I am an actor. That being said, I also consider myself to be an introvert. This has caused confusion among people who only know me from endeavours outside of the theatrical world. Telling people about the show I’m in, or that I’d like to pursue a career in theatre often leads to responses like “You know, actors have to talk a lot right?” or “You’re going to have to learn to be more outgoing if you want to do that.” I never really know how to respond to this, or where to start, as these people probably have misunderstandings in two areas. One being what introversion really is and the other being what being a performer really entails.
Introversion is generally defined as someone who gains energy from being alone, while extroverts energize by being around other people. Generally, people tend to fall on one side of the introvert/extrovert scale more than the other, but in reality, most people tend to be some sort of mix of the two. A common misunderstanding is that introversion is the same thing as being shy. People tend to picture introverts as the wallflowers, the ones who prefer to stay out of the spotlight and blend into the background. While this can be true in some cases, it’s not necessarily a valid assumption to make about every introvert.
In my case, this was definitely true when I was younger. I was painfully shy and the thought of being in the center of attention was terrifying. I always had a longing to be an actor though, so I signed up for drama classes when I was in the second grade. It wasn’t always easy, improv games were my worst fear, having to make things up on the spot was a huge fuel to my anxiety. But when I was given a script, where the lines were written for me, and I could completely immerse myself into someone else’s mind, the anxiety didn’t seem to get in my way. The great thing about acting is that you get to become someone else, which in a way, makes it an appealing field for someone who is slightly uncomfortable in their own skin.
It should also be noted that introverts don’t necessarily hate being around other people. The stereotype that they’d all prefer to spend every waking hour of their life alone is extremely incorrect. In fact, it tends to be that introverts actually enjoy companionship with others, but they need time to unwind and recharge on their own at the end of the day. I feel that there’s a stigma that comes with introversion, that it’s something that someone needs to get over or overcome, in order to be successful in any field that requires communication. Introversion shouldn’t be seen as a flaw that needs to be fixed, but rather an asset to how a person goes about growing and learning.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve definitely become more outgoing, though I could still definitely be referred to as shy at times. I still define myself as a major introvert, but simply an introvert who would rather be on stage under the spotlight than the life of the party at a social gathering. I encourage directors, drama teachers, etc. who work with young performers not to ignore the shy kids who may seem out of place in a class full of outgoing children bouncing off the walls. As someone who has been that kid, I’ve realized adults tend to find it easier to simply push the shy kids further into the background because they won’t complain.
The theatre should be a place of acceptance, where extroverts and introverts can find success whether it be onstage or backstage no matter where they fall on the spectrum.