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The Nerves!

November 18, 2015

The Nerves!
By Loren Chadima, Acting Coach

Butterflies.  Jitters.  Pins and needles.

If you’re an actor, you’ve had ‘em.  But how do you keep the heebie-jeebies from spilling over into your performance?

Let’s start by understanding what this is, why it’s happening, and where it comes from.

When we’re nervous, our bodies go into fight or flight mode (that’s why right before you go on you’re just SURE you have to pee!)  That’s your body’s natural response to stress.  The reason you think you have to pee is because your body’s thinking, “Empty the bladder in case you have to run from that animal because if you don’t, you’ll DIE.”  Those are our natural instincts and they were built in to protect us.

Think of the audition room as an incubator for our greatest fears and insecurities.  It can push us right into our fight or flight experience, which means our sympathetic nervous system is going to kick into overdrive.  That’s why you have to pee, your heart is pounding, your hands are clammy, etc.  We might be hyper aware in our attempt to listen, but we’ll fail miserably.  At that point, it’s too late to really connect with your body because it’s already gone into panic mode.

That’s why the practice of auditioning is CRUCIAL.  You have to train yourself to be able to switch your sympathetic system (fight or flight) off…and your parasympathetic system (rest and digest) on.  I often encourage people to just go and audition, even if they think it’s something they don’t care about, because retraining those responses is the key to calming audition and performance nerves!

Being in class and the practice of auditioning will give your body the muscle memory it needs to stay in its sympathetic nervous system so that you can be completely present.

Nerves still taking over despite your best efforts?  You can make that work for you, too.  Here’s how:  not long ago, I was watching American Idol. You know the Top 20 segment of the show where the contestants have to walk in and face the judges?  These poor people are about to have a coronary, they’re so nervous!  But this time, I heard J.Lo’s response to a young woman who had just expressed how nervous she was:  “Don’t you love that feeling?  I LOVE that feeling!” she said.  And then Keith Urban said, “I know!”  And then Harry Connick, Jr. chimed in with “Yeah!”   And I thought, that’s why they’re super stars:  because they walk into a stadium of 50,000 screaming fans, get nervous and then turn that into usable energy!   So learn how to embrace that and go, “Yes!  That’s my fuel!  That is MY JUICE!

Got jitters?   Get juiced!!