Discover Alexander Technique

with Melissa Brown

Overcome Stage Fright 

Many actors ask me how to overcome stage fright

The Alexander Technique is an amazing tool to overcome stage fright. It allows the actor to become aware of and release unnecessary tension, while remaining poised and present-in-the moment. There are many ways that actors use the Technique to overcome stage fright, but here are a few concrete tips that my students have found helpful. Note that these tips can help anyone experiencing tension – whether they are performing on stage or not.

Tip One: Release the jaw – When faced with stage fright or other stressors, many of us clench our jaws without knowing it. However, you can release this tension by allowing for a bit of space between the upper and lower molars. This will soften the muscles around the jaw, which will have a positive effect on many other tight muscles. For example, unclenching the jaw allows the strong muscles at the base of the back of the neck to stop tensing. And, when the neck softens, the shoulders also have a chance to release. So remember when you need to calm yourself, check in with your jaw.

Overcome stage fright by finding the floor

Tip Two: Find the floor – Releasing tension is always grounding, but as actors, you really want to know how to find the floor in order to overcome stage fright. This will help you steady yourself.

When we want to feel stable, we often tighten the legs. Somehow it makes the legs feel solid or strong. But actually, this tension causes our feet to pull away from the floor and destabilizes us. To release the muscles of the legs and feet, you want to soften the muscles of your gluts, thighs and calves and let your feet spread onto the floor.  Here is a 3-part practice to help you release the feet.

Do this standing and make sure that you attend to each foot one at a time.

1) Imagine the inner part of the heel softening, then imagine a diagonal path from the inner heal to the pinky toe and let that part of the foot soften;

2) Imagine a path from your pinky toe to your big toe – across the toes and metatarsal bones (ie the ball of the foot). Then let those muscles soften; and

3) Imagine a path from your big toe to your outer heal and let that area release.

Note that you might not actually be feel the softening, but usually when you imagine a release, you will find that the tonus of the foot changes. Often my students notice that after they’ve attended to one foot, it feels very different from the other.

Tip 3: See the Room – Stage fright, like any type of stress, affects our mind as as much as our bodies. Often people worry and turn inward. A great tool to calm yourself is to turn “outward” – to see the room. F.M. Alexander called this “global awareness.” See what’s in front of you. And really see it – a table, a wall, a clock. Don’t focus too long on any one thing. See everything panoramically. You can widen your field of vision by using your peripheral vision to see out to the side. You also can see above you, and you can see the floor underneath you. Global awareness will help you to come out of your head and be more present in the moment.

If you are interested in finding out more about overcoming stage fright, please come to my free online class on Monday September 12 at 2:00pm at the Actors Connection and/ or join my 4-class series that takes place on 4 Saturdays in October.

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