If you are the parent of a child performer, you may have experienced the following scenario:
Your young actor has been working diligently on his lines. With each run-through, he is getting closer to perfection. What a brilliant delivery! In your mind, you rearrange the mantle to make room for his soon-to-be-won Emmy. And now, it’s show time! He takes his place on the set, the Director barks, “Action!” But instead of the impeccable performance you’ve seen in rehearsal, you see a blank stare turn into a wide-eyed panic. A true Ralph Kramden “Chef of the Future” moment. (Can it core an apple??)
Been there? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Stage fright is experienced by many young performers, especially when they are inexperienced on stage or in front of the camera. But there is no need to fret. The following tried-and-true techniques have turned many a panicked performer into a confident, calm kid. Give them a try!
Practice in the Big Picture
How does your child prepare for a performance or audition?
While memorizing lines, rehearsing scenes with a parent or coach, and practicing in front of a mirror will help ready young actors for their roles, there is a key element missing from these methods: An audience!
To minimize the potential for stage fright, create an environment that will simulate the feeling of being on stage or in front of the camera. If your young actor has limited performing experience, invite other family members or friends to play the part of the audience while your child practices. Set up a camera and record practice sessions. After building confidence in delivering solid performances in front of others, your child will feel more relaxed when it’s show time.
Keep It in Perspective
Of course, mom and dad are in the audience to see their child perform; but for the rest of the audience, they are there to see a story unfold. Understanding that the actor’s performance is merely a component of the overall production will help to keep the situation in the proper perspective. Teach your young actor that the focus of the audience will be on his or her character within the context of the story. This is true for audiences of five or 500. Providing a new viewpoint will help your young actor conquer the panic.
The Power of Positive Thinking
At the heart of stage fright is the fear of failure. Whether it’s worrying that her performance will fall short or she will forget her lines or trip over her own two feet, the panic rises as she plays the worst-case scenarios in her mind.
Training one’s mind to focus only on positive thoughts is a skill that requires practice and determination. When approaching any task or challenge, having the proper mindset is the key to successful outcomes. Work with your child to focus on optimistic thoughts, and the positive energy will help to allay nervousness and minimize the fear of failure.
Show Up Early and Ready
Your child is already nervous; don’t compound those jitters by rushing in the door just a hair before call time. Plan to arrive early and let him get comfortable in the space of the venue. Help create a pre-performance routine that calms the nerves: yoga, deep breathing, listening to favorite tunes, or any other soothing activity that helps your young performer relax.
Welcome the Butterflies
It’s okay to be nervous. Let your child know this. Everything your young actor is feeling in that pre-show / audition moment is perfectly natural. Simply recognizing her jitters as normal can help her channel that energy into an electric performance and not a frozen moment.
Learn What Works for You
Above all else, the secret to conquering stage fright is finding the mechanism that works best for you. What is it that helps your child keep the panic from overwhelming him? Share your best tip with us on Twitter @OnLoctionEd.
When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. ~ Walt Disney