One of the great things about seeing live theatre is the potential for stage dooring. What is “stage dooring,” you ask? Well, according to Urban Dictionary, stage dooring is, “to wait at the stage door of a Broadway theater after a show and meet the actors.” It’s a great opportunity to show gratitude to the actors who just gave a great performance and to maybe even get a few autographs and photos! I’ve had my fair share of stage dooring experiences (both positive and negative) over the years, so I thought I would put together a best practices how-to that will make your future stage dooring experiences successful and memorable. While this applies primarily to Broadway shows (as the definition implies) I have definitely seen some stage dooring go down at performances outside of the Broadway realm. It’s a little trickier, but definitely doable and these tips will still help.
1) Be Prepared
There are a few tools you will need to master the art of the stage door. One is a sharpie, preferably black or silver, that you can offer to any actors who don’t have one to sign Playbills, programs or posters with. Typically, the performers come prepared, but it never hurts to have one on the off-chance that someone forgot theirs. If you’re hoping to get photos, also make sure to have a camera (or a camera phone) that is fully charged and has lots of memory available. Nothing is more frustrating (or embarrassing) then going in for a picture only to find out that your camera is dead or has no more space for photos! This preparation is minimal but key in a great stage dooring experience.
2) Be observant
On the day of the show, try to get to the theater early so you can scope out where the stage door actually is. Since stage dooring is such a common thing on Broadway, those doors are generally much easier to find, as they typically say “stage door” or have barricades nearby. If you can’t find it yourself, ask an usher. This is especially useful if you’re not seeing a Broadway production. They can also let you know if stage dooring is even a thing at your theater. Once you get into the theater, remember the way you came in so that post-show, you’ll know the quickest route to get back outside to the stage door.
3) Find Your Spot
Once the performance is over (so great, right?) quickly (but safely!) make your way out of the theater to the stage door. Try not to leave before the pit orchestra is finished playing, that’s just the nice thing to do, and they probably sound pretty awesome. Once you get outside, head over to where the stage door is and look at the way people are lining up. Like I mentioned earlier, often there are barricades set up to ensure safety and organization, so look to see how they’re set up and where you can stand. Obviously it’s ideal to get as close to the barricade as possible, but don’t be dismayed if you wind up a person or two back! Performers are usually very accommodating and will sign for everyone there.
4) Be Patient!
It might be a little while before the actors start coming out, so be prepared to wait. They likely have makeup to remove and elaborate costumes to take off, so they won’t be running out the door immediately. This is a good time to pull out your backup Sharpie and make sure your camera is all ready to go. This is also a great opportunity to make friends with the people waiting around you! If you’re really nice, they might be willing to take pictures of you with the actors when they come out. It never hurts to be friendly! Also, keep an eye out for the comings and goings around the stage door. Like it says in this great stage dooring etiquette piece from Stagescape, you might spot someone else famous who came to see the show!
5) Be polite!
Once actors start coming out to sign and take photos, it’s REALLY important to be polite and respectful, both to them and to the people waiting around you. It might seem crazy that I have to say this, but be nice to all of the actors that come out. I’ve definitely heard some people make some strange and somewhat insulting comments to performers at the stage door and it always blows my mind that someone would actually do that. Be friendly, thank them for the performance, and maybe ask a question if you feel so inclined. You can ask for a picture with them, but don’t be rude if they say no. Also, don’t hog a performer’s time and attention. I recently had an experience at the stage door for the play “Hand to God” (which is great, go see it) where the woman next to me at the stage door would not stop talking to the actors, so much so that they started to sign my Playbill while still talking to her! It gave me very little time to say anything to the actors myself, and it was very frustrating. Basically, know when to quit. And finally, don’t shove anyone else to try and get a photo or an autograph. The actors notice, and it doesn’t look so great for you.
6) Be Understanding!
It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a chance you might not get any face time with your favorite performer. BroadwaySpotted wrote an excellent piece on this exact topic. While many actors love chatting with fans post show, it’s not necessarily something they’re required to do. If an actor that you admire doesn’t take the time to sign or take photos, don’t think poorly of them. You of course have a right to be disappointed, but there could be a million different reasons for why they couldn’t stick around. You just have to respect that and be happy that you got to see them onstage.
And that’s it! Hopefully these steps will help you to have a wonderful stage dooring experience, wherever it may be. If you’re a frequent stage door-er yourself, let me know in the comments if I missed any key tips or share your best or worst stage dooring stories! I’d love to hear them. If you’re a first-time stage door-er, let me know how it went! And, as always…