Offstage Stage Fright

By Hazel Doolan

‘Spot the drama student / actor!’ is a joke that I’ve always been familiar with. When with my group of friends and my family it was me who would be breaking into song, jumping in with witty comebacks or reciting Simpsons/Disney/Friends quotes. It would be fair to say that I was the clown in the group. Outside of that it was a different story.

Hazel in Centre Stage Youth Theatre’s show Babes in the Wood in 2010.

After starting youth theatre I experienced my personal ‘stage fright’ when it came to socializing with my peers. I had joined a community youth theatre where it seemed that everyone knew each other already and I knew just one other person. It appeared that the majority of the kids had preferences for who they wanted to work with at workshops. Of course being an adolescent that led to me thinking ‘What’s wrong with me?’, ‘No one likes/wants to work with me’ which was not true in the end. This lead to my own stage fright off stage, which at some points transferred on stage when during improv workshops I would fear I wouldn’t come up with something witty or funny. It was only towards the end of the second year when I began to slowly overcome this ‘stage fright’. I remember one instance when in the library with my classmates, something was said and I came in with something witty to the shock of my classmates, which simulated the Family Guy moment when Peter says to Brian ‘Oh my God… You can talk!’ (And here’s the quoting again!)   

When in the arts world as is true with any other prospects you will not be everyone’s cup of tea and you do not have to be friends with everyone. This is a mistake that I made when starting out in youth theatre. I tried to be everyone’s friend and tried way too hard, a trait I carried with me into third level and just managed to let go of by end of my second year. In my experience in the arts world the most important thing is to be nice to and respect the people you work with whether it be a director, actor, stage manager, technician or designer. Treating your team members with decency, respect and integrity I believe is as valuable as working with someone who was ‘great craic’. That said person may be fun at first but more importantly are they respectful towards you? It could be all fun and games during breaks however what happens in the rehearsal space? I’ve been in a situation where a co actor would be your best friend outside of rehearsals but then once in the space show they feel they know more about the craft than you and make you feel more like a student than professional. Then of course I’ve been so lucky to collaborate with an amazing designer who had similar ideas to me but and who was also a great friend outside of the space. This is what makes a production rememberable.

Eva’s Echo founders at the launch of the Galway Fringe Festival 2017.

One of the biggest challenges I faced in recent years was attending social events, launches or after parties where potential contacts are present. I always struggled with the fine line between being too quiet or being too in your face, which usually resulted in me being awkwardly quiet. I’ve always been wary of anything I said whether it be an opinion or an insight into a certain practice, as I was representing not only myself but Eva’s Echo. Presently I’ve grown more comfortable with that because I don’t feel I need to try so hard anymore or shout out ‘Hey everybody!! Look at me!!! I’m here!!!’ I  have embraced the mellow part of myself. I know now that I am part of this community and I show my support and respect for all artforms, which is what the events are all about.

The behind the scenes team of Dayshift. Photo Credit – Piotr Lyszkiewicz

This year, I’m finding myself taking a step back from acting and focusing more on directing, stage managing and playwriting. Acting will always be my love, however I have become more confident behind the scenes, as it were. I directed our last production ‘Dayshift’. At first I was unsure if I could fulfil the role because of self doubt, however once in the rehearsal space it felt like a second language that I always knew. I never thought that I would get so much joy and fulfillment from guiding and watching as a creative vision was manifested through the actors and the team.

Whether you’re an actor who loves the limelight (which I do of course at times) or a playwright who prefers the comfort of scribbling in a notebook the arts is accessible for all. It enables you to shine through a musical number or share a vision through a directed piece.

‘Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.’ -Oscar Wilde

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