Songs for the Struggling Artist


The Quiet Revolution in Theatre
July 7, 2013, 9:41 pm
Filed under: art, theatre | Tags: , , , ,

Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, is said to have a started a Quiet Revolution. As one of the quiet people, I could not be happier about this new world in which I can come out of the introverted closet and finally declare that sometimes, I just don’t want to declare anything.

I am an introvert (though I can absolutely pass for an extrovert when I want to) and I am ready for a world that makes space for people like me. I have, I confess, grown a bit weary of pretending to be extroverted. I am signing up for this revolution! But my big question is: Can the revolution extend into the theatre?

The form is full of extroverts and so much of theatre training is essentially training in how to be more extroverted, how to get it all out there, how to DO before you THINK, how to lose your inhibitions. Is there a place for introverts in the heart of the extroverted fortress? Can you love both solitude and theatre? I do but it isn’t easy.

Introverts tend to thrive in quieter environments, working well on our own, thinking things through, speaking less but processing more. We mull things over, we chew on them. We are interested in ideas. We relate best one on one, can hang back in a group. We are lousy self-promoters. In the theatre, these things are rarely assets. But I wonder how we could make them so.

I think the American theatre suffers from an imbalance of extroversion. Evolutionary biologists suggest that introverts and extroverts (of all kinds of species) evolved as a survival strategy. The extroverts charge ahead, the introverts hang back and each strategy encourages the survival of the other. When I go to the theatre, I feel like I see almost nothing but thoughtless charging forward. I often hear myself saying, “Didn’t anybody think this through?” and also, “All that shouting up there is exhausting!”

I think we need more introverts in theatre and not just the ones that are good at pretending to be extroverts. We need the actors that take things in slowly and then surprise us with their wisdom. We need directors that can hang back and look at things clearly. We need writers that listen very carefully before distilling thoughts into words. We need designers who are able to listen and to make surprising, thoughtful connections. We need less shouting, on stage and off.

If you have any ideas about how to instigate a Quiet Revolution in Theatre, please share them. Let’s take some time to think about this (as we do) and then, Revolution! Theatrical Introverts Unite, very quietly!

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1 Comment so far
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Yes! I completely agree, and I will sign up for that revolution right there with you. I would like to echo your call for introverts everywhere in theatre. Many of the introverts I know in theatre have been successful stage managers. That’s great, and we also need them in a variety of roles. The introvert skill set (superpowers I guess) of listening, careful thinking and problem solving serve all kinds of theatre artists well.

Comment by Meredyth Pederson




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