Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Some people just seem born for the stage. They love talking to people, getting up in front of crowds, and being all the center of attention. But many great actors don’t start that way. Stage fright is incredibly common, especially among new actors. Here are seven tips to fight stage fright!
1) Know Your Lines!
You’ve heard your director say it, your parents say it, maybe even your castmates, but know your lines! The better you know your lines, the less you will have to worry about forgetting them. Drill with your castmates, your friends, and your family. The more comfortable you are saying your lines and saying them in front of others, the better. For your own sake, don’t stay up and cram the night before.
If you can, get a full night’s rest before every show. Twenty-four hours without sleep impairs you the same way tipsiness does. You may experience brain fog, slow reflexes, and difficulty focusing. This can be disastrous on stage! If you struggle sleeping the night before a show, consider trying meditation, calming music, or melatonin supplements.
3) Eat and Drink
I know when I get stressed, it's hard for me to eat. And that, of course, makes me more stressed, which makes it harder to eat. Don’t get stuck in this cycle! Don’t eat if you think you’ll vomit, but have enough nutritious food that you won’t feel light headed. Stick to your comfortable schedule as much as possible. Also, don’t forget water. You’ll be happier if your body is happy.
4) Be Careful with Caffeine.
I love coffee, maybe too much. Most days I either have two cups of black tea or coffee in the morning. But remember that caffeine, especially on an empty stomach, can increase stress and give you the shakes. Chances are, the excitement of the performance will give you the same energy as caffeine anyway. Cutting coffee out entirely may give you a headache if you are addicted, though. A good rule of thumb is to have less than or the same amount of caffeine that you normally do on a show day. Obviously, also avoid intoxicants. They’ll hurt more than they help.
5) Use Positive Self-Talk!
Think positive! The mind reacts to how you talk to yourself. If you put yourself down, you subconsciously start to believe it. If you talk yourself up, you may find yourself being more and more confident! This won’t always work in the short-term, but positive self-talk can’t hurt. Tell yourself this performance will go well, you will do great, and you’ll laugh about this someday. Whatever works for you!
Ewan McGregor, of Star Wars fame, used a guided meditation app to help him control his anxieties upon his return to stage acting. If this approach sounds helpful to you, there are many free meditation apps out there, such as Calm, the Mindfulness.com Meditation App, and Smiling Mind. I don’t personally like meditation apps — they take me out of the moment. I would recommend bringing an inspirational book or devotional to the set, sitting in a quiet corner, and turning over a short quote in your head. If you are religious, this also may be a good time to pray. Just make sure to finish up before your cue!
7) Focus on the Role!
Some actors find that their stress falls away once they step into the role. If that’s not you, then think about how you can connect with your character. Maybe you should write a few journal entries from their perspective, build them a playlist, or imagine a conversation with them. Think of fun ways to engage with your role, and then practice acting like them. Order coffee as if you were them, play them in a TTRPG, or even just wear your costume around the house! The more you enjoy being this person, the easier it will be to ignore the audience.
There are of course more methods to conquering your stage fright, but start with these seven tips and I believe you will go far. Break a leg!