Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stage Fright

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The fear, anxiety or persistent phobia of performing in front of an audience. Hasn't everyone experienced stage fright at one time or another?

Sis Beth always looked perfectly at ease in front of an audience. If she was nervous, I never saw it. Sis Barb? Cool as a cucumber. Me? A nervous wreck. When I was in high school, every year I would perform a vocal solo at a State contest. This contest was held at a college in Indianapolis that had old wood flooring. I would tend to tap my hand at my side while I sang and a friend suggested that I should lightly hold my dress in my hands to keep me from tapping. So I did. Since I could no longer channel my nervousness through my hand, it traveled down my body into my legs causing them to shake uncontrollably. So while I was singing for the judges, instead of them seeing me tapping my hand, they now could hear the clicking of my heels on the wooden floor throughout my entire performance. The more I tried to stop shaking, the harder I shook and the louder it got. I should have just tapped my hand.

Even though I performed on a stage five and six nights a week for 20 something years, I would still quite often, get stage fright. Remember how I said Barb is cool as a cucumber....

I was approached to sing at a wedding for a co-worker and I graciously declined saying that I tend to get very nervous singing at weddings. They persisted so I came up with the bright idea that I would ask Barb to sing with me and hopefully that would calm my nerves. The song was a capella (just our voices without music) and we practiced and practiced and I felt really good about it. We sounded great and I was pretty confident that it would come off without a hitch. Just to make sure I had my nerves under control, I got one of those little bottles of wine, like the ones you get on an airplane, and drank it in the car just before we entered the church.

We passed several of my co-workers on our way to the front pew of the church. These people had heard me sing numerous times and they were all excited that I would be singing on this day. So Barb and I are sitting there with the piano and organ directly in front of us. The piano and organ were back to back and the pianist was sitting at the piano playing softly while everyone was being seated. I was feeling pretty good right about now, the wine had kicked in and I was certain everything would be okay.

The preacher walked in and signaled to the pianist that they were ready and so she stood up from the piano bench and began to make her way around to the organ to play the Bridal March. As she rounded the piano, she tripped. Not just a little trip though. Like, almost fell to the ground trip. Now some people might be concerned and want to ask her if she was okay. Not Barb. She finds this sort of thing funny. More than funny... she finds it hilarious. She busted out laughing and I was slapping her leg begging her to stop and she was trying to hold it in which caused her entire upper body to start convulsing and I just knew that everyone in the entire church had their eyes on us now.

So much for feeling in control.
Now I was shaking and sweating and when it came time to sing, I was horrible. Think Stevie Nicks marries a billy goat and they have a kid (no pun intended) and that kid is me and I'm trying to sing while standing on top of a huge vibrating machine. Not pretty.

When it came to Barb's part of course she sounded beautiful. After the ceremony, my friends/co-workers kept saying things to me like "Wow, what happened to your voice? Why did your voice sound so shaky?" I was mortified, but oh well... It is one of the best memories I have of performing. I can always count on Barb for a good time. Sometime I'll have to tell you the story of how Beth gave me a fat lip on stage.

The stage fright is upon me once more as I get ready to post my first-ever blog. I worry that it is too long, or not funny, or worse yet, just plain not interesting. So to try and calm my nerves I am asking yet another one of my beautiful sisters, Sis Brandy, and her crazy daughter Sydney to read it for me and make sure that it's worthy of posting.

As for you, you should all write and tell us if you’re calm and cool like my sisters, or a nervous wreck like me. Please have a beautiful and inspiring day!!!!!!


Bonus time! Beth is giving away three signed copies of her books (your choice of title) today. All you have to do is comment to this post. Winners chosen at random. One book per winner. You can view your choices by clicking here.

Adios Daddy-0s!
SIS Bren


Beth Ciotta said...

Good morning all! Squeezing in a quick comment before the crazy-busy day begins.

Bren, what a charming post. I actually didn't know about your nerves (the tapping bit) at All-State Choir. Or I knew and forgot. You know me and my crappy memory.

As for the wedding story with you and Barb, knowing you both as I do, I can so visualize it! I could also feel your anxiety and, trust me, I have had similar performance 'frights' myself. Mostly it happens when I'm out of my comfort zone--meaning a stage in a club (hotel, freestanding or casino). Oh, and auditions. Although I wouldn't call it stage fright as much as high anxiety. More on that later!

Looking forward to a 'stage fright' tale from other SIS readers!

SIS Beth

adriana mehta said...

My sister and I shared everything since birth. We are twins, and when we were born we decided to split some of our qualities, the good ones and the not so... bad ones. We split everything equal ways, but now i feel she cheated a little. See, she was always taller, stronger, and she always knows what she wants. I think she left me undecisive, a little, or a lot, i cant tell. but God keeps us close enough, literally five minutes away from each other, so i can always find her for advice. She owes me that much. After all, she is the one that took more of our shared self confidence. Dont get me wrong, i know i am amazing! But she doesnt need me to tell her that, or her husband, or anybody else for that matter. So, My sister has performed infront of people a few times, and i am always impressed with what our confidence did for her. I am proud of you sis!

adriana mehta said...

P.S. i should've had her read this before posting it! seriously!

Erin McCarthy said...

Hi ladies! I am a friend of the adorable Beth, known affectionately in the RT skit as "Sucksie." lol.

I can definitely relate, Brenda... though I have very random nerves. Sometimes when I have to speak in front of an audience I'm perfectly fine, others I get nervous and find that I'm babbling. Which then turns my face red. Which then unnerves me even more.

But it has gotten better with age and practice. So when I'm 90 I ought to be totally on top of it. ;-)

Good luck with your writing!

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hi!Okay, come on. I tried not to laugh. (that's a lie) but it really was stinkin' funny. I do (or used to) get stage fright but the high from being up there far outweighs the nerves!

SIS Barb

Sisters-in-Sync said...


What a heartfelt post. I think your sister would be honored that you think so highly of her. And it is so true...You are amazing (in every way). What you may lack in confidence, you more than make up for in soul and heart and beauty and talent.

SIS Barb a.k.a. Justen

Mary Stella said...

I'm lucky enough to have seen all three of you perform and it's hard to imagine you being nervous. You each have wonderful stage presence and exude confidence and charisma while you belt out your songs.

I'm not a natural stage performer. Ask me to talk to media about my day job or to give a workshop or presentation and I'm fine. Ask me to act and I'm incredibly nervous. One time just prior to a performance in Heather Graham's Slush Pile Players, I knocked back a double shot of vodka -- straight. (Poor Beth's eyes widened like Frisbees!) I don't know if the liquor jolt calmed my nerves but we pulled off the performance.

Fedora said...

Hi, Brenda! (and hi, Barb and Beth!) Congrats on an excellent blog debut! As for stage fright, boy, I *still* get it big time, even in small groups, even in front of people I know well (hmmm... maybe it's worse in front of people I know--I haven't decided, and I don't plan on experimenting to find out!) I think it can be better the more I do it, but I've been too timid/lazy to do too much to try to exorcise it (I still haven't taken a public speaking class, for instance).

I do recall one fateful piano recital years ago when I was so nervous I was shaking. I could feel my foot trembling every time I pressed the pedal down. And to make matters worse, as I got to the "end of a page" in my mind, I drew a complete blank as to what was on the next page--I stopped playing entirely and sat in mortified silence feeling the weight of the audience's stares for what felt like an eternity (but was hopefully more like thirty seconds) before plunging in somewhere random and rushing frantically to the end. Worst. Recital. Ever.

And then my piano teacher made me play it again for a different group the following week. Getting back on the horse, so to speak. Ugh.

More recently, I was in a short little group ballet number for our community center's spring dance show--I take dance from the same teacher my six-year-old does, and agreed to be part of the teen/adult piece with a group of kids, basically. One of the oldest in the recital, for sure. All that "experience" didn't calm those nerves much! Going over the steps over and again (in my head as well as "live") helped a bit, and it was definitely less scary the second performance of the weekend!

Anyway, that was rather long-winded! Thanks for sharing, Brenda!

--another Nervous Wreck, Fedora

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hi Erin,

Thanks for dropping by. I, too, find myself babbling and then I giggle. Oh well, what's a girl to do?

SIS Barb

Sisters-in-Sync said...


I love the double shot of vodka and can totally picture Beth's face!!!!

SIS Barb

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hi Fedora,

The piano recital story is great and feel free to be as long winded as you like. I thoroughly enjoy the stories.

SIS Barb

Beth Ciotta said...

What a unique and honest post, Adriana. I'm so glad you shared. I think a good many of us suffer from a lack of confidence. When we meet/know others who brim with it, naturally we envy and admire what we wish we had. Believe in yourself as best you can and every now and then push your bounderies. Sometimes we gain confidence by doing something we fear time and time again. That's how it usually works with me.

All best!
SIS Beth

Richard Craddock said...

Wassup, Ladies!?
First of all, not seeing any other "Richards" posting, I'll assume I won a signed book!! That is SO COOL!! Last time I "won" something, I first had wasted an entire day looking at a condo I couldn't afford.
As far as your first post, Brenda --- FINE job. Didn't hear your heels click once. As far as an actual comment, I'm at a loss. Call it arrogance or stupidity or (over?)confidence or a state of oblivion (and I know at least TWO of you girls would use those words to describe me ANYway;)!), I can't really say I've ever had stage fright. Probably the closest I come to it is ANY situation where I am asked to perform solo and "on demand" (you know what I mean --- you're visiting family, they have friends over, "Oh, Ricky, show them how talented you are!!") -- hate it, always get a bit shy, at least. Beyond that, I DO get nervous doing a new song, but only when I'm either not totally prepared (read: partying trumped study), or if the song is for a specific dedication. There's a long, recent story about that; but since this is YOUR blog, not mine, I'll leave it there.
This is fun! Look forward to more posts --- and winning another book, of course!!!:)

Tori Lennox said...

Bren, that was a great post! I was scared the first time I started blogging too. Now it's so old hat, I don't even think about it. I try to think of it as chatting with my friends and not think about the fact that the whole world could read my words (though I have to wonder why the whole world would be interested. LOL).

Beth Ciotta said...

Erin, so glad you dropped by. thank you! As for the RT gang calling 'Sucksie', perhaps we should clarify I was playing a sexy vampire (sexy... sucksie... Get it?) Otherwise who knows what the gang would think, LOL

I hear you about public speaking. (Although I've heard you and always thought you rocked!). Whenever I speak on a writing panel or teach a writing workshop I always fear I'm going to bomb. Luckily, I always seem to do okay. Still... I always have butterflies and my mouth gets dry. Once I was so nervous my hands shook. I was holding notes so it was really obvious. I HAD to make a joke about it... whih broke the ice with the audience. So it was all good. :)

Beth Ciotta said...

Bren, Mary is one of those cool as a cucumber folks when, as she said, she's speaking to the media or teaching a workshop. She's amazing! I WISH I could possess that kind of confidence. As to her acting on stage... she's a NATURAL! So talented. You'd never know she was a nervous wreck on the inside. Well, I know. Yes, indeed I witnessed the vodka affair. Not sure I was shocked as much as impressed by how she downed those shots without making a face. LOL

SIS Beth

Beth Ciotta said...

Hey, is anyone else having to type in the word verication thingee twice before being able to post? Or is it just me?

Anyhoo, a quick note to let everyone know Bren is away and doesn't have easy access to Internet this week. Otherwise, she'd be all over this. I just know she'd be commenting like crazy. She's going to be over the moon when she reads all your great stories. Thanks for sharing!

SIS Beth

Beth Ciotta said...

Oh, Fedora!!! You weren't long winded at all. I loved reading about your performance experiences, although I wish they'd been easier for you! I do think you have the right idea about the more you do something, the easier it becomes. Well... sometimes anyway. Hang in there!

Oh! So what was your costume like for the Spring Dance Show? Gotta get a visual. ;)

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hey, Richard. Yup. You're a winner!!! Saw your email. Will do!

All I can say is, count yourself fortunate. Confidence is indeed a fabulous quality. Good for you! That said, empathize on the perform'on demand' thing. Been there. Tried not to do it. And if I did, usually didn't enjoy it. Usually. :)

Also, I know exactly what you mean about nerves jangling when you're not totally prepared for a song. Uh, been there, too. For various reasons.

Thanks for sharing!

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hey, Tori. I like your train of thought. Blogging as though chatting with friends. Nice. :)

SIS Beth

Taylor said...

Good to know I'm not the only one who gets shaky leg syndrome when I'm nervous!! This is a really good post Brenda, I give you credit for being so honest and humorous about it! I did alot of drama club plays in high school and I was always certainly nervous, but thank god for those stage lights! They're blacked out the entire audience so I couldn't see them, which helped alot. Keep up the charm!

P.S. - Was that Stevie Nix-billy goat joke a reference to South Park? Because I'm pretty sure they mistook her for a goat in one episode :P

Fedora said...

LOL, Beth! It was a pink tutu--let's see if this link works:

No tiara, high bun with a pink flower stuck in the side... Now I can say I have a pink tutu :D I think my daughter wants me to wear it come Halloween. I'm hoping it'll be too cold ;)

Cheryl said...

Wonderful first post Brenda. I'm a basket-case when I have to be up in front of a group of people. I'm fine talking to people one-on-one but even if it's only 2 people other than myself, I have trouble joining in the conversation.
I'm glad my daughter and son aren't the same way . . . I think they both like to be the center of attention.

Sisters-in-Sync said... guys are great. I love all the comments! Keep em coming!

Waving to Richard, Tori, Taylor, Fedora and Cheryl! Thanks for sharing!!!

SIS Barb

Olga said...

Brenda, congratulations on the first post! You did a great job - a very charming story, and a funny one as well!

Beth Ciotta said...

Oh, man. I wrote a response to Tayor and the Internet gremlins ate it!

For reference, Taylor works with me at our local library. He's in college, majoring in broadcast journalism.

Taylor, knowing how confident and outgoing you are, I'm surprised you experienced such nerves on stage. Just goes to show, you never know! As for the stage lights in the eyes thing... Oh, yeah. Blinded by the light can be a beautiful thing. If that fails, you can always fall back on the ol' standby. Imaging the audience in their underwear. ;)

SIS Beth

Beth Ciotta said...

A pink tutu, Fedora? I've gotta check that out.

Cheryl... I totally understand shy. :)

Waving to Olga!!!

Hisle said...

Olga, Don't believe a word they say or write about me! LOL Actually, they should embellish a little more and then they'd get it right!

SIS Barb

Sherry Tew said...

Hi everyone. Brenda, I can honestly say that in all of those years I enjoyed traveling around this country with you, I never got the impression you ever suffered from stage fright. You always seemed very confident and composed when you stepped on stage, even when we performed in a totally new venue for the first time!!! Kudos to your ability to keep it far enough under the surface that it was not discernable. You seemed as cool as cucumber, even if you didn't know it.

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting on my blog. It was great to read about your experiences! Sorry that I was not able to reply to each one individually. I'll be home next week so you will be hearing more from me. Thanks again and I wish you all a blessed day, week, month, life!!!!!!

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