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Ask an Actor

Ask an Actor

Hallie Bulleit New York;

Fuerza Bruta: Look Up, Rent

God, yes! But I know that often my stage fright stems from the fact that what I'm doing is so important to me. I think that as actors, it's because we care so much about performing that we get scared sometimes.

The cast members of Fuerza Bruta change roles every night -- all the women know all the women's roles, and all the men know all the men's roles. It's a fantastic system, because it helps keep things really fresh for us every night. That being said, it can also lead to some nervousness before the show, because we never get into that routine that you find when you're doing the same thing eight times a week. Added to this is the fact that we all love the show so much, so it feels really important to each of us to go out there and really nail our parts every night.

In my case, music is always an effective weapon for dealing with those fears. For each role that I do, I like to compile a different playlist of songs on my iPod to help me get into the right frame of mind for that role. Then I'll listen to those songs while I'm warming up before the show. Sometimes there's something in the energy of the actual music that I want to bring with me on stage, or maybe there's a snatch of a lyric that helps me feel connected to that character. I find that when I'm listening -- actively listening -- to music and I'm focused on the story that I'm about to tell, there's not much room in my brain for other things like being scared. Feeling prepared and focused is the greatest tool for combating stage jitters, I think.

The good news is that I think a little bit of stage fright can be a good thing. It means you're not in a routine, and it can give your performance an electricity that it might not have otherwise. The key is focusing all that nervous energy and letting it help you tell your story rather than allowing it to stand in your way.

James Denton Los Angeles;

Desperate Housewives, A Streetcar Named Desire

I love the adrenaline. That's one of the reasons why I love theatre. I love when things go wrong. I've cut myself onstage and just been bleeding profusely. I've gagged on chewing tobacco onstage in a Western, where you thought you were going to choke to death. Those kinds of things, where your heart just starts pounding. Or somebody doesn't make their entrance. All of those things are so great.

But as far as stage fright and nerves? I think that's what drew me to acting. I don't fight it. I don't say I don't have it, because I play in a band now -- called Band From TV, a charity band -- and I've never been a musician, and I've had a couple of gigs where I'm really out of my element and I've thought, "So this is what it's like to be nervous." And I realized that I don't have that in theatre. I don't have it in acting. You get a little adrenaline, but I never have the sweats. But in music I have, but that's because I'm such a fish out of water.

Erin O'Brien Los Angeles;

How Cissy Grew, Asylum

Certainly. I would never be so arrogant as to say I've never had stage fright. But to me there's a difference between stage fright and stage adrenaline, stage fright and excitement. I've been on stage where crazy things have happened. People haven't shown up. Or I had an idea backstage right before. I was doing Arms and the Man with the Acting Company, and I had this great idea right before I went on stage. I thought, "Oh, I know, I'll go to the bookshelf and I'll hit him with the book." So I'm on stage and the moment came, and I marched over to the bookshelf, and I went to grab a book -- and the book was glued.

So there's always going to be something that goes wrong. It depends on how you handle it. You can't be like, "Can we start over?" That's what makes things interesting; that's why you rehearse. I've had my knees knock, and I've had butterflies and a dry mouth, but I have never felt like I couldn't go on stage. I remember when we did Asylum, [James Denton] walked on stage right, I walked on stage left, and we meet and we're supposed to have four interchanges. I said my line. He said his line. And I looked at him, and I thought I'd done my line. It was opening night. I said my line in my head. It didn't come out. He was looking at me and I was looking at him. So we moved on to the next line. And we got off stage later and I was like, "Dude, you didn't say your line." He was like, "What are you talking about? You didn't say your line." So that kind of stuff happens.

Reported by Sarah Kuhn and Dany Margolies

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