The Actor’s Nightmare

Every actor has experienced it. The Actor’s Nightmare. Standing on stage naked. Standing on stage and realizing you don’t know your lines. Standing on stage and realizing there’s a third act you’ve never rehearsed. I haven’t acted in years and I STILL have dreams about being thrust into the middle of a play and not having a clue as to what’s going on.

There’s even talking about it over at the New York Times.

Some of that is spill over from the real nerves that can come from standing in front of an audience. Stage fright is a scary thing. It’s funny, when I used to act, whenever I was on stage acting as another person, I never got nightmare nervous. I never worried about going up on my lines, or worried about the audience, or being in the wrong place in the wrong time. Something about being another person just took the nerves away.

Now, being in front of an audience as myself and doing a workshop or giving a speech terrifies me. I’ve been doing workshops for over ten years and I still get nervous. I have to practice my speech over and over again (I write out the text of the speech as if I were learning lines). And my nightmare in that situation is showing up at a conference and seeing that the workshop I’m down for, is not the one I’ve prepared. Nightmare city. I don’t ad-lib and I don’t wing it.

What is your worst actor’s nightmare?

About the author

Lindsay Price


  • My nightmare and happened for real is to open my mouth to speak and nothing came out.  Complete disconnect between brain and voice.  Paralized.

  • Opening a door only to realize it’s the stage door, it’s places in five and, not only am I not prepared in any way to go on nor do I not know the play I am about to perform, I didn’t even realize I was SUPPOSED to perform……. I am asking questions of a beloved colleague (usually one I haven’t seen in ages) and they look back at me in disapproval and consternation. And then they place a prop in my hand I’ve never seen before! The loss of reputation, or losing the esteem of someone I love,  I suppose, that’s my actor’s nightmare. 

  • I have two.

    1) I show up for the first readthrough and nobody has any clue who I am or what I’m doing there.

    2) I’m doing a two act play. It’s opening night and we suddenly discover that there’s a third act we completely forgot to rehearse.

  • Och god, I just had my first one.
    I’m guessing it’s because I have a show in two days. Anyways, seeing as I just woke up.

    (So basically I recently missed half a rehearsal. )

    I came to the show, late. The audience was already there. The other actors were performing a different scene as scene one.
    I went back stage and I couldn’t find my costume. I panicked, I could see a lot of other costumes, costumes that the other actors should be wearing.
    The room where they keep the props had a bunch of costumes and everything was a huge mess.
    I heard them call for me. I couldn’t.
    I didn’t know my lines, nor did I have my costume. I found a book. A book with the entire script in it, except everything was changed, a lot of completely unrelated things added. Way to many details I couldn’t possibly remember. My character was showered in even more monologues.
    Finally, I awkwardly walked on stage to the other actors who were terribly ad-libbing, without a main character…. (me)
    Now I see that my most important prop isn’t there and that none of my other props were rigged. I just kept going, reading in that book, sitting on the floor. The worst part is that I believed, really believed, that this was real.