Parenting from the Wings: At the Stagedoor
They say you should never meet your heroes, it'll only disappoint. That rule doesn't apply at the stage door.
For the last few years, my daughter's love of theater has grown exponentially and her dream of one day doing eight shows a week on Broadway has intensified. With that-and thanks to lotteries, overwhelming family generosity and the pooling of every birthday and holiday gift-she has been lucky enough to see more than a few Broadway shows.
I can't remember the first time she went to a stage door after a show, but now it is as much a part of our theater routine as reading the Playbill bios. While I may be remiss in remembering the details of that initial signing, I have vivid memories of every kind gesture made along those metal guardrails since. Performers, big names and newcomers, have amazed me each time with their generosity of time and spirit.
I don't know what it feels like to do eight shows a week, or even one. I don't know the energy needed to do what these talented people do. But I'm pretty sure I'd be tired when it was over. I wouldn't necessarily want to stand against a metal gate and take selfie-after-selfie or sign 100 Playbills. I don't know that I'd have the patience to listen to young fans stumble over their words and tell stories that seem to go in circles while the next person is demanding your time, too.
But these Broadway people aren't me-and it's not just their ability to sing, dance, and act that sets them apart from us typical humans. Whether it has been scorching hot or freezing, in rain and even snow, there has not been a time when at least someone didn't come out and show appreciation, sign a Playbill, smile for a photo, and make the theater experience even better than it had already been. Many have even attempted to make a personal connection. One actor saw my daughter's jacket from a nearby regional theater, asked if she had performed there, and talked about shows he had done with them.
There are so many stage door stories, but here are just a few more of my favorite moments:
At Be More Chill, a security guard informed the crowd that George Salazar would come out, but he had been put on vocal rest after the show. Salazar, of course, should have gone straight home for tea and steam. Typical people would be preoccupied about the status of the vocal chords that a career depends on. Instead, he came out as promised and was all enthusiasm and gigantic silent smiles for every obsessed kid who would no doubt go home singing Michael in the Bathroom in their best attempts to match Salazar's sound.
One afternoon, Christy Altomare stood pleasantly outside despite the post-matinee summer heat and two-show day. My daughter hadn't seen Anastasia that day but happened to be walking by and see Altomare. The young girls on line next to my daughter began singing for the Anastasia star. Emboldened by Altomare's kindness to the singing girls, my daughter told her that she was going to be performing Journey to the Past in a camp show at the end of the week. Altomare then stood there and gave her advice, detailed performance tips on the song.
My daughter has never been lucky enough to see Kristin Chenoweth in a show, but has gone to a couple of her concerts. Each time, Chenoweth has come out and talked with her. She even told her to never let go of her Broadway dream. There's no way the original Glinda would ever remember the exchange, but we will never forget it.
And these phenomenal talents haven't just been incredible in person. Many have responded to comments on Instagram. One night, my daughter's friend went to see a show and then, as just I'm yelling at her to go to bed, her favorite male star of the moment is on FaceTime, just saying hi and asking why she didn't come to the show. Who does that? Actually, let's leave that rhetorical, so the poor guy doesn't start to get a million FaceTime requests.
I know everyone isn't so kind. I know there are divas. There are stars too big to make a stage door stop possible-even if they wanted to do it. But we have had only one interaction that wasn't great. It wasn't bad, mind you, but the woman seemed disinterested. That's as bad as it gets. Disinterested. And even that didn't last. We happened to run into the same performer at the Broadway Flea Market, and she couldn't have been nicer.
If this all sounds fawning, so be it. There are not adequate words to describe a parent seeing her child's idols be so kind. It has often been the much-needed light on a difficult middle school week. And every time we walk away from another stage door, I tell my daughter to remember those moments of kindness, patience, and generosity-that will be the most important thing she can replicate if she is ever lucky enough to follow in their footsteps.