Dear Evan Fansens: The Need for Stage Door Etiquette
Broadway shows are unique in the entertainment world, for getting the chance to meet the cast after the show at the stage door. It’s harder to get access to film/television actors and musicians, yet Broadway performers are right around the corner of the theater. “Stage dooring,” as it has been dubbed, gives fans the chance to get their Playbills signed or snag a selfie with their favorite actors.
While the stage door is a great opportunity, there are far more reports of poor behavior than meaningful interactions in recent years. But where has all the pandemonium come from and why are stage doors becoming more popular?
Broadway has entered a new golden age, especially with younger fans, and we also see a rise in actors from the stage make the transfer to Hollywood. Musical favorites like Lin Manuel-Miranda, Idina Menzel, and Josh Gad are becoming household names. Along with a counter-influx of stars from Hollywood each Broadway season, stage doors are becoming more like red carpet premieres.
Many musicals have also formed fanbases that are quickly rising to pop stars status. From Newsies’ “Fansies” to Hamilton’s “Familtons,” these passionate fans have a strong online presence and show up in droves at the stage door. I think it’s great that musicals are becoming a huge part of contemporary pop culture, exposing theatre to a wider viewing audience. However, when the once quiet stage door experience has started to become out of control, that creates a problem.
The most recent fandom that has caused a stir are the “Fansens” of the recent Best Musical hit Dear Evan Hansen. I have heard stories of chasing cast members from the show down the sidewalk and other cast members being ignored in the process. While most of the cast still comes out for the stage door, others like star Ben Platt are ushered out another door for safety concerns. Security has also been limiting autographs/pictures due to crowd sizes. While these actions don’t represent a majority of the fanbase for the show, these stories are happening too often to not be addressed.
This reminds me of when I saw If/Then with Idina Menzel, right after Frozen and the whole “Adele Dazeem” incident on the Oscars. After the show, the stage door was packed with fans. The crowd spilled into the street because they couldn’t all fit on the sidewalk. They ended up rushing Idina Menzel to her car because of a number of people. Fans started swarming her car for pictures, cameras up against the window, and two people tried to climb up on the hood as the car was pulling away from the curb. It’s a prime example of what shouldn’t be happening.
How can we correct this problem? Practice being a good fan, as you are a good audience member. Have your Playbill ready with a Sharpie on hand for signatures, along with your camera/phone on and ready for pictures. If you are by yourself, you can always take a selfie or ask someone next to you if they can take your picture. Be sure to congratulate the cast on their work in the show, and always ask them before getting a picture or an autograph. Sometimes you will wait a while for actors to come out to the stage door, make a friend while you wait! While I waited after the revival of Pippin, I met a woman next to me who saw the original production on Broadway and got to meet Ben Vereen.
Please don’t push past people to get to the front, you will get your chance to meet your favorite in the show. Don’t go around the gates, be respectful of the security and listen to where they tell you to stand, they are just trying to keep everyone safe. Also, don’t follow actors down the sidewalk if they don’t want to sign. They might be tired after the show or having a rough night, they aren’t required to meet fans at the stage door every night.
Stage dooring has become a tradition in the theatre community, favored by fans and cast alike. However, the stage door is a privilege, not a right. Conditions must be kept safe for everyone involved, or theaters may not let meet and greets continue. The stage door has given me the chance to meet a lot of great casts, and I have a wide collection of signed Playbills and memories because of it. I would hate to see this opportunity for young theatre fans be taken away because of a few “bad eggs.” Be respectful, be mindful, and remember to have fun! We can all do our part to keep the stage door wide open for audiences to come.
Jordan Nickels is a playwright and dramaturg hailing from Terre Haute, Indiana. He previously worked with Nashville Children’s Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Florida Studio Theatre, and The Walt Disney Company. He also served as a Blog Contributor and Managing Editor for two years at Camp Broadway in New York City. Bachelor of Science in Theatrical Studies from Ball State University. Website: http://www.jordannickels.com Instagram: @jnickels8
Photo by JK Clarke