The world is made for extroverts. As an introvert, I accept that — except when they invade what I consider to be introvert havens, like the theater. It’s bad enough when people (I assume extroverts) talk during the performance. It’s beyond disturbing, though, when the extroversion’s coming from inside the house.
Scrolling through social media, I saw an ad for A Christmas Carol at a professional theater nearby. In addition to touting the show, the enticement included the following:
An hour before each performance of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, members of our Community Ensemble join our patrons in the lobbies to greet, engage, and entertain.
Entertain? Sounds quaint and fun. Greet? OK, if you must. Engage? Absolutely not.
This is not the first time I’ve seen theaters forcing extroversion on introverted patrons like me, especially during the holidays. Previously, at the annual holiday show at another professional theater near me, actors in character greeted audience members pre-performance. Small talk is anathema to an introvert like me on a daily basis, but with an actor pretending to be somebody else, from a different era? It takes a world of energy for me just to speak to someone I’ve never met from my own time, circa now.
So how did I handle this extrovert intrusion? Contemplation: Should I fight the flight instinct and practice my introverting small talk skills? Should I become an actor for the evening by playing the small but pivotal role of Audience Extrovert, a person thrilled to partake in a tete-a-tete pre-show with Actor Pretending to Be Someone Else, Too? Or should I bolt through any door to the outside and come back when the lights dim indicating the show will soon begin?
I only wish I wore sneakers as running in heels is not easy.
So we’re still doing this. Isn’t it enough to deal with talking patrons and glowing cell phones when the lights go down? Who are the audience members that need to be spoken to pre-show, so much so that it’s part of the marketing plan? Does the anticipation of talking with a show’s character make people who wouldn’t usually attend now flock to the theater? If so, I want to see the numbers, and they better be big. Of course, there are probably many introverts who agree with me, but they’re staying silent, hiding in the bushes until the meet and greets are over, or otherwise engaged and unable to provide their opinions at this time.
A professional theater production means visiting another world while tucked safely behind the fourth wall, or if the actors do speak to audience members, it’s collectively and from the stage. Theater’s a gift that usually allows me to escape the norms of the outside world’s expectation of engaging in a more extroverted way on a daily basis.
If this trend continues, I’ll hope for an an Introverts Only night. Picture it: an evening of silence before, during, and after the performance. Introverts are seated without discussion and minus character meet and greets. We enjoy the show and leave without having the contemplation about what just happened on stage interrupted.
Note to theater marketers: At the very least, please schedule some holiday nights without the pre-performance chit-chat. If you decide to schedule an Introverts Only event (which you won’t), please don’t make it January 2nd. That’s World Introvert Day, celebrated (mostly quietly) by those who prefer introspection (among the many fun facets of introversion). Yes, we get a special day, a reward for overexposure to extroversion especially during this festive (and overstimulating) time of year. We have big plans for this year’s celebration tomorrow. Everyone celebrates differently, but my fun will include being alone, reading, taking a long and bubbly bath, turning off all electronic connection-y attention-clamoring devices, and, most importantly, not talking to a single soul all day long.
No matter what you decide, I thank you for your consideration, and, as Tiny Tim and Scrooge say at the end of A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, every one.” But don’t bless me with one-on-one chats before the performance, OK?