The Power of Stage Fright
By Harper Truog | July 6, 2018
I am an aspiring writer going into my second year at the University of Iowa. Writing is not my only passion; I love drawing, painting, and singing. My mom told me about Hire KC; through that insight, today fortunately, my internship with the Kansas City Young Audiences allows me to help camp instructors engage kids through a range of art activities, such as dancing, acting, and painting. From day one, KCYA remains a fun place to work this summer.
“I’m really nervous,” a twelve year old camper said. She and the rest of the camp were in their dance costumes and waiting to perform for their parents. The teachers and interns avoid the term “performance” because it sounded daunting. I told the girl before that this sharing was just to show her parents what they had learned during the week, but I could tell it did not help. It did not matter what we called it; she had to dance on stage in front of people. She was scared and I recognized the paralyzing look in her eye.
“You are going to be okay. The dance is only two minutes long, it’s just a sharing,” I said. She nodded, but was not convinced.
I have performed in choir all my life and participated in several poetry readings. Ever since I was a child, I had terrible stage fright. My hands would shake and my stomach felt painfully empty. I had been on the receiving end of adults telling me to not be scared for years. They did not understand the sinking feeling in my gut every time I walked on stage. To them, the school performances did not warrant that level of a reaction.
Now, here I was trying to play down the feelings of this girl as a way of comfort. I was no longer the child. I was the adult and the person this girl came to. The ways adults had tried to comfort me had not worked, so I tried a different tactic. I gave her advice from my own experiences.
I never thought that my anxiety could be helpful, but I used my experiences with it to help this young girl. Suddenly, all of the times I felt weak and insecure gave me the confidence to talk sincerely with a kid struggling with similar problems.
“Okay, take a breath, when you get up there, pretend the audience is not there. I have terrible stage fright and a trick I learned is to look at the back wall and not people’s faces. It really helps. Once the music starts you will remember what to do. And if you don’t, look at your friends. They will help you.”
She nodded and took a deep breath. My second round of advice clearly helped more than the first. How I handled my fear ultimately made me stronger and able to connect with someone else in need. I understood what she was feeling and by telling her about my own stage fright I gave her (and myself) a reason to trust my advice.
With each time we share our talent (even nervously), we become more confident; here’s to practice and great performances ahead!