The Ramblings and Musings of a Nervous Performer

The other day, my best friend said something to me she normally doesn’t say: “Just hear me out.”

She was trying to well-meaningly tiptoe around an issue I have been struggling with for as long as I can remember – my confidence. Everybody and their mother has confidence issues, whether they own up to it or not, whether it’s fleeting or not, whether it happened to them once or not. For me, it is an ongoing flux of nerves, anxiety and being my own worst critic. Nothing new, right? But now that I have graduated from college, started my career, am living back at home and trying (sometimes aimlessly) to figure out how to be An Adult, maybe it’s time to get back to “what makes me happy,” my best friend says. What harm could it do?

The “happy” she was referring to is performing – acting, singing, (my attempts at) dancing. Being on stage. Doing something that I did not necessarily go to school for, but made me the happiest and, more importantly, most confident while I was in school. She was planning to audition at a local community theatre, a venture I had never before taken (I did all high school theatre at home) but she had recently started thriving in. And even she, Best Friend the Thespian, was jonesing to do something she herself loves – dance, getting her toe-tappin’ feet right back into the musical theatre world.

My first reaction? Literal groans. I had been hemming and hawing about this opportunity myself – because I knew she was right. I had had discussions with my family, my friends, my former instructors, fleeting words on whether or not I would have the time. I am preparing for a busy, exciting season at my own job, after all. Plus, I’ve never done community theatre. I’ve only been a student performer. I mean, there’s probably cliques and too many tap shoes and lots and lots of movement that my mind, body and soul are certainly, 100% not ready to do in front of a whole bunch of pre-professional performers and the occasional child wunderkind.

That up there? That’s where my brain went with all of that in the course it took her plead her case and try to convince me to audition. I had officially dived straight into my Brain in Wonderland where things were whizzing by at the speed of light with a bright but slightly terrifying speed.

But Rational (And Quasi-Positive) Alyssa came through with the save. Maybe Best Friend is right. Maybe I should get back out there. It’s been a little over two years since I did a show, which was my hands-down my favorite part of college. Plus, I can carry a tune. I’m not a belter, I’m not a showgirl, but I can keep a song going. I don’t think I have two left feet either – just might take me a little longer to get the steps and not look like a buffoon while doing them. Plus, it’s a show I’ve never done before. Why not?

So, long story short, I did it. I auditioned for a show. The few days I had leading up to it I spent half of the time rehearsing a song with one of my mentors (and luckily, it was a song I knew and loved) and half the time queasy and uneasy about the entire situation I had somehow gotten myself into. I talked with my mother constantly about all of this, all of the emotions and fear and negative connotations and expectations of what could happen. But, being the literal angel that she is, she just looked at me and said with her magical mom-ness: “I was there when you did this for Spring Awakening. You’re going to be fine.”

Despite my anxiety, I headed to the audition with Best Friend, with my little brother not far behind. I had a pair of my favorite and most trusted people at my side. All the nerves leading up to the moment I walked through the audition room door were uncomfortable, as usual. But, when I started to sing, it just…happened. I sang the song louder and with more energy than I had before – I originally thought the song was a little high for me, but somehow, it worked. The panel seemed to enjoy it, I got called back for a movement audition, and thus ended Day 1.

Day 2, or Day of the Dancing, was a different matter. There was more of the unease, of the nervousness, of the sheer, unadulterated fear of dancing in front of people who were very clearly capital D Dancers. (I had no idea if they were, but hey, that’s just how Brain in Wonderland works.) I was more pessimistic than the day before. I was, arguably, more nervous than the day before. I had never really danced in high school theatre – chalk that up to the blessing in disguise of being typecast as older, more matronly characters. I am 100% uncomfortable with moving my body in ways other than walking and the occasional lap around a pool. It all stems back to my confidence issues, of course, but it was still the last thing on Earth I wanted to show in front of people I didn’t even know. People who obviously knew what they were doing. People who were adorned in their tap shoes and dance tights and were ready for the “5, 6, 7, 8!” at a moment’s notice. (Hush, brain. Hush!)

But I went in there. I went in the audition room, my “dance” (workout) clothes adorned, my hair tied back, my nerves shot. I learned the jazz combination (which was honestly not as daunting as I half-expected it to be) and by the time I performed it for the actual audition (with Best Friend dancing in my same group diagonally from me), I think it went alright. Even the improv section, where I literally flailed my arms as gracefully as I could and moved my feet in whichever direction throughout the embarassingly long 8 count time frame.

And it was over. The audition was done. I left the tap dancers to their tapping (which, by any means, was still fun to watch. I haven’t tapped since I was 3, but I remember it being a blast.) I had done what I was so afraid to do, and what I always end up enjoying in some part (at least in the end.) I know how nice it feels to be a part of an ensemble on a stage, singing and smiling and enjoying the moment. I miss that feeling.

I stepped out of my comfort zone – which, while not done often, brings me a sense of relief for knowing that I am not entirely consumed by my anxiousness.

Despite my initial negative thoughts (“I don’t know if I will get the part” being the most repeated statement made for the rest of the night), I still did it. Whether I get the part or not, that experience will still remain. And Best Friend was right – I was happier getting to do this again. I may not be a professional performer (if this narrative didn’t hint at it enough, I don’t exactly have the toughest skin), but I do enjoy doing what I like doing.

I don’t know when I will hear back about getting cast. I don’t know if I will get the part. But I, for the sake of cliches, have already received something valuable in and of itself – a tiny sliver of confidence and an even bigger sliver of pride for being able to step outside of my comfort zone and my head to get back to the actual Wonderland that makes me…me.

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4 thoughts on “The Ramblings and Musings of a Nervous Performer

  1. Melissa says:

    This is so well put and a problem so many have!!!! But the best part is you did it and I’m glad you did!!!! Here’s to doing what you love even if it scares you!!! 😘 I’m sharing this hopefully others read it and it helps them too!

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