Upstaging Stage Fright

Students Open up about the Challenge of Performing

Erika Kolseth, Staff Writer

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 73% of the population is affected by stage fright. Along with other students at Blue Valley, junior Nathan Ismert has always struggled with performing but never acknowledged it until his sophomore year of high school.

“I remember [taking] off my costume from ‘Guys and Dolls,’ and it was completely soaked through like three layers and a prescription antiperspirant,” he said. “It was super embarrassing.” Ismert describes his fear of stage fright as being “just below paralyzing”
but perseveres and forces himself to get on stage.

Through a lot of self-reflection, Ismert realized his fear stems from the possibility of disappointing his parents. “Everything was a performance to me in my early childhood,” Ismert said. “I think insecurity is brought up whenever I perform onstage.”

Other students, however, had discovered their fear at an early age. Senior Emily Brixey-Thatcher knew she had stage fright since fourth grade. “I sang in front of people for the first time in the talent show,” she said. “I ended the song in tears.”
Having more experience in acting, Brixey-Thatcher finds it difficult to perform when singing. “Junior year we all sang our audition songs for everyone [for the musical ‘13’],” she said. “I was so shaky.” Described as a very closeted person, Ismert finds it hard to express how he thinks men are held to a standard to where they shouldn’t show their emotions. “When people say it’s easier for boys [to get up on stage], it belittles the effort
that men do put themselves out there,” Ismert said.

The journey of overcoming stage fright has come as a bit of an obstacle for these students. When faced with the challenge of performing on stage, both have many strategies on how to conquer their fear. “If I don’t force myself to go first [for auditions], I feel like I’d quit or my heart will give out,” Ismert said. Though his fear progresses more as he walks on stage, Ismert has to act like he isn’t scared. “In that moment, I’m someone else,” he said. “I’m no longer Nathan Ismert. I become another person entirely.” Brixey Thatcher pushes through her fear by performing on stage as much as she can. “I think the theater atmosphere helped me realize that I was in a safe space,” she said. “Everyone was so welcoming and warm.”

Although dealing with stage fright can be difficult, Brixey-Thatcher keeps a positive mindset. “Every person has some form of [stage fright],” she said. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I believe the best way to battle it is through confidence, work and experience.”