Oh no! It's my turn to speak. My throat is tight, my mouth is pasty and the butterflies are eating at my stomach. My mind feels blank, what if my voice cracks? My heart is pounding so hard I feel lightheaded. This is how I felt before speaking in front of an auditorium filled with over 300 teachers and administrators in the town in which I live. I made it - but there was a moment when I wasn't sure I would. In the end, I liked it more than I thought I could.
When you think about it, there's really nothing to be frightened about. People in the audience are just like you. They juggle families and jobs and insecurities of their own. But, it never feels that way when you have stage fright. The audience becomes a hostile mob; A tired yawn means boredom, an innocent whisper becomes a critique, a trip to the bathroom is a rebuke. And, in those moments, they all seem smarter and more talented.
More people fear performing in public more than almost anything else in this world - except for death. That's how bad it feels. Whether performing a Bach fugue or giving the eulogy at a friends death or a speech before a crowd of your peers, stage fright can hit hard. As long as the spotlight shines on you, it doesn't matter how big or small the crowd.
But, stage fright doesn't have to be a lifelong sentence. While you can avoid situations that put you under the lights, you can also confront the problem.
That's what Sara Solovitch did 30 years after her budding musical career was derailed by stage fright. She joins us today to talk about that.
There's no one culprit in our propensity toward stage fright but genetic predisposition and childhood are good places to find some clues. Sorry, mom and dad. But, don’t despair. You may never completely master your stage fright but you can learn to deal with it.
- Sara Solovitch - Author of Playing Scared: A History and Memoir of Stage Fright
- David Tolin - Director, Anxiety Disorders Center/Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Hartford Hospital, Institute of Living and the author of Face Your Fears: A Proven Plan to Beat Anxiety, Panic, Phobias, and Obsessions
- Mark Saunders - Performer for over 35 years, most recently as a member of “Mad Agnes, ”a trio that toured internationally and produced 4 albums
Colin McEnroe is the host of the Colin McEnroe Show. Chion Wolf is our technical producer. Intern Katie McAuliffe contributed to this show.
Thanks to the performers with stage fright who spoke to us while waiting to perform at LaSalle Market's Friday night open-mic event - Kate Callahan, Crista Johnson, Melanie Michaud, Mariah Roberto and Patty William. You can also attend their Storytelling open-mic every Tuesday at 7 pm.