Performance anxiety in actors: symptoms, explanations and an Indian approach to treatment

  • Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe
  • Sreenath Nair
  • Deborah Claire Procter


Abstract There are numerous examples of renowned performers across the arts (actors and musicians) and in sports, which become news items in the media due to their performance anxiety (also called stage fright in English, or Lampenfieber in German). Given the number of celebrity actors suffering from stage fright, the number of those actors who do not make the news headlines in relation to their stage fright but nevertheless suffer from it must be even higher. In this essay we provide an up to date account of the symptoms of stage fright, possible explanations for it and a range of known approaches to treatment. This is followed by an original approach to treating stage fright, based on Indian performance techniques, using details of a study undertaken in 2005.

Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe studied English and Philosophy at the Universität Düsseldorf, Germany. In 1994 he obtained his Ph.D. at the Department of Drama, Theatre and Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London. From 1994 to 2007, he was a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, University of Wales Aberystwyth. Since October 2007 he has been Professor of Drama at the Lincoln School of Performing Arts, University of Lincoln. He has numerous publications on the topic of Theatre and Consciousness to his credit, including Theatre and Consciousness: Explanatory Scope and Future Potential (Intellect, 2005) and is founding editor of the peer-reviewed web-journal Consciousness, Literature and the Arts and the book series of the same title with Rodopi. Since 2010 he has also worked on opera and consciousness.  

Sreenath Nair is Senior Lecturer in the Lincoln School of Performing Arts, University of Lincoln, United Kingdom. His doctoral thesis, Restoration of Breath: Consciousness and Performance, is a pioneering work in the field of performance and consciousness studies, performance theory and intercultural training, published by Rodopi in 2007. His research continues to explore embodied methodologies and practices of Kerala performance, especially investigating the corporeal connections between medical, martial, spiritual and performance traditions in the region. Since 2008 he has been invited to several international conferences for Keynote lectures on Restoration of Breath including Finland, Norway, Spain, South Africa and India. In 2011 he organised the first International Natyasastra Conference in Varanasi in India in collaboration with University of Lincoln, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and Banaras Hindu University. He was awarded the Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowship in 2011 to develop restoration of breath as a wellbeing method for actors, dancers and singers. He accepted the Scholar-in Residence appointment at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 2012. During his visit in the United States of America, he lectured and conducted workshops for actors, dancers and singers at Columbia University and New York University. He is guest-editing a special issue on The Body for the Intellect journal of Studies in South Asian Film and Media.

Deborah Claire Procter (Wales) works independently making performances that are a hybrid of live art, dance and theatre. On graduating from Exeter University, she acted with Theatre Alibi, receiving through them extensive training with Gardzienice Theatre Association in the U.K. and Poland. She completed her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Wales (Cardiff), and in 2005 received the Creative Wales Award. Performing in numerous prestigious venues such as the Ferens (Hull), Spacex (Exeter), Hemsley Theatre (Madison - USA), and Museum Theatre (Madras); in 2004 she began making videos, one of which showed at the “Dance on Screen Festival” at The Place, London. Since 1995 she has trained intensively in NLP including with leading practitioners Stephen Gilligan, and NLP co-founder John Grinder. She teaches voice, performance and NLP as a part-time and guest lecturer in many institutions such as University of Glamorgan, University of Wales, Cardiff, and University of Baroda (India). Following a travel grant from the British Council she began collaborating with Argentinean composer Oscar Edelstein, and currently is working with him and her company Clear Insight Productions on a new opera about the links between Wales and Argentina.