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STAGE DOOR: The Good, The Bad, and The Boundaries

Stage Door in the Toronto theatre scene is empty more often than not. However, when tours like Wicked come to town, or shows like Kinky Boots have a longer run, more people will start coming by to say hello. My belief is that while Toronto has a small percentage of visitors at the Stage Door in comparison to Broadway or the West End, we should still be able to conduct ourselves accordingly.

That being said, these guidelines are general, and will apply wherever you choose to Stage Door.

For those of you who don’t know, “Stage Door” is a term used amongst theatre fans to refer to the act of waiting outside of the stage door for performers after a performance. Fans, audience members, friends and family, can gather at the stage door to greet artists working on the show. The stage door is a separate entrance, either on the back or side of a theatre, to the backstage area. It is used by actors, techs, creatives, crew, musicians, and most people involved in a production. People visit stage door for many different reasons; to meet an idol, get a signature, take a photo, speak to an actor, or to just say ‘thank you’ for a wonderful show. I’ve always believed that there’s nothing wrong in telling someone you look up to what they mean to you, and in that sense, stage door can be a wonderful thing. However, there are certain boundaries that should be respected, and this post is to discuss some of them!

THINGS TO REMEMBER: · Actors are NOT required to stop at the Stage Door. It is NOT a part of their job. Actors who stop to sign, chat, or take a photo, do so on their own time. · You are NOT entitled to a meet and greet. · Bring your own pen or marker! Performers often have their own, but sometimes they will not have one on their person! (TIP: cold weather will cause the ink in a pen or marker to freeze. Bring an extra and try to warm it up in your hands during the wait!) · Have your phone camera ready! Pictures can be lovely memories of an interaction with an artist, but ALWAYS ASK PERMISSION! · Actors are humans too!

DOs AND DON’Ts: · DO say hello! · DO introduce yourself! · DO be patient · DO be kind · DO say please and thank you! · DO share your positive thoughts on the show! · DO ASK PERMISSION – this goes for photographs, physical contact, and signatures. · DO be respectful to all cast members, crew, stage door security, and other fans! · DON’T be shy! · DON’T compare one performer to another! · DON’T invade personal space – these people are still strangers to you. A good rule is to let them establish the distance between the two of you in cases when there is not a barrier. · DON’T criticize ANYTHING. Not their performance, not anyone else’s, not the show itself. · DON’T take up too much of their time. Actors have personal lives outside of the theatre, and may have plans, need to rush home, or have another show coming up. · DON’T film or photograph them without their permission.

As you can see, this list of Dos and Don’ts is pretty straightforward. The main point is to be respectful and kind to everyone you meet. You would think that I wouldn’t feel the need to write a piece reminding fans to be kind and respectful. While I am sure that the majority of stage door experiences are positive and lovely, I have seen enough to feel the need to speak out about this.

Recently, I have seen some accounts on Twitter from both Broadway and the West End of fans pulling their programs away from ensemble performers because they were “just dancers”, which I find appalling. To so blatantly disrespect a performer who just entertained you for two hours, then volunteered their time to come greet you is so unbelievable to me. I have also just witnessed firsthand stage door experiences that left the performer looking visibly uncomfortable. This is what motivated me to post this little guide, to remind everyone what stage door is all about. It is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between audience members and actors, which begins the minute the show starts.

As I mentioned before, to me, Stage Door is an opportunity to thank people whose performances have touched or inspired me.

It was 2013 when I first mentioned visiting the stage door. My idol, Ramin Karimloo was playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables in Toronto and I had tickets to go for my birthday. My father automatically responded with the well-known saying, “Don’t meet your idols.” I understand now that he was trying to protect me; what if the image I had of this person I admired was false? If this saying is preventing you from visiting the stage door, I will tell you right now to push those thoughts down. Definitely, there is the fear that someone you admire may not be as wonderful as they seem, that is natural. However, I have been so fortunate to have met many of my idols at the stage door, and each one has been nothing less than kind, gracious, and more than generous with their time.

This isn’t the place for my stage door stories, but I wanted to share that it isn’t as scary as it seems. If you want to go, don’t let nerves talk you out of it.

Stage door is an amazing opportunity, and so many lovely connections and memories can come from it. Just be kind and respectful while you’re there. The last reminder I leave you with is that ‘Actors are human too.’ This is the golden rule of Stage Door. Be it regarding photos, personal space, or even your own nerves; just remember that they are people like everybody else. Treating people with the kindness you would like extended to you if the positions were reversed is always the right thing to do. Now, go make some memories! ​

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