DTA research seminar: Bella Merlin, Facing the Fear: An Actor's Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

Selly Oak Campus - venue TBC
Tuesday 12 November 2019 (16:00-17:30)

  • DTA research seminar

‘Stage fright’ used to be a shameful secret. Yet increasingly over the past few years, well known actors have been forthcoming about the realities and vulnerabilities of the art form. In this practice-based research presentation, Stanislavsky-based actor and writer Bella Merlin shares her own journey, when towards the end of a five-month performance run of David Hare’s The Permanent Way (co-produced by Out of Joint/National Theatre in 2004), she suffered acute stage fright. Having acted for over a decade without any issues, the experience was a shock. She then went on an extensive voyage of interdisciplinary research into why we suffer performance anxiety and how we might face the demons. Her research culminated in the book Facing the Fear: An Actor’s Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright(Nick Hern Books, 2016). In this presentation Merlin focuses primarily on the work of the actor embodying a fictional character. Topics include ‘What is stage fright?’ (from a physical and psychological perspective); how fear manifests itself; some neuroscientific perspectives; the nature of the actor-audience relationship; rehearsal-room conditions; and how we can help ourselves handle performance stresses. While we may never be able to beat the enemy of stage fright, we can embrace its presence and (in the words of The Beatles) Let It Be!

Bella Merlin is an actor, writer and professor of acting and directing at the University of California, Riverside. She has a BA Hons and a PhD from the University of Birmingham, and took her graduate studies at the State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Performances include seasons at Shakespeare & Company, Massachusetts; Colorado Shakespeare Festival; National Theatre, London; BBC TV and Radio; and two one-person plays created as practice-as-research (Tilly No-Body: Catastrophes of Love and Nell Gywnne: A Dramatick Essaye on Acting and Prostitution.) Most recently, she starred in the award-winning movie Mente Revolver with Mexican writer/director Alejandro Ramirez (First Prize – Alhambra Oro Award – at the 2018 Granada International Film Festival). Merlin has written 6 books on acting including The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit (NHB) and the forthcoming Shakespeare & Company (Routledge, 2020) with acclaimed Anglo-American director Tina Packer.

Open to Postgraduates and final year undergraduates as well as academic staff