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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