Stage Fright

23 May

For someone who is quite insecure about himself, and who frequently doubts his own abilities in private, I’m a little surprised when people comment on my confidence, impression of being ‘knowledgeable’, and generally being a firm, strong personality. It’s probably something which is easier to convey online where you can hide behind the relative comfort of a computer screen, and edit yourself so you sound like whoever you choose to be.

I came in for a little criticism lately because I didn’t quite match up in real life to the persona someone had projected on me based on our limited correspondences online. Well, I think that was it. There was a suggestion by some wag that they simply fancied me and were annoyed that I didn’t have so much as a tingle near the loins for them in return. Sorry luvvie.

I like to think I’m fairly honest online. And on the phone. And actually in person. Though when we’re not face to face I can put better distance between us and allow my noggin free reign to pontificate, postulate and proclaim as appropriate. Whether my advice is any good or not isn’t for me to say here, but I find it easier to give from a distance. (If you’ve been given good advice by me, now’s your chance to thank me in the comments below… hint hint)

Clinging on for dear life... stage fright

I actually have a very nervous disposition. It’s under better control now than it used to be, I think two years on the road doing events and conventions took care of it. But it used to be that I would feel ill before travelling, while travelling, on reaching a destination. The same with meetings. Conversations. Heading to the GP, buying a loaf of bread, changing my address at the bank…. [okay, maybe not quite that bad…]. Yes, I have extreme stage fright.

I first got into performing while at school. I wasn’t one of the sporty types at all, rather I was the fat quiet reserved one who’d rather have his head buried in a book than a scrum. I used to watch with envy when other kids would do school plays, debates and things. I reckoned I could do it too and was always annoyed I was never plucked for small-scale stardom. I dabbled a bit with the ‘House Drama’ competition. Somehow I convinced the 6th formers to put on an adaptation of Eric Idle’s Pass The Butler, which I’d found in the school library in a tatty condition on the verge of being skipped. Whilst I wasn’t directing, I did get the chance to play one of the leads. I threw myself into it quite literally – I vividly recall at one point taking a flying leap over the sofa, propelling it across the floor forgetting how buffed the central hall was.

Back then I found that when I took my glasses off (I didn’t wear contacts as a teenager) the world became a much blurrier place, and without being able to see the audience and their reactions I was able to play as if to an empty room. A great boost for the confidence I have to say. I did that for almost every performance for a few years, except when I had to see.

I think for anyone who has a fear of public speaking it is one helpful trick. Now I wear glasses more often again, I really should try the strategy again. It was particularly good for stage work, as you’re half-blinded by the lights anyway. Just learn your lines and marks.

Maybe it is because I’m an Aries? It seems I’m a ‘natural leader’. Though some may question that. At some point I started getting picked to do public speaking engagements and to be a spokesperson. Presumably it was my ability to reason and answer questions with a little decorum and tact. And a pretty good speaking voice (if a little fast at times). Not too harsh, not too soft.

I much prefer working with someone else’s script though. I used to ad-lib quite a bit when giving speeches, adding quips and in-jokes to mundane gumpf. Now I write my own material (well, when I actually have a script), I’m less inclined to do that. A pity.

The year I finished at school I was given one of the leads in the school play, a comic turn in The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew – very bizarre. There was a scene where I had to do the ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ dance, and I quite simply don’t dance, and combined with my stage fright I felt unbelievably self concious. Again just took glasses off and did it. Fear is one of those things you just have to plough through.

I took up dancing this year – sort of. I’m still a gormless idiot with big feet and poor sense of rhythm (my timing isn’t bad). I’d wanted to do it for years and I ran into my friend Jen last year. She’s part of a dance group called the Bellehoppers, a group of girls who are into the dances of the 1920s through 50s – lindyhop, swing, charleston… Oh… just my period. You all know that I’m a professional nostalgist. My PhD is all about films of the 30s, 40s and early 50s. So, I promised I’d go along to classes when they started up. And with the exception of the last few weeks when a work project has kept me away, I’ve been going along every week and learning how to dance. Of course the first week I was so nervous I stopped at the bar on the way down for a large Jack and coke, which did absolutely nothing for me!

You see, I also go to the pairs class. Except I have no partner. I’m on my own. And invariably partnered with somebody new each week. I feel sorry for them, because, well, I’m not very good, not very confident, and rather nervous. I haven’t quite got two left feet, but still… It’s a huge thing for me. Though I’ve yet to try and take my new found ‘skills’ to a social dance and practice. Time will tell… I guess I’ve finally become a swinger. Yeah baby…

I’d recommend those of you with a nervous disposition take up something new. Something different. Something that takes you out of your comfort zone…

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2 Responses to “Stage Fright”

  1. AMC May 23, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    You’ve given me some good advice…

    • Melissa Loukas May 24, 2010 at 5:32 am #

      You really have given me good advice, a number of times. Thank you. I also apprreciate your use of the word “multifarious”. Not nearly as used as often as it should be. 🙂

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