Totally Engrossed

I am aware that I have lots of quirks, pet peeves and weird ways of looking at things. Sometimes I wonder how I got to be the way I am, especially if someone points out my oddness.

I am not much one for small talk in general and I think my inclination to being an introvert is getting stronger as I get older. I am trying to fight my desire to just give in and become a recluse. I am also trying to fight my feelings of annoyance with almost everything.

I have always been irritated by people who talk during a play or movie. I want no comments, no side remarks, NOTHING said during anything I am watching. After spending time as a theatre critic, I have added not wanting to talk much before or after a play either.

I really thought during those few years of reviewing that I wanted to take notes and not be influenced by any comments from anyone. After the show I did not want to be questioned about what I thought or what I was going to write. I tried to slip in and out quietly and anonymously, but as I became more and more known, that became harder and harder.

Since retiring from that job, I still want to slip into a show and back out as quietly and quickly as possible. I have always disliked the “standing at the stage door” conversations, both as an actor and as an audience member. It always seems artificial and forced. As a stage manager and director I am finding that it is easier to stay busy backstage until most of the crowd leaves, so I am learning to enjoy the anonymity of those jobs, even as I feel pulled by my inner being to get back on stage.

Yesterday I was ableĀ  to sit and read an entire book. It was a really short collection of letters, but nonetheless, a whole book. As I finished reading, I needed to just sit and ponder the words I had just taken in. They were inspirational and heartfelt and I just needed a minute to think about the world I had been in before I re-entered the real world.

And then it hit me.

When I read a play, I envision the actors I know in the roles and stage the whole show as I read. When I enter the world of a book, I picture the people and places and things as they are described and I become a part of the world I am reading about. And when I see a movie or play, I forget where I actually am and become totally consumed into the world I am watching.

Talking to me during the show brings me out of the world I had gone to and brings me abruptly back to the theatre where I sit. I become so focused as I watch or read that it is almost painful to be yanked out of the story and back to reality.

I am a slow thinker- I analyze, rethink, and contemplate for days after a good play or movie. Talking too quickly after an interesting book or intriguing play breaks those moments of absorption that follow my total immersion into another place.

And trying to have small talk really seems not only impossible, but irreverent. (If I am in a play and have actually been a character in this different world, then I really have a hard time trying to have a normal conversation!)

I realize that I am a loner and that I tend to enjoy pursuits that I can do alone. I also truly enjoy teaching, real conversations, and collaborating, so explain that one!

But when I find myself immersed in good art, whether written on the page or performed in front of me, I tend to shut myself off and disappear into a different place. And reentry to reality is slow and thoughtful.

So if I slip away or seem out of sorts after a show, it is because I was so engrossed that I am not back here yet. Or I guess it could be because I am such an introvert that I am just being socially awkward. No, the first reason sounds better- we’ll just go with that one!


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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.