Nerves are a problem very few magicians like to discuss or deal with. Is it possible that each performer thinks he is the only one who, moments before walking out on stage, has a feeling in the pit of his stomach that makes him want to run off and abandon magic forever?
Stage fright affects all of us and there is nothing wrong with having a certain amount of it. Most successful entertainers know that if you aren't feeling some apprehension, you are on shaky ground. It is the nerves that give us our edge and make us attune to the audience's reactions and performing situation. Let's examine exactly what we are talking about to see how it is a blessing and not a curse.
You have probably performed your routines countless times in front of many different types of audiences in all kinds of venues. You are confident in your magic and personality and look forward to doing a good and rewarding job. And yet, each show is new and different and you never know just what will happen. Nerves are really just another word for fear. The fear is that you will not be accepted by the audience and that you will be disgraced. This might happen because you blunder, expose a method, have a difficult spectator or even that your audience thinks you look silly and that your magic is awful. Stage fright robs you of your confidence and makes you feel inadequate before you even begin.
To deal with the problem, you should first realize that it is your desire to succeed that is driving the fear. The fear stems from the fact that you are sincerely yearning to do a wonderful job and are afraid you won't. There is nothing wrong with that. You must turn that fear into energy and use it to monitor all the dynamics of the show. Let it be the driving force that causes you to stay on your toes and make whatever necessary adjustments for any particular situations that arise. Remember that the greater the fear, the greater the capacity for you to shine as you are creating it all. Stage fright is just another word for inspiration.
It is easy to analyze this fear, but what do you do about it? The only answer is to gird up your loins and walk right out on stage. If you are well prepared, the stage fright will vanish within just a few minutes. The successful person is the one who just does it, regardless of how he feels inside. Like anything else in life worth achieving, you must be prepared to put yourself at risk for the sake of the job at hand. You should, however, remind yourself of all the hard work you have put into your art. You should think about how many hundreds if not thousands of people you have entertained and who have had their lives enriched by your performances. Do not sell yourself and your abilities short. Remember that you are a professional and have as much right to be on stage as anyone!
As you wait backstage, it is a good idea to mentally rehearse your opening lines. Saying them over and over again to yourself will give you something to do and build your confidence. One of the biggest causes of backstage jitters is that you will forget your lines. This will overcome that.
Deep breathing is also a tried and tested method for reducing nerves. Breathe out deeply through your mouth and then in through your nose over and over again. This will fill your lungs with oxygen-rich air which gives you a feeling of euphoria and light-headedness. Many pros use these deep breathing exercises just before going on to reduce stress. Walking around and pacing also is fine and helps to work off some of the excess energy. So, do deep knee bends and jumping in place. Never be afraid of what someone may think of your backstage antics. Do not get stage fright about your anti-stage fright exercises.
When it is time for you to begin, march proudly out in front of your audience. Smile and act like this is your home and where you belong! Speak your opening lines with power and authority even if you have a microphone. Make your gestures slightly larger than normal and do not be afraid to use plenty of body movement. You are on stage and you are expected to have stage presence. This means making your own body the object of attention in an unabashed way.
Finally, the sound of laughter or applause is the best antidote for stage fright. Your opening effect should be one you are dead sure of and know is an audience pleaser. If you can do a quick and startling effect right in the beginning of your act, so much the better. The sooner you get some type of audience response, the sooner you will feel at home on stage.
Stage fright can be almost debilitating to some performers. Try to keep perspective and see things through sane reasoning. Do not make the mistake of assuming the audience is making fun of you when there is no reason to think that. Do not let terrible ideas build up in your head about what might happen in the worse case scenario. Think of only good and positive thoughts about your performance and let that become the self-fulfilling prophecy.
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