“If psychology is the ‘science of behavior, and theatre is a ‘mirror of life,’ each should have something to offer the other.” -Dr. Glenn Wilson.
What is now called “performance anxiety” has become a big industry in the performance world, with many competing views on how to address and solve the problem. But to start, it’s completely normal to get nervous when you perform. It affects manyÂ performersÂ whether they be musicians, actors, dancers or others who participate in performance art.Â
What many performers struggle with before, or even during, their performances is their state of mind, which is an essential element of any performance. What they struggle with is theÂ inabilityÂ to relieve stress and have a great performance. Some put it aside, but some…they just freeze up.Â
Each kind of performer has a different niche, a different way of reacting to a certain situation so this is just my angle.Â Â
I’d have to say that mental preparation is key. Actors, in particular, go through a process calledÂ identification–projecting themselves mentally into theÂ positionÂ of the character. The only problematic feature of this technique, however, is the fact that the actor becomes too deeply involved into their proposed characters to the point where they lose their self-identity, unable to bring their spin to the character on stage.Â
VocalÂ fatigue, which is also linked, is associated with a high level ofÂ anxietyÂ that sometimes a change of weather, a lack of sleep, and even an increase in physical activity can affect. So if your homework is piling up because you like to procrastinate, take a deep breath and relax.Â
Sleep. Ah, wouldn’t I like to sleep right about now? Sleep is an essential element of human existence and does not only apply to those who are getting themselves ready for the stage. AGMA (American Guild for Musical Artists) doctors Marvin Fried and Pam Harvey have found that sleep deprivation jeopardizes a performer’s creativity, productivity, safety and well being.
Even as sleeping is always meant to be a positive aspect, too much or too little sleep can be dangerous as everyone has their own unique sleeping patterns. Some people are ‘heavy sleepers’ and need around 10 hours of sleep each night. Some are ‘light sleepers’ who only need 5-6 hours. Rest accordingly and you’re day might just brighten up, sun or no sun.Â
Diet. No, ‘I don’t want to get fat so I’ll just eat tiny portions of salad and drink diet-whatever so I don’t gain weight.’ Diet is eating healthy and can also be vital in a performance.Â Jeannie Deva, a vocal coach for the LosÂ AngelesÂ Voice Studio, claims that it’s important to eat foods that can be easily digested. The point is, you want to be full–don’t overstuff or “understuff.”Â
Another part of a diet is hydration. A good amount of–surprisingly–room temperature water can stimulate a lot of energy, flexibility and elasticity. The extremes–really hot or really cold–beverages can hurt the muscles of your larynx and vocal folds.Â WholesomeÂ foods and water are what can make a huge difference so stop eating that Mickey D’s.
Speaking from personal experience as aÂ musician, there are steps that can be followed in order to have a great performance:
1. Accept the ‘mistakes’ you’ve made in the past. Laugh about it. Just don’tÂ criticizeÂ yourself because it will show and stick out.
2. Focus on the present. At that moment of time, all that matters is if you did your job on stage and you did it well. The past is irrelevant, that’s why we call it the ‘past’ like it ‘passed by already.’ And the future? Disregard it, your performance is now.
3. Relax. Breathe. Anxiety is just a big no-no.
4. Focus.Â RelieveÂ your mind and clear everything away (except what you need like the choreography, the memorized lines of music, the words to the song, etc). The key is to relieve stress and be able to put a great performance out there.Â
All in all, I’d have to say that the most vital aspect of a performer’s ability to spur a creative flow on stage solely bases itself in theÂ audience. During a performance, signs of sympathy, amusement or appreciation in the audience are transmitted back to the performers. They basically feed off their energy. Audience feedback often boosts performer’s confidence. It can affect the performance more than you know it.Â
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Oh wait…you are the show 🙂