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by Darren Held

Nervous Nellie

Nervous? Stay in the moment.

by Sonnjea Blackwell

People ask me all the time if I get nervous before an improv show and, if so, what do I do to calm my fears.

The thing is, I don’t actually get nervous. I get excited. I can’t wait to go on stage and do improv and make people laugh. I’m not saying this to brag, or to in any way criticize people who DO get nervous. Everyone is different. I happen to test extremely well, and my grades in school did not always accurately reflect my knowledge in any given subject because I would always just rise to the occasion on test day. I guess my psyche views improv shows the same as tests.

All that being said, I don’t always do perfect improv. I know, weird. And when I do a bad scene, I’m keenly aware of what I’ve done wrong and how I’ve botched it, and if that happens in a show, it can start to mess with my confidence and then I might actually get nervous before my next scene, even though I didn’t start out nervous.

What I do then, to the best of my ability, is just be in the moment. Watch the other performers do their thing. Cheer them on wholeheartedly. What I do NOT do, is think about the scene I fucked up. Once I get home, there will be plenty of time to dissect it and rehash it and go down the “what if” road, if I so choose. But when I still have to go back on stage and attempt to do good improv, I can’t be stewing over the bad improv I did.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not even saying I succeed at it all the time. But I do think that, whether you are plagued with nerves before you go on stage (for class or a show), or whether you sometimes just lose confidence after a bad scene, your best bet is to be in THIS moment. Being nervous comes from worrying about what MIGHT happen and/or dwelling on something crappy that DID happen. Those things are in the future and the past. If you are right here NOW, neither of those things matter.

Obviously, this is true in life as well as improv. But you knew that already.

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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