Let's Talk About Stage Fright


I have been performing since I was 4 years old. I started ballet classes at 4, started performing the Nutcracker at 5, and was a lead roll in my kindergarten graduation play. I haven't stopped since. I have always known what I wanted to do with my life, and never second-guessed it growing up. I performed all through Jr High and High School, majored in theatre in college, and started improvising at 18. My improv group in MS inspired me to come to the Chicago Improv Fest, and I moved to Chicago in 2000 at 21 and started my new life. I have been very successful in my comedic, theatrical and dance endeavors since then, and have worked consistantly.

I have always been on the stage. It has always been my home away from home. I could always talk in front of any size group at any time. I am really good at impromptu wedding speeches and getting the attention in a room. When I was younger, people asked how I could speak in public so much; I'd reply "oh, it's nothing."

When Dad's cancer was found in May of 2004, all my priorities changed, and I found myself starting to dread doing shows. I've always battled the issue of "having to go do shows" or "having to go to rehearsal"--I don't like it when my time doesn't belong to me. But it got worse than normal. I started inadvertently trying to find reasons to not go to my shows, I started having bad panic attacks beforehand, I started throwing up before shows. As time went on, it got worse and worse and worse. It was scary to me, because before I would always be comfortable on stage, and now it made me sick. After the freak out and the show, I would almost always feel fine. Even Don't Spit the Water, a show I've done a bazillion times in the last 4 years, became something that I was afraid to do.

I decided that the physical and emotional turmoil was very unhealthy for me and my body, so I last year I stopped improvising. I thought "Why put myself through this?" I quit my improv team and started turning down projects that people sent my way. It was weird. Then, around that time, I heard that Meg White of the White Stripes cancelled their fall tour because of anxiety. I wasn't the only one! If she could listen to her body, and her millions of fans would understand and be ok, surely the 8 people that would expect me to do shows would understand, too, right? I was reminded that Barbra Streisand rarely performs in public because of her crippling stage fright. Aha! I am in good company.

Performing in the DADA show is an interesting experience. Once you have your makeup on, you are in character. My character is a freaky weird creature who has a physically hard time talking and contorts her body into weird stances. We would get into character a good half hour before the show ever started, so we would just live in this DADA world for the evening. While the show is more emotionally raw and physically taxing than any other show I have done, it was easier for me to do. I lost myself, and became someone else. Someone who didn't have to worry about her sick father, helping out her family, or wanting to be somewhere else. It was good therapy for me for many reasons. And a relief that I could just zone out and not worry about how sick I was going to get beforehand.

After DADA closed, I did 3 weeks of DSTW in Arlington Heights, and then was in MS for the rest of the year. In 2008, I did a few DSTW shows (we went to LA!) and a guest appearance in Ken Barnard's one man show. I turned down everything else that people asked of me. I stopped everything. It was both good and bad, but it was definitely a relief to have one less thing to worry about. When Pastor of Muppets had their last show a few months ago, I told them I wasn't going to do it, but then at the last minute decided to go for it. I psyched myself out, and had a good time. When the opportunity arose to do Neutrino, I thought it would be a good way to start performing again, because you aren't in the room with the audience, you are only doing a scene with one or two other people. It is a lot of fun and low maintenance. So far, so good.

I am finding, though, that I am enjoying being behind the scenes and producing, and I'm not too terrible at it. I love choreographing and teaching dances, and there is no performance pressure there. With Impress These Apes, I help make the show happen, then get to sit back and watch it. We are starting to work on the new DADA Christmas show (which I will be performing in), and in the one meeting I've attended have felt exhilarated. I think I am starting to figure out where I work best in this field.

Do I want to stop performing? No, not at all. It is my first love and a major part of who I am. But I just have to keep working to make it work for me. I still get freaked out before shows, so I have to listen to that. I am in therapy and I am working a lot of stuff out there (I cannot recommend therapy enough, by the way). But it is something I am battling, and don't know if I will find a solution for.

Maybe it is because I have grown a lot in the last few years, but also, I now more than anything just want my friends and peers to be successful. I used to feel the pressure all the time to Make It, Try Harder, Do More Shows, Become Well Known. Are those my priorities now? Absolutely not. I realized that I don't have what it takes to become a household name or even be in a commercial. And I am ok with that. I am just little old me. I would rather give someone else that opportunity, and I will stay home and snuggle with my husband and cats. I like who I am, and I am damn proud of what I have accomplished. While I don't know what the future will bring for me and my career, I am fine with taking it one day at a time.


Thank you.

You cute thing.

You are so self aware and that is really most of the battle.

And to allow yourself to change, instead of holding on to things of the past, that is what it means to grow and expand. You're not limiting yourself, you're expanding!

Do what makes you happy. That is all there is.

Hiya lil' Reid (Becasue you will always be little reid to me),

First, thanks for the kind words on my blog.
Second, sorry to hear you are feeling so conflicted about your role in the drama that is the theater of life. If you need a totally random soundboard to bounce your thoughts off of, well I got nothing but time.