How to Beat Stage Fright

UC Riverside professor publishes new book, “Facing the Fear: An Actor’s Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright”

Bella Merlin

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – There’s no business like show business – unless, of course, you suffer from stage fright. Yet, even in that case, there’s help for you. Bella Merlin, professor in the theatre, film and digital production department at the University of California, Riverside, has published a new book, “Facing the Fear: An Actor’s Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright.”

“Stage fright has the power to drive actors from the stage for weeks, months and years, and it can strike any actor at any time. But fortunately, it’s a challenge that can now be met,” said Merlin. “This is a multidisciplinary look at what goes on for actors in the process of performance when stage fright kicks in and provides strategies for overcoming it.”

Facing the Fear: An Actor's Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

Facing the Fear: An Actor’s Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

Drawing on her own and other actors’ personal experiences, the book engages in a series of questions like “What is stage fright?” and “How do we develop good practices?” Merlin breaks down the physiological and psychological manifestations of stage fright, and offers strategies – from the very practical (sleep, diet, relaxation) to the philosophical (how to deal with feedback, evaluation, audition nerves, and post-performance experiences) to overcome the fear.

“It basically invites actors to take as much agency over their experience of a stressful profession in order to reduce nerves as far as possible,” explained Merlin.

The book is intended for those who are experiencing or have previously suffered from stage fright, and for those who want to be fully prepared should that day ever come. Merlin adds that although there are no hard-and-fast answers, “Facing the Fear” uses anecdotes, history, philosophy, body/mind balancing, psychology and practical knowledge to enable actors to acknowledge, face, and ultimately embrace their performance anxieties.

The Royal National Theatre in London will host a launch party for the book on Tuesday, June 7, in London. Merlin combines a professional acting career with teaching and is a professor of acting and directing at UC Riverside. She is available for interviews and media inquiries on the following topics: stage fright as a misunderstood and often secretive condition, the neuroscience of learning, the psychology of fear, and practical solutions to deal with performance nerves.

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