performance and you get that weird, dull sense of dread in your stomach about having to actually go out on stage and do this thing. Stage fright is a horrible feeling. Most performers get it though, which begs the question; why do we put ourselves through it?! The answer is, of course, because the feeling afterwards is just so good!
That being said, it’d be nice to not have to go through that first bit. So, we at StageCrafts have pulled together our own personal tips and advice for getting over stage fright. Not everything works for everyone but if you’re someone who struggles with stage fright then make a note of these tips and try them out next time you’ve got a show on.
1. Know what you're doing!
Obviously, you should be doing this anyway otherwise your audience and your fellow performers are going to be in for a disappointing night. But being confident in your part is especially important if you’re someone who gets stage fright. Now, for some people, part of the problem with stage fright is that you just draw a blank on what happens next. Fair enough. But that’s why it’s so important for you to be solid on your lines/harmonies/moves so that when the fog comes down over the brain, you have that muscle memory to pull you through.
Something a few of our members do (and something that’s quite fun to do too), is to speed run through the show while you’re backstage, running over all lyrics and lines. This can reassure yourself that you know what you’re doing and brings everything that you need to know up to the forefront of your mind so that it’s there and ready for you when you go on stage.
2. Take the time to get into character
Nobody can go instantly from being themselves backstage to walking out on stage in character. That’s just not how it works. Find a minute before you’re due to go out to centre yourself. Get yourself ‘in the zone’, as they say. Losing yourself completely in the character can also help in that you are no longer yourself anymore so why would you be frightened? Taking that time to clear your head of your own thoughts and worries should get rid of any confusion from stage fright, leaving you free to go out and be that character.
3. Get out of the chaos
Backstage can be a confusing place to be. There’s so much going on, all the time! Sometimes the best thing to do is to just get yourself out of there and avoid it altogether until it’s time for you to go on (obviously allowing for time so that you can get into character like tip number 2 says). Being in all of that commotion can just add to the turmoil you’re feeling and certainly makes it hard to calm yourself. Some people can deal with that but for others, avoidance is the best policy.
4. Learn how to breathe
It might seem silly but not everybody knows how to breathe properly. I know right! We do it all the time without thinking, how can people possibly not know how to do it? Well, it’s not that they don’t know how to breathe it’s just that when you’re in a stressful situation you need to breathe the right way in order to calm your body down. Concentrate on how you’re breathing. Make sure you’re taking slow, deep breaths. And try to breathe with your stomach not your lungs. Yes, I did type that right. Breathing in your chest keeps your tensions high and your breaths shallow. You need to consciously lower the centre of your breathing down into your diaphragm so that you have full control. Your shoulders should not be moving up and down as you breathe, rather, your stomach should be expanding outwards and then slowly depressing inwards. Breathing properly will help lower your blood pressure and thus help with the stress you’re feeling.
SIDE NOTE: if you ever feel like you’re getting a dry mouth, push your tongue down to the bottom of your mouth to stimulate your salivary glands and re-hydrate your mouth!
5. Don’t neglect yourself
When you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to forget to do the basic things of looking after yourself; eating drinking, relaxing. This tip is similar to tip number 2 in that it’s about taking a minute to not focus on the stress and the show to come. Don’t prioritise mental preparation over looking after yourself physically. Remember to drink lots to keep yourself hydrated and make sure you’ve eaten your dinner before coming to the venue. You don’t want your body feeling frazzled as well as your head.
6. Break the movement barrier
This is a tip for when you’ve actually made it onto the stage and it’s to help something which I, personally, get a lot – when you step out and suddenly become super aware of what your body is doing because now every movement is being noted by an audience of strangers. Particularly, I get super aware of what my arms are doing and my hands start to feel like they’re made of lead so that I can’t lift them anymore. I start to feel like any movement I make will look weird and so I end up just stood there awkwardly on stage and the longer I leave it the worse it gets. My tip for getting over this is to plan a way to do something early on and then that breaks the tension and frees up my body to behave naturally again.
7. Power from the ground
On the other side of things, instead of having a deer in headlights moment, some people’s reaction to stage fright is to move about excessively when on stage. This is just as bad really. Either way, the audience is going to know that you’re not feeling at ease up there. To counteract this, get yourself in a good ol’ power stance with your weight distributed evenly and with a nice, low centre of gravity. Use this stance to anchor you on the stage and hopefully this will transfer throughout your body so that any movement is purposeful instead of just being a nervous tick.
8. If all else fails, roll with it!
Not everything about stage fright is a bad thing! At the same time as making you feel like you’re going to throw up, it also pumps you full of adrenaline and that can actually enhance your performance. All that nervous energy bouncing around your body can help you get that extra something – maybe it’ll help you hit the high notes with more strength, maybe you can reach a new emotional level for your character, or maybe it’ll give you the endurance to get through all the dances and still have energy left over. So, don’t worry if you’re feeling nervy, it might channel itself in a beneficial way after all!
We hope this advice will help you next time you’re due to go out on stage! Do you have any tips for getting over stage fright? If so, leave a comment below!