Should actors be “required” to stage door?

In 1991, I moved to New York City and while making my way to my tap class on 53rd St., I discovered my first Stage Door.

It was the Broadway Theatre’s SD and Miss Saigon was playing at the time.

“So that’s how all the actors I admire so much get into the building,” I thought.  “Wow they walk through that very . . . ” and before I could finish the thought, the actor playing Thuy, Barry K. Bernal, stepped up to the stage door to cross the magical threshold from the street to the stage, and prepare for his matinee.

“Have a good show,” I mumbled, a bit nervous to be speaking to an actual Broadway star.

He smiled, grateful for being recognized, thanked me and in he went.

As you can tell, I’ll never forget it.

A lot has changed since then.  Unfortunately, Barry K. Bernal passed away at the tender age of 31 years old, three years after I saw him at that Door.

And Stage Doors are no longer empty, vacant areas where actors just come and go as they please.

Now, fans flock to the doors, before and especially after each show, for a chance for a sighting, an autograph and maybe even a few kind words from the stars they admire.

One of the great things about the theater is that our stars are so accessible.  You can’t “stage door” a football game or a rock concert in the same way you can a Broadway show.  It’s just not logistically possible.

And with Broadway booming, the crowds around the doors of hit shows often spill into the street, as selfies get snapped and autographs get signed by the hundreds.

You can’t buy that type of promotion . . . because when people fall in love with actors, they also fall in love with the show they’re in.

Last fall, “stage dooring” reached a tipping point when a controversy erupted when Ben Platt, who was practically puking up his heart onto the stage at Dear Evan Hansen every night, said that there were some nights that he just couldn’t do it . . . and still deliver the type of performance the next night’s audience paid to see.

And oh, the tweetlash that he received, including one “fan,” calling him an “a**hole” and “garbage.”

And I’ve seen plenty of other comments on message boards and across the twittersphere hating on actors for wanting to save their voices, and keep their energy up, by skipping out on what can be an added hour or more to their day.

Actors in Broadway Shows are not only more accessible than any other “celebrity” out there, but in my experience, our actors WANT to be more accessible than any other performers out there.  And as fans and Producers we should be so thankful that they’re willing to give that extra hour or more that it can take to sign every Playbill and take every photo before they can head home.

And, of course, as Ben unfortunately learned, they take more of the heat than the actual show if they choose to opt out of appearing for their fans.

So if that’s what they decide, we must trust that they know best, and they are doing it to protect what is most important . . . the show and themselves.

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  • Skip Maloney says:

    Required to ‘stage door’? Not sure, especially given the scenario you posit, that it should be a requirement, unless, of course, it’s something that actors beforehand have to agree to in a contract of some sort. Not sure how this works in the sports world, but I suspect that most post-game interviews are covered in contracts – Athlete X (or coach Y) agrees to appear before the media at such and such a time and answer reasonable questions about the event. Stage door appearances, however, are another kettle of fish. An actor exposes him or herself to all manner of abuse and possible danger by stepping out of a theater to face an unmonitored crowd. Ben Platt’s treatment on Twitter is ample reason to believe that not all crowds outside a stage door are benign gatherings of adoring fans. In any contract negotiation regarding this type of event, an actor should make clear that his/her participation be predicated on the presence of a measure of security, and that said actor be allowed, without fear of reprisal, to refuse. There are times, following a performance, particularly one in which, for whatever reason, I have expended my share of physical or emotional energy, that I have no desire to face an adoring crowd, and just want to go home and relax (not that I’m regularly exposed to anything resembling an “adoring crowd.”) I’m sure, too, that many athletes feel the same way, but their meet-and-greets with the press are tightly controlled, even though, they, too, can encounter hordes of fans at a stadium’s exit gates. The so-called fan who lashed out at Platt is just one of the reasons that actors should be wary of any policy requiring him or her to appear before a basically uncontrolled crowd outside a stage door. More importantly, said ‘fans’ should be schooled in respect for the actors they’re so anxious to meet. Each and every one of them most certainly, in their own lives, has encountered circumstances where they would prefer not to be bothered, and they should extend the courtesy they expect from others to the performers they want to meet at the end of a performance. It’s not, in the end, about a hypothetical policy, it’s about basic respect for fellow human beings and their right to choose when and under what circumstances they mingle with a crowd.

  • People feel that buying a ticket “entitles” them to spending time with their favorite performer.

    The ticket ONLY purchases them time to see the play and get a professional performance.

    IF the actor or actress decides to stop and take selfies and sign, that is their choice ,because it is now their personal time. Many have people to meet up with or perhaps eat . Some would just like to go home and rest for the next day.

    Still others have fans who remind one the term had its origins in the word “FAN-atic”. They push and shove ,and the crush of people endangers not only the performers but fellow enthusiasts.

    There are many who delight in meeting the fans after, and will sign until all have had their moment.

    There are others who feel they wish to relax.

    Requiring seems a bit unfair.

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