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Column: My thoughts on introversion, stereotypes, theatre and tips

How being an introvert didn't stop me from getting into theatre.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/piehar/" target="_self">Pierce Harvey</a>

Pierce Harvey

March 26, 2022
When someone is referred to as a theatre person, there are generally a couple of stereotypes that are implied along with it. For example, they are often considered outgoing, enthusiastic and the center of attention. Most people think that having these traits is essential to doing well in theatre and getting up on stage; however, this is not particularly true.

I, on the other hand, am reserved, laid back and normally found either by myself or with a small group of close friends. In other words, I am an introvert.

But does that stop me from being a performer? Absolutely not.

Now, the word introvert has some of its own stereotypes to accompany it as well. The words I used to describe myself are just a few, but they are some of the more prominent ones in addition to antisocial, shy and not the best at publicly presenting themselves.

But the truth is, there is way more to it than what people generally assume. The traits given to us introverts typically have negative connotations in modern society, especially with how important it is to have social connections throughout life, but what people see as our weakness can really be considered our strength.

One example of this is how being untalkative, which is certainly not always the case, allows us to listen more, and in turn, use everything we’ve observed to make the best decisions going forward. I’m not saying that extroverts can not do this or that all introverts do happen to be like this, just that this is something we naturally tend to do and it is by no means a weakness. It is important to remember that every person is unique to themselves, and very rarely do they fall exactly into the stereotype of who they are or what they do.

Let’s take this back to theatre.

So far we have discerned what an introvert can be, what theatre people are thought to be, and that I, an introvert, have found myself where most people would never expect me to be. How I ended up performing on stages in front of large audiences is actually quite a simple story: I took a leap of faith and landed on my feet.

At first, I’ll admit that I was terrified, nervous and unsure if I had made the right choice. Having to get up and present scenes or songs in front of people whether they be strangers or friends was not exactly appealing to that little boy who liked to keep to himself and avoid attention.

Nevertheless, I stuck with it and quickly realized I had discovered a new passion. There are several places where introversion does make a noticeable effect on the theatre experience. The main two I’ll be talking about are making friends and being on stage.

Relationships are a huge part of theatre both offstage and while performing. Creating bonds and forming friendships with fellow actors is essential to having fun in the whole process and to gaining that much needed trust with your partners on stage. Unfortunately, this subject is also where introversion can butt its head in.

Approaching people and trying to strike up some small talk in the hopes that it will lead to new friends is a nightmare in itself for most introverts, including me, but there is hope. Theatre is primarily an art that requires collaboration with others no matter what role you may be playing, and more often than not, spending that much time with people will lead to creating some kind of bond.

In addition, theatre people are generally extroverted, and will more than likely attempt to make friends with you without you having to do anything. In my personal experience, both of these situations have rung true.

So to introverts, try not to worry too much about making quick friends because it really is, in a way, inevitable. And to extroverts, if you happen to see a lonely fellow on the outskirts, do them a favor and gently introduce them to a few of your friends. Because once you’re past the socializing part, theatre becomes a world of more fun.

While performing, there are many people involved. First, there is you, then there are your fellow actors, and last but not least, there is the audience. All of these parts are needed to have a proper show (unless it’s a one-man show). Learning and rehearsing a production is a feat all by itself, and not an easy one at that, but then taking what you’ve learned and presenting it to a live audience, that’s an entirely different thing with its own challenges.

All the same, it still has to be done. So how is someone, you might ask, able to get up in front of masses of people to tell a story when they often have trouble just talking to one person.

The truth is, you have to find what works for you. There is no one size fits all solution to social anxiety or trouble with public speaking, and it’s the same with performing in front of an audience.

But I can tell you what works for me. Practice and being in the moment. Making sure you know what you are doing is a comfort and something that needs to be done. Simply going over lines or blocking in your head at random times throughout the day will help prepare you for what’s to come, and help you feel more confident in your abilities.

Second, you have to remember that what you’re doing is telling a story. You are playing a character who lives in an entirely different world where no one else is, besides you and your partners on stage. What is happening is strictly between you and the people you trust, everyone else there is just along for the ride. Putting these two things into practice has greatly helped in my experience from the smaller scenes and exercises to actual shows where I have a lead role.

Theatre is a place of art, diversity, fun, friendship, storytelling and so many more wonderful things. It is not meant for only one type of person, with one type of personality or one type of mindset. It is meant for any who finds joy in it, no matter who they may be or where they might come from.

So don’t let petty stereotypes hold you back from giving something a try or doing what you love, because once you take that small step out of your comfort zone, you might just find yourself a new passion. And if all it costs is the occasional bundle of nerves or awkward situations, I’d say it’s pretty worth it.

Now, why should you trust such a big recommendation from just a simple teenager? Well, because I am an introvert, who does theatre.