Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: An Introvert’s Guide to Theater

Marissa Skudlarek, helping from the wings.

Theater Pub’s August show, the Pint-Sized Plays, had two very successful, well-attended performances on Monday and Tuesday of this week. We packed the venue; extra chairs were brought out, people sat on the edge of the stage. Since I am the Pint-Sized Tsarina (i.e., producer), this made me feel incredibly gratified and excited. But it’s also left me feeling a little run down.

You see, I’m an introvert, which is a personality trait that you might expect to be rare in the theater world. At least in the United States, the stereotypical “theater person” is a brassy, extroverted show-off. I’m not actually sure how true that is. I don’t know a lot of people who conform to that stereotype, and I tend to find it incredibly annoying when people do behave that way. There probably are a whole lot of introverts involved in theater, but it’s not something that we talk about much. We put on a charming, sociable facade in order to schmooze and network (we are actors, after all) — and then we go home and crash.

I’m using the word “introvert” in the classic psychological sense, here: someone who is worn out by social interactions, particularly those involving large crowds and lots of small talk. I’m not particularly shy, and I don’t get stage fright, as anyone who saw me singing Beatles karaoke on Monday night can attest. And I’m not a recluse: I enjoy emotional intimacy and time spent with close friends, and it’s a very bad sign when I withdraw completely from human interaction. But large-scale socialization wears me out, and I do best when I have mentally prepared for it. (For the love of God, do not throw me a surprise party.) Lately, I’ve tried to become more aware of where my tipping point is – I refer to it as my “introvert crash,” by analogy with “sugar crash.” There comes a moment where I know that I’ve had enough socialization, and if I don’t smile and say goodbye right then, I will become tired and crabby and disgruntled.

In the case of the Pint-Sized Plays, I was so busy overseeing all of the different elements of the show that I neglected to give myself the mental preparation and self-care that I need before dealing with crowds. I’ve found it very hard to get out of bed the last few mornings, and it’s not like I’ve been staying up till all hours. It’s just that spending a couple of nights in a row at a crowded bar will wear me out.

As Pint-Sized producer, I actually have to go from extreme extroversion to extreme introversion as soon as the stage manager calls “Places.” Before the show, I bustle about, trying to make sure everything is in order, handing out drink tickets to nineteen actors and one musician, making sure the audience knows Theater Pub is about to start and has a comfortable seat, greeting old friends and briefly catching up with them. During the show, I stand by the light switches, dimming and raising the lights to call attention to the plays being staged in different areas of the bar. It’s enough to give you whiplash — but the quiet, introverted part of it is where I feel most at home.

Recently, The Atlantic published an essay by novelist Meghan Tifft complaining about how, especially in this age of social media, writers are expected to be more extroverted than they were previously. Her introversion sounds much more severe than mine; she gets nerves and stage fright in a way that I don’t. While I sympathize with her plight, I don’t agree with her ultimate conclusion. “Since when does making art require participation in any community, beyond the intense participation that the art itself is undertaking? Since when am I not contributing to the community if all I want to do is make the art itself?” Tifft writes. And I kind of want to answer “Well, since forever.” (I also wonder how Tifft’s fellow writers feel about her suggestion that all authors are pasty, mousy-haired types who should never be seen in public.)

I do think the arts community – whether it’s theater, literature, or anything else – is healthier when its members socialize and connect with one another, rather than keeping to themselves. And one of the things I like about playwriting, as opposed to other forms of writing, is that it allows for a short, intense period of human interaction (staging the show) after the long, arduous, introverted process of writing the damn play. I may be an introvert, but I was never so lonely and unhappy as I was during my first year or so in San Francisco, when I dearly wanted to become involved in theater but didn’t know where I could find my community.

I don’t want to stop socializing and attending events and making human connections. I like human connections; that’s why I’m a playwright. I just wish that the effort didn’t tire me out so much. Any fellow introverts have any tips on how to manage this? Come on out; don’t be shy.

Marissa Skudlarek would love for you to come see the Pint-Sized Plays on August 24 or 25 — just forgive her if she doesn’t want to make small talk afterwards. You can also find Marissa online at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud. 

The Five: Dear TBA Awards, It’s Not You, It’s Me: An existential crisis in five parts.

Anthony R. Miller checks in with his adventures at the TBA awards.

I have no business leaving the house tonight.

The situation was this: Terror-Rama had been closed for about a week. I was still pretty exhausted and drained. I’m the kind of person who needs a significant amount of alone time, especially after having to be Mr. Social for days on end. The 4 day weekend had granted me the ability to finally put my house back together. And then I remembered “Oh no, I have the TBA awards ”. A wave of anxiety swept over me. I had committed over a month ago, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But here I was, fully nested and liking it. I hadn’t left the house in 2 days and was pretty happy about it. At that moment leaving terrified me. But dammit, I said I was going! There was a ticket waiting for me. If I didn’t go, my friend was out the price. So if I didn’t go, I’m a dick. Broke and feeling very introverted, the next thing I know I’m ironing my suit jacket. Fun Fact about me, the better I dress, the less confident I’m actually feeling. Take that supermarket magazine isle advice column clichés! I combed my hair but it didn’t help. I was longing to be back in my PJs ordering cheap pizza and binge watching Rescue Me before I left the apartment.

All alone while in a room full of friends.

I take my seat amongst my fellow TheatrePub bloggers up in the Himalayas, because apparently Tier 3 isn’t just a voting designation, it’s a seating section. I look around and realize I know everybody here. I have worked with, done a show with, seen a show of, or served wine to everyone in the building. And hey, I’m a theatre guy, these are my peers, this is my community. In spite of that, I felt like I had no business being there. I mean who was I? Why the fuck do I feel like I’m crashing the prom right now? I was feeling like a square peg in a round peg world. I know it’s not rational, especially when I’m basically at a convention for square pegs. But for whatever reason, I just felt irrelevant. I found myself feeling like not only did I have no business going out tonight, I had no business being there.

Fuck this, I’m bored.

About 30 minutes into the proceedings, I started to feel claustrophobic. This is probably because I was sitting in the dead center of the 2nd to last row, trapped amongst people. And while I was amusing myself pretty well by making snarky comments about, well, EVERYTHING. My bad mood was starting to take effect. Things I would regularly like, I loathed. People I regularly care about felt tedious to communicate with. Someone is singing “Marry Me A Little”?, shoot me! Why did I hate all of it? I love that song; I love the woman singing it! Why does everything suck right now? And I was freaking out a little. But I couldn’t just leave, after all, I felt obligated to be there, this is the community I want to be part of, why aren’t I enjoying their party? Like I mentioned earlier, I was broke. So I couldn’t just drink until it was fun. Besides, if throwing back a few drinks was the only thing making the night tolerable (including me), that might be a problem in itself. So I tucked my jacket under my seat and headed out to the lobby, I figured at least I could watch on the TV screen and feel alone with more leg room.

The places you have come to fear the most.

In the lobby was my savior of the night, my dear old friend Chloe. She had no interest in going back either, so I decided to hang out with her and just smile at the people who were happy to see her. Fuck she is popular, I’m pretty sure she knows everyone here too. But the difference is that she was able to appear happy to see all of them. Maybe she actually was, I dunno. A big part of theatre is putting on a show, socially. I’m perfectly capable of schmoozing, but not tonight. I didn’t have it in me. For me, the energy it takes to be a social person has to be built up over time, and my batteries were not recharged. Like my phone, I left the house at 50%, now I’m somewhere around 20%. So I guess this is one time, (Sing it with me):


I had nothing to offer anyone there, which made me start to think maybe I didn’t have anything offer ever. Why am I so shitty at the game? One of the hardest things to balance is the fact that writing and producing isn’t enough, there’s a million social obligations. I suck at social obligations; all I really want to do is hide in my office and write. How do all these people do it? Everyone seems like they’re happy to be there and they all seem to be part of something. Meanwhile, I’m just standing here waiting for someone to validate me. Imagine feeling something like that at an award show. Okay, Okay, I get it, I’m probably not the only one!

I’m a loner Dottie, a rebel

So what does this all mean? Essentially I’ve just written “Anthony was having a bad day”. But it was bigger than that. It made me take a long look at myself and ask “why the fuck Am I here?” I want to feel like a part of this, but this doesn’t seem like the way to do it. I’d rather just do my thing. Put on good shows, be kind to people, create great experiences for people. That appeals more to me than going to every party, seeing every show. And while I think it’s important to make social appearances and show that you care, maybe being a schmoozer isn’t my style. The only times I have succeeded, I mean truly kicked ass, was when I tossed away the rulebook and did it my way. I embrace my square peggedness. And you know what? I don’t like award shows. When the Sex Pistols got inducted to the Rock & Roll hall of fame, they didn’t go, they just wrote a letter saying awards were stupid and if the Sex Pistols showed up, then they wouldn’t be the Sex Pistols. , I don’t do this for a trophy, though I would absolutely put one on my tchotchke shelf alongside my Judy Garland mug, the picture of my daughter, and the Ninja Turtle figurine. I’d probably do just fine at the acceptance speech to, I’m not shy- but I’d have to hide in a room after, as it would use up every ounce of extroversion I possessed that week. And I like recognition as much as the next person. I think recognizing these incredibly talented people is important. BUT, I also recognize when I’m not good at something. So I didn’t have a great time, and that’s not your fault TBA awards. But it seems like I gotta do this my way, not that I have any idea what that is yet. Can we consider live streaming it next year? I’ll host, but I’m not promising I won’t cut out periodically to watch funny parody videos on YouTube

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, director, producer and shameless theatre tickets salesman. His show, Zombie! The Musical! Live in Concert! Performs for one night only at Terra Gallery on Dec 14th.