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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!