Anecdotes on the job: Stage Fright!

I’m occasionally humbled by new experiences as an actress. Like remembering how frightening auditioning can be, or developing a brand new skill, or just plain falling out of a voiceover-booth. But nothing has floored me quite like my experience performing in an improv show last night.


I haven’t performed on stage for almost 3 weeks, and at this specific show, I didn’t have my usual support system around me. I was performing in a room of piers and the like – all of which I greatly admire and respect. But, none of which I have an extensive performance history with. Actually, I could count on one hand the people I’ve had a sustained conversation with!

Thanks to a mixture of jet-lag, emotional exhaustion, and a specific breed of self-consciousness (I’ve just had 6 inches or more lopped off of my hair..), I completely froze. I went into a sort of tunnel vision. My ears started ringing. My heart was thumping in my chest. I couldn’t breathe. And, worst of all, I couldn’t make sense out of anything that I had just heard. I could understand what a person was saying in the moment, but the second after it was said, it was as if I had amnesia. I couldn’t recall anything. I felt like the whole room went quiet and every one could see me and I wanted to crawl into the darkest corner and disappear.

I guess that could be called a panic attack. Certainly a form of stage fright. And I’ve NEVER experienced that before. In my life. Sure, I’ve been scared to go onstage before, even terrified, but I’ve never had that kind of systematic, physical and mental shutdown.

So why am I sharing this?

I suppose, in part, to relay that everyone has shitty nights. If you suffer from this kind of experience, I wonder if knowing that other people do too – heck, even those of us who boast about being comfortable on stage – can help to alleviate it? I don’t know. I just know that this experience shouldn’t define me. And it shouldn’t have an impact on my future performances, either. It’s just a bump along the way. And, hey. It might even happen again one day. But what am I supposed to do? Beat myself up about it? Swear to never perform again (trust me, I’ve done both of those already today)? No. Sure. Have a little tantrum about it if you must, but pick yourself up immediately and get back to work. It’s totally normal to have a wobble. The thing to do is take a breath, acknowledge that it happened. Forgive yourself. And jump back in with 200% commitment.

Have a similar experience?

Feel free to share your acting stories here:


About The NYC Actor

Angela Dee is a professional actress working in Film, Theatre, TV, Commercials and Voiceovers. She currently lives in New York.

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