To Stage Door or Not to Stage Door

Most thought the pandemic would kill stage dooring, but while insiders are consumed with Tony planning, actors are greeting appreciative audience members.

By: May. 15, 2023
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These last weeks, the industry has been consumed with Tony Awards drama. And the latest rumor on that front is that there are some still trying to appeal to the WGA, but awards will be given out on June 11 no matter. That might change by the time you read this and it is also worth noting that it is unimportant to the vast majority of people currently enjoying Broadway. I spoke to 50 people outside Broadway theaters this weekend and only four had heard about the Tony chaos at all. For once, this column is about the ticket buyers.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, there was a real backlash related to stage dooring. A lot of actors were leaving through alternate doors to avoid fans. There were stars posting on social media against the practice. And it was thought, if anything, the pandemic would kill stage dooring entirely. However, actors are again out there, acknowledging fans outside the theater. Even at times when the Equity/League agreement prohibited it because of Covid risk level, some actors really wanted to do it.

Sure there are exceptions. Sean Hayes of GOOD NIGHT, OSCAR consistently does not stop at the stage door; same with SOME LIKE IT HOT's Christian Borle. But most others who don't sign, such as PARADE's Ben Platt, typically at least wave to audience members. The night I was at the KIMBERLY AKIMBO stage door, Alli Mauzey snuck by fans, but she usually signs, just after this particular two-show day she did not. And that is the thing--as most theatergoers know, signing is not part of an actor's job, so you cannot expect them to stay every time. I was at SWEENEY TODD a night Jordan Fisher signed and took every selfie, but I've heard he usually leaves without fans noticing. Even THE THANKSGIVING PLAY's D'Arcy Carden--who is amazing with her many enthusiastic fans, spending an average of 40 minutes with them--slipped away unnoticed last Friday night.

Not everyone is Jessica Chastain. The A DOLL'S HOUSE star has made greeting people at the stage door such a part of her ritual that she talked about it in her SAG Award speech. The one day she wasn't feeling up to it, she posted on social media and urged fans to come back or leave Playbills at the stage door. I've watched her multiple times--after giving an extremely draining onstage performance--sign every Playbill and take every photo. But make no mistake, that is her personal choice.

As someone who never stage doored herself, I was surprised at some of what I witnessed. In coming columns, I'll detail what happened at each stage door--yes, Oscar Issac does do selfies--but in these weeks of drama, it is important to remember how important the audience is. And it was truly lovely to see so many actors interacting with audience members. Many that sign go through the line in five minutes or under, but those five minutes mean a lot to the people on the other side of the barricades.

I saw someone cry at meeting KIMBERLY AKIMBO's Victoria Clark. I spoke to ticket buyers from all over the world who were so excited to get a signed Playbill or picture to commemorate the experience. Is there a dark side to this all? Yes. Do fans sometimes say/do inappropriate things? Yes. Should actors feel obliged to interact with fans? No. But it is still heartening to witness. One night, Chastain thanked a gushing fan for coming to the show. She stated the simple truth when she said: "I definitely wouldn't be able to do it if you didn't come see it."

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