Photo by McKenzi Thi Murphy
Written by McKenzi Thi Murphy
I am an avid theatergoer to the point where it is probably not financially healthy. To put my love into numbers, in 2018 I attended 15 Broadway shows and in my lifetime, 47. Despite my love of theatre, and my love of many Broadway actors, I do not like stage dooring. The premise of it sounds delightful – after a show, actors will sometimes come out through the stage door and sign playbills and meet fans, a fun time for everyone.
However, recently stage dooring has become downright toxic and people have later said on social media how the chaos of the crowds, the pushing and shoving and screaming, has triggered anxiety attacks. If I were an actor in a Broadway show, I would sooner sneak out a third story window than face some of the hoards I have seen.
In my life I have stage doored only once, and only because it was closing weekend for “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” (I saw it three times that weekend, and regret nothing) and a bittersweet time for everyone involved. Thankfully, that was a wonderful experience. Fans were largely patient and polite, and as a small person I was able to get fairly close without being crushed. My signed playbill is now a prized possession.
That being said, I have walked past and observed various stage doors in action from safe distances and it is entirely understandable why it would cause people to panic.
Being able to meet cast members at stage doors is a privilege, not a right, and the actors should be respected and met with civility, not uncontrollable high-pitched shrieking and shoving.
Particularly since “Hamilton,” stage dooring has become something people expect, and they sometimes become angry when it does not happen. Prior to that, stage dooring was a relatively quiet affair where very few people would stick around after a show had ended and chat casually with some of the cast. Realistically, the hyping of this little bonus event is done to promote the show, not because actors necessarily want to deal with a hundred screaming teenagers.
I have seen people angrily tweet at cast members who did not show up as though they were owed something. I have seen young fans inappropriately reaching over the barriers to touch and grope at their favorite actor. I have seen blatant shoving of fellow stage doorers just to get a little closer.
This notion that cast members are obligated to stage door and sign things for you and this atmosphere of ugly screaming masses are unacceptable. It is disrespectful for the cast, and for fellow patrons.
If you stage door, please be polite, don’t push even if you think you won’t get a chance to get close and remember you are not guaranteed anything.
Theatre, and call me elitist, is not a concert. Theatre is a more sophisticated setting. Not to say it’s only for the old and rich, because clearly that is both unsustainable and exclusionary, but I’ve seen a significant devolution in how people behave as more younger fans join the party.
To be fair, I don’t want to put the blame solely on younger people because I’ve also seen many rude old white people who feel entitled to an appearance and tweet about it after they don’t get one. But people our age and younger are used to actors being active with their fanbase and have come to expect it. We must remember these are real people who have other commitments and may not be able to stay an hour after a show ends at 11 p.m.
Just…be kind. That is the first rule.
Be gracious. Know that just because you are there does not mean you will get anything. And if you don’t get what you came for, or you have a bad experience because you missed out, that’s how it goes sometimes and that has to be okay.