Debbie Bridge – Voiceover/Actor/Singer

Fear when Performing – Can you hear the Jaws music?

I remember when I 1st went to Universal Studios Theme Park with the Jaws ride – not

From More or Lesque in London

From More or Lesque in London

sure it’s still there, but it terrified me, as a little girl.  That theme music is what did it to me!  I bet you can hear it now, if you saw it as I 1st did.

Fear, such an ever present feeling in a performer’s life!  I’m now at the point that I say, ‘I don’t need to go to horror movies, my fear levels are quite high enough, thank you very much!’

Yet people think I’m fearless because I stand up in front of people and perform.  For what I say is the more rational person, this would be their worst nightmare, yet I thrive – I love it.  That’s not to say I don’t have fear, I do.

So how have I dealt with my fear when performing?  Well, let me describe some of the fear I have had and still can have to deal with.  It’s mainly to do with the fear of what other people think or my acting training has made me very aware of, as my inner critic or ego.  Boy is that person mean sometimes.  Gets me into all sorts of trouble, if I let it.  (This is where it can get a bit schizophrenic, but hey, we’re all a bit nuts to be in the entertainment industry.  I just see it as more along the lines of eccentricity rather than out-and-out crazy.)  So, it’s the negative or over ego boosting voice in the head.  The one that tells me how awful or wonderful I am.  Neither, I find, are useful, as it’s all inside me and I’m working on my performing work to be about what is outside me and, believe me, there is enough to keep me occupied, if I let it.  Being in the moment of what the wonderful fellow performers and audience are giving me with their attention or lack of it, as the case maybe, is the best way to get past any fear!

Back to the question I started in the last paragraph.  Well, I’m human and that voice can sneak in, I’m just better at saying, ‘I’ll talk to you later, when I have time to deal with your need to judge, but for now, I’d rather not.  I’ve a more interesting person or event going on in front of me.’  Especially, as I can’t see what I am doing that may or may not be going well.  I am not the director, writer or audience who are watching and have the view on the event.  As much as my ego may want to tell me, ‘I am these people.’ and, may even say, ‘I need to be because X, Y or Z isn’t doing a good enough job in their role, so I am going to have to step in.’  How rude to even think such a thing of anyone!  There is no doubt that it is my ego who tells me I can do someone else’s job better than they can when I already have a job to do.  So I’m better off just going with what is in my parameters and keeping it that simple.  Keep the energy I have on what is in front of me, or beside me or even behind me, but whatever I do, do not keep it inside me and judging my own performance or anyone else’s, which I can’t see properly anyway!  Just react to whatever is there and enjoy the ride of not knowing what will happen next, rather than the one that says, ‘Oh, that went well, the audience laughed.’  Instead, I just let myself react to it in whatever way my character needs to, but keep moving forward with my energy, rather than the moment that has just passed and, therefore, means I’m no longer in this time, but judging the time that has gone by. So I could miss something far better than that moment because I’m too busy looking at what has already happened or I could miss that sword flying  my way because I’m too busy in my head not paying attention to what is happening right now and, guess what, get stabbed my a sword!  Ouch!  No thanks.

Hamlet with Butterfly Theatre, Buxton Festival

Hamlet with Butterfly Theatre, Buxton Festival

So about that fear in performing, well as long as I ride my energy forward, I’ll be great!  So how do I deal with the fear of getting out there and coming back off, well these are different, in a way.  The fears that hit before, well, I go back to being in the moment, like when I am on stage and do my best to stay there.  Afterwards, the inner critic may have a hey day of things to say – ‘Oh, that didn’t go very well, did it?’, ‘So I thought you knew that bit?’, ‘Wasn’t so and so brilliant or worse, wasn’t so and so awful?’  I think these are normal reactions because I’m human.  When I go out on a stage or set or whatever, I’m in a heightened place and you know what, when I’m up that high I got to come back down to find the ground again.  So, I do my best to be very gentle, which is why I see myself as a very sensitive person.  I need to know that I’m easily bruised and can still be OK, after such a high.  I, now, try to set aside nice things for me, so have that hot bath or take a whole day off!  Reward, rather than punish me, so my body and mind have time to heal.  There is always a sense of loss after a show, film, performance of any kind is over – a coming back down.  Most likely, I’m coming from a place of being tired, irritable or, maybe, even angry, so I’m not going to show my best face at this point.  I can now recognise and be honest about that part, which is a huge blessing to understand why my negative voice may start to charge in.  Maybe, that is what I term as more ‘rational’ people don’t put themselves through this night after night, week after week, year after year.  They are sensitive too, but not willing to ride the highs and lows that you do as an artist.  Hats off to you!

Really, having written this, I believe this more than ever, that we who are the performers or artists of any kind of the world, are very brave and we deserve a better understanding of what we do and why we do it.  I’ve met some glib people in my life, who have said how lazy or unreliable or, even, shallow a performer can be.  I hope by what I’ve written, someone, even, if it’s only one person, can come to a better understanding and appreciation what working in the entertainment industry is like, but for me, it beats any day job, hands down.  I am very appreciative I’ve been able to do what I have and with so many wonderful teachers and people along the way.

So I say, face your fear and do it anyway, just be prepared with a nice cupcake of come down and it’ll be OK.

What are your thoughts and experiences of working through the fear?  Let me know below:


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