Broadway Stage Doors: Tips & Tricks & Etiquette

Hello again! I know, I know–I’ve posted more blog entries in the past week than I usually do in six months! But I received a comment on my last post from Aubrey, asking about some tips for visiting the stage door of a show. I started to write a comment to answer, but then I realized that this would really be better as a full-fledged entry. So here we are!

First of all, some general information. After you see an amazing piece of theater, you can usually go to the stage door. This is especially true for Broadway productions, but I’ve stage doored in Chicago as well. At the stage door, you oftentimes have the chance to see some of the actors, get your Playbill signed, sometimes you can get pictures with the cast members, etc. It’s pretty awesome, especially when there’s an actor in the show who you really like. For me, the highlight of my stage dooring is probably having Lin-Manuel Miranda take my phone to take some selfies with me, and chatting with Jonathan Groff’s adorable aunt while Jonathan signed stuff and took pictures. You can have some really fun times at the stage door.

But for someone who’s never done it before…what should you know? There are probably people who can offer more insight than me, but I’ll give whatever tips I can! I’ve come up with a few common questions I’ve seen people asking around about stage doors, including things that my friend B asked me during our trip, and some questions a little girl was asking me before Hamilton. I’m also going to talk a little about stage door etiquette and some other tips that you might find helpful.

Q & A

  1. What the heck is the stage door? Good question! The stage door is the cast/crew entrance to the theater. More importantly, it’s their exit from the theater after the show.
  2. What do you do at the stage door? Mostly, you wait. There will usually be a barricade set up and you’ll stand on one side of that, as directed by the security personnel at the stage door. Do not disobey security. Line up wherever they tell you to. Make sure you’ve kept your Playbill–the program booklet the ushers give you when you go inside the theater. That’s what the actors will generally sign, unless you have other merchandise from the show (like a poster or a souvenir program or a soundtrack) that you’d rather they sign.
  3. Where the heck is the stage door? The answer is different for every theater. Sometimes, it’s on the same side of the street as the main door, but sometimes it’s on another block entirely. There’s actually a really fantastic post here that I use as my go-to to find the stage door for whatever theater I’m going to. They have pictures and everything (the stage door won’t always look the same–it usually has some art or sign on it relating to the show currently running–but it’s still a good frame of reference). From my last post, I was asked specifically about the theater where She Loves Me is playing–Studio 54. The stage door for Studio 54 is a little tricky. The main door for the theater is on 54th St, but the stage door is on 53rd St. The quickest way to get there is through the back door, which spits you out right beside the stage door. The ushers will open up that back door after the show, so you’ll be able to find it pretty easily. You can also exit the main door of the theater and walk around the block, but that takes more time.
  4. How long do you have to wait at the stage door? This varies, again. Usually, you should be prepared to be at the stage door for at least 45 minutes after the show. I think that for She Loves Me and Aladdin, my friend and I were at the stage door for about an hour total. Actors usually start coming out within half an hour or so if they don’t have a lot of VIPs going in to see them. The VIPs get priority; they’re friends and relatives of cast members, sometimes (especially in the case of Hamilton right now) celebrities or politicians, or otherwise people who have a lot of money. You might see a line of people waiting outside of the stage door, but not behind the barricade with the other fans; these people are the VIPs, and they’ll usually go in through the stage door a couple at a time. The cast has to get out of costume, gather their belongings, and finish up any visits inside the theater before they come to the stage door.
  5. Who comes out to the stage door? I bet you can guess my answer: it varies. If an actor isn’t feeling well, they might not come out–Laura Benanti came out after She Loves Me only to briefly wave to everyone, and then she got in her car and left. She was ill. At Hamilton, the first time I went, almost the entire cast came out and most of them stuck around long enough to sign and take pictures with everyone who wanted it. This time, two actors came out. For Aladdin, the actors playing Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Genie came out, but the actor who plays Jafar rarely comes out. In the case of She Loves Me, as Aubrey asked about, Laura Benanti usually comes out, as does Zachary Levi. Zachary Levi actually makes two laps of the stage door: he signs everyone’s Playbills first, and then goes down the line again and takes pictures. And he brings out some music, too. Because why not, I guess. 😛 A note, though: IT IS NEVER GUARANTEED WHO WILL COME OUT TO THE STAGE DOOR. There is always a possibility that an actor who almost always comes out will decide not to, for one reason or another. It can be disappointing, but remember that actors are people, and they are almost certainly exhausted after the show. It’s generous of them to offer more of their time and energy to fans at the stage door, but it’s not required of them.

Stage Door Etiquette — Don’t Be an Asshole!

Stage door etiquette. It’s so, so important not to be That Person. That Person who irritates everyone else, or pisses off the security staff, or is rude to the actors. So here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t leave during the curtain call. Sometimes, people will leave early to get to the stage door faster. Don’t do this. It’s rude to the actors, who have just worked so hard to put on a great show for you.
  2. Don’t go to the stage door if you didn’t see the show. Now, you’ll find some different viewpoints on this one. Some people say it’s totally fine to go to the stage door if you haven’t seen the show, and I think it’s fine sometimes, too. But if the show is really big, and the stage door is crowded–like for Hamilton–don’t do it. It’s already crazy and crowded enough, and when stage doors are too crowded, that’s when actors will often opt not to come out. Again, that’s what’s been happening with Hamilton in recent months. It’s gotten so crazy out there, I wouldn’t go out either if I were a cast member. And for She Loves Me, I know that I’ve seen people post that Zachary Levi will not sign anything or take a picture if you don’t have a Playbill from the show. That seems to be a growing trend.
  3. Don’t piss off the security staff. Again: Do. Not. Piss. Off. The. Security. Staff. Be nice to these guys, because they can be your best friends, or they can make sure your ass gets kicked to the curb and you don’t get to meet any of the actors. I’ve found that most of the time, the guys manning the stage doors are genuinely nice people, and sometimes you can have a pretty nice chat with them. Don’t distract them from their job, though–if the stage door is really crowded and they don’t look very happy, leave them alone unless they initiate conversation. But a “hello” or “how are you?” is probably always a little nice. And for the love of God if the security guys tell you to do something, do it. Seriously. If they tell you to move over a few feet or a few inches, do it and do it with a smile. Their main concern is keeping the cast and crew safe and able to leave the theater without fighting their way through a mob. Their secondary concern is keeping the fans safe. Anything they ask you to do is related to those concerns. Even if you think it’s a stupid request (“What good does a few inches do???”), just do it. You can always ask them why if you want to, but after you’ve complied. Do as you’re told.
  4. Be considerate. Especially at a more crowded stage door, you need to be aware of your behavior and how it’s affecting people around you. Don’t fling your belongings around or throw your arms out or do other things that are going to start invading other people’s space. And if there are a lot of people at the stage door, help make sure that everyone gets their stuff signed or gets pictures if they want. If you’re up front, right at the barricade, and there are people behind you, help them out. Work something out with them so that you can all shift around or pass Playbills forward so that everyone gets their special moment.
  5. Don’t push/shove. This should be obvious. Don’t try to push your way to the front or edge ahead of other people. Trust me, everyone else will always notice, and it will piss everyone off. From that moment on, you’ll be That Asshole who shoved someone to get ahead, and people will be glaring at you the rest of the evening. Or, even worse, someone will call the security personnel over. I and some other people had to do that at Hamilton.

Other Tips

  1. If you’re not in the front, up by the barricade, make friends with the people ahead of you. Most people, especially people who’ve been to stage doors before, are more than willing to help out people behind them. I’ve spent my fair share of time shifting around to let people behind me get pictures, or taking people’s Playbills from them and asking actors to sign them for my fellow fans. Or taking pictures for people–there are usually a few games of Pass the Cellphone being played along the barricade as people hold people’s phones and take pictures of them with the actors. Everyone wants to have a good time at the stage door, so if you need some help to make that happen, don’t be afraid to ask!
  2. If you’re hoping to meet a certain actor, try asking the security staff! They usually know who will or won’t be coming out. At Aladdin, we were told right away who would (and wouldn’t) be coming out. At other shows I’ve been to, what usually happens is the security staff eventually gets word about who’s coming out. You might see them on walkie talkies or cell phones, too, finding out who they should expect. If you ask them, they’ll probably be able to either tell you right away, or they might be good enough to call into the theater and ask.

 

I hope some of this proves to be helpful!

~Sofia

 

 

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Hamilton, and She Loves Me, and Aladdin, Oh My!

I have spent the last four days in New York City. Only my third trip there, and I was so thrilled to be back. I love it. Yes, it’s crowded and loud and tends to smell absolutely awful (seriously, y’all. the smell.), but there’s just something about it. And I don’t mean in some kind of gooey, sentimental “the city is so magical” way. I think I just really like being in big cities, and since I grew up in a smallish town, it’s such a welcome change.

Well, and New York has Broadway, which was the whole point of the trip. My friend and I saw three shows, so I’ll give a little recap of all of them.

Anyway, I’ve written up some of my thoughts on She Loves Me, Hamilton, and Aladdin.

Night 1: She Loves Me. Now, I admit, I didn’t actually want to see this one initially. My friend (we’ll call her “B”) was really excited about it because Zachary Levi is currently in as the leading actor. I honestly didn’t have a clue who he was. I still really don’t, if I’m being honest here. I mean, I know he was the voice of Flynn Rider in Tangled, but…yeah. That’s about the extent. I know, I’m awful. But I have a picture with him now, so. And Jane Krakowski and Laura Benanti were fantastic.

This was a last-minute ticket purchase, the day we got to the city. We got lucky and the TKTS booth in Times Square had orchestra seats for half price. And the TKTS line looks terrifying, but if you find yourself in NYC and want some marginally cheaper tickets, don’t be scared of it. They keep the line moving, so it goes pretty quick. There are better deals to be had on tickets usually, but if you’ve tried those other options and are still coming up empty, it’s a nice backup plan. Their app also keeps up-to-date on what shows they’ve got tickets available for.

Night 2: Hamilton!

RichardRodgers

The main attraction, folks. This is why we went to NYC. After my first trip to see the show, I managed to get B a little obsessed with it. One day in February, she texted me and told me she was going to go see it, and I was informed that I needed to go with her because she wasn’t about to go to NYC all alone (even though I did that back in October and survived just fine). So this was an interesting night for me, because I actually had a basis for comparison. I saw the show on October 8th last year, not too terribly long after it opened on Broadway. So as a little bit of background, in October there were a lot of people in the audience who didn’t seem to necessarily care about the show; they had clearly purchased their tickets when they were properly on sale rather than via horrendously priced resale tickets and weren’t all that enthused about being there. Some people sitting by me were downright rude, opening candy wrappers and talking and checking their phones during the show. After the show, the stage door was mildly crowded: maybe 80 or 90 people, and the line at the barricade was only two people deep for the most part. The vast majority of the cast came out and signed playbills and take pictures. I actually went back the next night to catch a couple of cast members I missed, and got to say hello to most of the main cast again. It was more intense than any other stage door I’ve been at, but it wasn’t too bad.

This time, though? This time, everything was different. Starting with when we got to the theater before the show. We arrived an hour before curtain, half an hour before the lobby opened. And despite being fairly early, we were so far back in line, we were nearly at the main door for the Imperial Theatre, next door. Here’s our view from the line:

theline

In October, I was at the theater crazy early–like two hours before showtime–and there was no one lining up until around this time. The line certainly wasn’t this long. I don’t know that the line to get inside ever got this long last time, and this time? By the time they opened the lobby, the line was going around the block.

Our seats were great. We were around 5 rows closer than I was last time, and I thought that my seat last time was pretty damn good. So we sat down, and vaguely wondered if anyone important was in the audience that night. We didn’t believe so; there was no sign that there was, no increased security or anything like that. There was something weird going on in the balcony, though. People started cheering and someone up there was talking or making an announcement of some kind. No clue what was going on there.

The show was, of course, amazing.And the energy in the theater was so much different than last time. As soon as Leslie Odom, Jr. stepped on stage, everyone erupted in applause and cheers. Ditto for when everyone else made their entrances. The audience’s energy was so high. And when Lin entered? Everyone lost it. The cast and orchestra had to hold for a good minute an a half before the song could continue. There were some applause at that moment last time, of course, but nowhere near that much. If you’ve watched the cast’s Grammy performance, it was like that. Just crazy.

And speaking of crazy, let’s discuss the stage door a little bit. I mentioned how it was crowded, but manageable last time, and most of the cast came out both nights? This time, there were easily 300 people crowding around. It was almost frightening. And there were people across the street and all the way down the block. Only two cast members came out this time: Rory O’Malley (aka King George the Third the Fourth) and Christopher Jackson (aka George Washington). B and I got autographs from both, and I got a picture with Christopher Jackson (I could’ve gotten one with Rory, no problem,it’s not like he was unwilling or anything. I just didn’t ask for one). Christopher in particular was great, taking his time down the line and chatting with people. I congratulated him on his Tony nomination and he talked a little about how he was feeling about that and about how it’s been preparing for the Tony performance. It was a great night, and I was so happy to have had the chance to get back to NYC and see most of the original cast perform again. Special shout-out to Daveed Diggs, who managed to steal the hell out of every scene he’s in. And Leslie Odom, Jr., for managing to make people care way more than they want to about Aaron Burr and absolutely killing it. But really, the entire cast is phenomenal and all of the accolades and attention Hamilton has been getting are completely earned and deserved. I wish the whole cast luck on their assorted Tony nominations.

Night 3: Aladdin. Aladdin was the last show of our trip, and it was a refreshing change after the chaos that was Hamilton. It was much less crowded before and after the show, even though the show was, in fact, sold out. It was a much simpler process to get in and get seated. Although the ushers did seat a couple who came in late–like after the first two songs late–and were seated in the middle of a row. That was really obnoxious, because the whole row had to stand up to let them in, which obstructed everyone else’s view for a minute. It was a little odd that they went ahead and seated that couple (and some other patrons) late; the ushers at Disney productions tend to be pretty harsh (I mean, they almost always have the requisite Disney Cast Member smiles firmly in place, but the moment you’re doing something against the rules or irritating to your fellow patrons, they’re in your face with a reprimand and a flashlight) and I would’ve thought they would have been following one of the typical “if you’re late, you don’t get seated until intermission” policies. Disrupting an entire section (the whole mezzanine) during the performance to seat individuals who arrived late really isn’t acceptable. Especially not in a Broadway theater.

The show itself was great, and Aladdin was one of my favorite Disney movies when I was a kid, so I was really excited to see it. The Genie (James Monroe Inglehart) stole the show, of course. He’s just spectacular, and he had so much energy, it was infectious. The main cast (minus Jonathan Freeman, who plays Jafar) came out after the show to sign autographs, and since there were only maybe 10 people left by the time James Monroe Inglehart came out, he stuck around and chatted with us a while. We learned that it takes about a week solid of not performing before he stops finding glitter all over the place (there’s gold glitter all over his head for the show). Good to know.

Overall, it was an awesome time. Also, it was Fleet Week, so that made for some extra fun; we chilled out at Starbucks one afternoon talking to a couple of Marines. But I will say that three shows in three nights, with days full of hiking around NYC and pretty hot weather ends up being just a little exhausting. By which I mean that by the time we flew back to Chicago, my friend and I were so tired, we cut off the rest of our trip short (we were planning to spend the next two days hanging out in Chicago) and went home instead. 😛

Adventures in NYC: Part IV- Hamilton

Well…Hamilton was just as spectacular as I remembered!

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My friend and I arrived at the theater a little excessively early, because frankly I’m still a little paranoid about resale tickets. I like to be one of the first few people in line because I get it into my head that somehow the person who originally owned my ticket will show up and their ticket will work, and then I’ll be stuck without a ticket. It’s nonsense, I know. But it gives me some peace of mind to be there early. Which is just as well, because my friend is fully embracing the whole “tourist” thing and has been snapping pictures of anything and everything since we got off the plane. She wanted to get some pictures (and some selfies, and some somewhat-unwanted candid pictures of me) of the theater and the silhouettes on the doors outside.

Anyway, the show was amazing and I’m completely sure I’ll do a more comprehensive write-up of it after our trip, but you guys. It. Is. Fantastic. I’m so glad we decided to see it (again, in my case).

We were in the room where it happens, and the energy was absolutely electric. The buzz for the show has gotten way more intense in the eight months or so since I saw it the first time, and you can feel it in the theater. People were excited back in October, but there were plenty of people who didn’t seem to care that much. This time, the entire theater was full of people who were so clearly invested in the show and so thrilled to be in that room. It was amazing.

Aladdin is up next, tomorrow night.

~Sofia

Adventures in NYC: Part III- FINALLY in the City!

Currently listening to: the sweet sounds of impatient taxi drivers on the streets below our hotel room

We’re there!

Well…technically we got here yesterday, but who feels like writing a blog post after a morning full of travel? Anyway, tonight is the first BIG event of our trip, and the only real reason we came to NYC in the first place. That’s right–we’re seeing Hamilton tonight. My friend has gotten so excited, she’s basically lost her ability to speak, and instead has been communicating mainly through bouncing up and down and squeaking for the past six hours or so. And I’m not much better. It’s time to see if Hamilton is as good as I remember it.

 

And now…

it’s Hamiltime!

hamilton-broadway-musical

~Sofia

Adventures in NYC: Part II-Cabs, Planes, and More Cabs

Traveling is the worst. I love it as a general concept, and I love going places. But you know what I don’t love? Waiting. The actual “travel” part. It’s just exhausting. And to make matters worse, I always–always–end up booking flights that are either unreasonably early in the morning or ridiculously late at night. I don’t know why; I don’t intentionally do it, and I always get annoyed when I realize I’ve done it. So this time, for this trip, my friend and I managed to book a flight out of O’Hare for somewhere around 8am. Which means getting to the airport no later than 5am. I’ve certainly ignored advise to arrive three hours early to an airport before, and there has been at least one time when I got to the airport about 20 minutes before my flight was supposed to be boarding. But lately, there have been all kinds of stories about how ridiculously long the security wait times have been at the larger airports. When I look at real-time updates from other travelers about what their wait times were, I’m not seeing much evidence of those long delays, but this really isn’t the sort of trip where I’m willing to tempt fate. The plane tickets were pretty cheap, since we booked early, but the hotel was not, and our theater tickets certainly weren’t. Missing our flight would be a nightmare. So we’re back to us having to be at the airport around 5am. Which means we’ve had to call a cab to haul our tired asses from the place we were crashing Wednesday night to the airport.

Riding in cabs is always vaguely unsettling to me, largely because of the first time I went to NYC and realized halfway through a midnight cab ride from the airport that the picture in the window of the driver did not match the actual driver. There are very few things that have frightened me more than that. Fortunately, I watch a lot of scary movies, so I knew that it was in my best interests to not draw attention to that discrepancy. Instead, I sat quietly in the backseat with my sister and mother and waited until we had been safely deposited at our hotel to mention it to them. People who point out that serial killers are probably serial killers get killed off pretty early in the movie. People who keep their mouths shut and pretend everything is totally fine survive. 😉

Anyway. The moral of the story is that traveling is tedious and not something I enjoy very much. I’d like to skip ahead to the part where I’m already wherever I’m going.

~Sofia

Adventures in NYC: Part I- Anticipation

Currently listening to: The Hamilton soundtrack

So.

I’ve graduated from my Master’s program.

I’ve secured a job that doesn’t involve crazy hours and will pay me enough that I’m not stuck eating cardboard for the foreseeable future.

I’ve put down a deposit on an apartment that is surprisingly not-awful.

So naturally, it’s time for a vacation! I’ve already mentioned where I’m going, but for those who don’t regularly read my admittedly-sporadic blog entries, I’m heading back to NYC this week! A friend of mine is going with me, too, and we are super excited! She’s never been to New York, which means I can ditch her in Central Park and sell her Hamilton ticket for a small fortune show her around the areas of the city that I like (read as: the Theater District). And of course, we’ll have the main event of the trip:

hamilton-broadway-musical

I’m excited, of course, and my friend is really excited. I may or may not have spent the last 90 days or so since we booked the trip taunting my friend about how great the show is.

But what else are we doing aside from seeing Hamilton? We’ve made up a nice little list of the assorted stuff we’ll be doing. If you’ve got any suggestions, let me know in the comments! Especially if you’ve got some suggestions for where to get food/drinks in Manhattan!

What we’ve got so far:

  • The various exhibits at Discovery Times Square
  • Some comic book store in Times Square that my friend wants to go to
  • Entering some ticket lotteries for Thursday evening shows
  • Hamilton
  • Exploring Central Park and visiting the Central Park Zoo
  • Aladdin
  • Stop by a couple of dessert places
  • Possibly wander around 5th Ave
  • Possibly the Hamilton’s Harlem walking tour
  • Possibly a hop-on, hop-off bus tour (a good option if it ends up raining, maybe, and it’ll let my friend see more of the usual touristy sights she’s not seen yet)

So? Any other suggestions of things we should do? We’ll be there from Thursday-Sunday morning. And of course I’ll be working on my writing in some of my spare time.

~Sofia

Back Down the Rabbit Hole

Currently listening to: “Just Like Fire” by P!nk

I HAVE OFFICIALLY GRADUATED! Now I have my Master’s degree, and I’m gearing up to start the brand-new job I got to go with it. But in the meantime, I realized something.

I’m not a student anymore. I’ve been a student for my whole life (okay, minus the first couple of years). And for the last two years, I was a student all the time. No summer breaks, no long, luxurious winter breaks…I didn’t have more than 5 days’ worth of break at a time, and I certainly haven’t had a break where I wasn’t expected to be thinking of assignments that needed completed.

There are no assignments right now. No papers or presentations or exams.

What the hell do I do now???? My job isn’t going to involve a ton of off-hours work. For the most part, I’ll be able to work while I’m at work, and once I’m home, that’s my time. You know what that means? I’m going to have time to write again! This will be the first time I’ve ever had that-leisure time that I can actually afford to spend writing. I had to shoehorn writing in while I was in undergrad, and quite frankly, even I wasn’t on top of my shit enough during the last year of my Master’s to put my coursework on the back burner like I did back then. It was rough trying to get Songstruck written, and it was rough getting all of the finalizing work done on it last year. But it was doable. This year, though? Guys, there are a lot of exams and things involved in wrapping up a Master’s degree. I’ve had time to sketch out some basic ideas–including some ideas for changing up how Stagestruck is currently going-but that’s about it.

And now that’s gonna change! I’ve got a few things coming up–a little trip back to NYC and then an event at a Barnes and Noble store–but then I’ll be getting on a more solid writing (and hopefully blogging because seriously, I suck at this. Someone give me an idea for a fun topic that can turn into a daily/weekly blog thing. :P) routine. I’m really looking forward to it.

~Sofia