December 2004

Martin Challis

Scene4 The Struggle

I feel it. I know others feel it. The demon, the weight, the tendency, the grip of fear that comes with the knowledge that I am to perform a scene or monologue or do an exercise in class.Mind, heart and body at odds.

I am gripped by fear of judgement, exposure, failing - even success, possibly? The grip of knots in my belly, the shortening of breath and extra creases in my forehead – just a few of the many physiological responses that follow as a reaction to the knowledge I am about to perform!

My first reaction is to plan, predict and prepare the result. I start to panic - will I be any good, will I get it right, will they think I know what I'm doing? I want so much to succeed. If only……  If I submit, the mental noise will deafen and defeat me. The result will be, Martin O – Fear and Doubt

And even if I quell the fear enough to work on my piece or rehearse the monologue I know that part of me will not let the expectation of result leave my body. I can feel it now - the second wave; a controlling moderator who will have it all his way - he thinks he is protecting me from criticism - the enemy I attempt to deny I fear the most. He thinks that if I know what is coming next in the scene I will be safe and people will like my work. This part of me is craving praise: praise - softer than a lover's caress, sweeter than a forest honeysuckle in spring, warmer than a windless winter sun; yet deep down the dryness and predictability of control runs like a steady engine out of gear, and there is no real joy and no real journey. No spark or spontaneous rush, no blissful moment of delight or surprise - my performance is predictable - steady - worthy - un-eventful - un-remembered - moderate.

With this awareness I move to the next stage - calling on an internal tribal council, the Martin tribe confers - it is decided I should invoke the totem spirit of determination.

He comes to me; a gentle grizzly bear - brimming with potential - his eyes are set, immovable - with his help I release the grip of knots, steadily the rictus of control softens, I am pliable and sense a state of readiness.

At last I am ready to work on my piece - I feel open and ready to respond - the fear of not knowing has left me - I begin to enjoy this feeling. And so it goes, and I am reminded that ultimately I must commit to exploration if I wish to make discoveries. I must see each and every rehearsal as an exploration and when the time comes for performance trust the whole body (mind and heart) will remember the way.

©2004 Martin Challis

For more commentary and articles
 by Martin Challis, check the Archives.


Martin Challis is an actor and director
in Australia. He recently  commenced
a coursework Doctorate in Creative Industries
developing projects such as The Raw Theatre
and Training Company. He's also the director of
the Studio For Actors and Ensemble Works. 

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