Skip to main content

Nerves are an inevitable part of most actor’s experience. This might seem to be surprising to non-actors; after all, it’s a deliberate choice to put yourself out there. For most, the joys and rewards of acting outweigh the bout of pre-performance nerves. 

Experiencing some tension and anxiety before your cue is not a bad thing; it can give your performance energy and immediacy. However, sometimes those backstage nerves can escalate into full-blown stage fright, affecting your ability to do justice to the role, or even to perform at all. 

The fear is very understandable, especially for live performances when you can never completely control how you, your acting partners or the audience will react. Even experienced actors admit to having stage fright, although they will be better armed with techniques for dealing with it. 

Here are some tips and suggestions to keep those dreaded jitters at bay.

Work with your nerves

Learn to view your nervous feelings as a positive attribute: it shows that you are keyed up for the performance and keen to be your best. If you didn’t feel any sense of tense anticipation, it’s a sign that you are not truly engaged with the role and this will be reflected in a lacklustre performance that doesn’t resonate strongly with the audience. 

Give yourself time to prepare

If you know that you usually get anxious before a performance, make sure that you arrive in good time at the venue, and find a quiet place to prepare away from any hustle and bustle. Focus on your breathing and do a few stretches to get the oxygen flowing to your brain and help you feel calm and in charge of your emotions. 

Get into character

If you have put the work in acting classes, learned your lines and know your cues, you have nothing to worry about, so focus on keeping your mind clear so you are ready to step into character. Think about the persona you are going to adopt on stage or in front of the camera, and mentally begin to step in their shoes. 

This will distract you from your own feelings and transfer your thoughts outwards to the character you are portraying. 

Get a sense of perspective

It’s easy to get caught up in your own emotions and feel that you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. However, as important and enriching that acting can be, it’s ultimately a way of bringing entertainment and escapism to the audience. If something goes wrong, no great disaster will happen. 

You are not performing open heart surgery or even driving a bus full of school children; a mistake can easily be corrected. In fact, dealing with a slip-up reflects positively on you as an actor, builds your confidence, and you will probably be quickly forgiven by the audience. They are there to enjoy themselves, and want to see you doing so as well.  

The success or failure of the entire performance does not rest in your hands, so avoid black and white thinking and embrace the moment. 

Leave a Reply