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An Introvert in the Theater Department

An Introvert in the Theater Department. I know; sounds like a hemophobic person going to nursing school. Why would you do it?

Well, the answer is simple; introverts like me were made for the theater. Now, that’s not to say that extroverts can’t be actors or that they don’t have talent for the theater, nor does it mean that extroverts make bad actors. Both introverts and actors can be excellent actors. It just means that both personality types have to work hard on different aspects of the theater or putting on a facade.

Extroverts are made to handle the social side of the theater. They can tackle stage fright head on (assuming they have any). They’re not afraid to help promote the show through interviews and public appearances.  Public speaking and auditions don’t bother them so much. These are the things that introverts can and do struggle with the most in theater.

Meanwhile, introverts handle the academic side of theater very well. They can memorize quickly and easily. When an introvert steps on or off stage, you feel like they are still apart of the world. Not like they just stepped into, say, 1930s Ireland from 21st Century America. They can analyze the character play. Even if they only play a nameless, bit part, an introvert can come up with that character’s entire backstory for their one minute in the spotlight.

Let me tell you right here and now that getting on stage and becoming another person isn’t hard for me. I’ve been putting on one-woman shows for myself as early as the age of six. The JOB doesn’t faze me.

It’s the social aspect of the job that bothers me.

If you’re lucky, you know your cast mates relatively well, but there’s a possibility you, as the character, have to do something very intimate with another actor who you are acquainted with, at best. You may have to kiss them. You may have to fight them. Both scenarios require trust, something introverts have a hard time giving to someone at the drop of a hat. You have to trust that the actor is a professional who knows the rules and boundaries.

Even if they aren’t, you have to trust your director/stage manger/fight choreographer or whoever to the point that you can come to them with problems and they will take care of it appropriately. That can be very hard for us.

Sometimes there is drama behind the drama; people who are part of the play who are being passive aggressive or fighting, whether it’s with you or someone else. A professional actor knows that the competition ends once the cast list is up. They have to put aside all of their negative feelings to make sure the show doesn’t fall apart at the seams.

However, every so often you have the immature people who never learn. They’ll start being catty and start forming cliques to stir up some drama.

As an introvert, I myself hate drama and want nothing to do with it. Sometimes that’s as easy as bringing my earbuds and my homework. Sometimes it’s a lot harder. You have to find a corner where no one will bring you into the fight, but you still need to be able to hear what’s going on on-stage so you don’t miss your cue.

Take comfort though; the drama people who cause trouble are going to take it too far sooner or later. When a director or producer deals with a drama king or queen first hand, they MAY be kind enough to allow the person to remain in the show until the run is over. After that, all bets are off. They will never hire that person again and they will tell everyone else not to hire that person ever. Causing trouble does come with consequences.

And then there’s the cast parties. Even though your show probably goes til 10 o’clock in the evening, the cast parties are usually right after a performance. After you get to college, you can bet that alcohol is gonna be within arms reach. Maybe there will even be some drugs. Some people may get so drunk or high that they start acting a little foolish, at best. A huge party with a lot of loud, drunk, and possibly high people who will do anything from drag racing to streaking is not exactly an introvert’s favorite place to be.

You MIGHT go to the party if it happens to fall on a day when you didn’t have to deal with a lot of people and if you’re not completely fed up with your cast mates and crew. I might even join in the festivities to an extent. But I plan on being the first to leave the party. Two hours is the longest I can last that late into the evening with that wild of a group.

And if you don’t go to the party or if you leave early, people tend to wonder what your problem is. “Why are you such a stick in the mud? Why don’t you like to have fun?”

Because our definition of fun is very different. For me, fun is going home, having a cast party of one. We enjoy drinking and eating alone. We like staying up late to do what WE want. And we like going to bed and sleeping in late.

Just because we’re not the social butterflies everyone expects us to be does not mean that we can’t be artists.

All the world's a stage

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Edited by Viveca Shearin

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How Much of a Social Introvert Are You?

An Introvert in the Theater Department