One of my students compared it to defusing a bomb on stage. One wrong move and – BANG! – the whole thing blows up in your face. To avoid this, in the same way as if you were defusing a bomb, you stop breathing and restrict your movements.
The other interesting aspect of this analogy is that if you are blown up, you die. That is exactly how it feels if you screw up on stage. You may have heard many a comedian describing the experience of no one laughing at their jokes as dying.
You see, the ego is involved in all this. The ego doesn’t want you in any sort of danger – and from the ego’s point of view, going in front of thousands or millions of people to perform feels like you are going into a very dangerous situation.
So what does it do? It tells you to stop and not make a wrong move or you will experience something similar to death.
Poor old ego – it does have some funny thoughts.
As an actor, you need to train the ego to move past that fear and to embrace the danger and allow yourself to express yourself fully despite being afraid.
How do you do it? You need acting technique to distract the ego long enough to get involved in what you are doing. In The Method, we use sense memory to do this, amongst other things.
One thing is for sure: you need to take your ego by the hand and calm it down and have a wee chat with it. Otherwise, it can run riot and destroy your performance.