Theatre fan etiquette - Where has it gone? [OPINION]

stage door, actors

Poor behavior at the stage door and on social media hurts everyone

Broadway and the theatre are very big to people who enjoy the arts, and seeing a performance is just the icing on the cake. Being a theatre fan can be something that starts when you are younger, or it can be something that you embrace when a popular musical such as Hamilton comes out.

What happens after the performance is another thing the audiences look forward to, the stage door where you can meet the actors that you just saw perform. Here, the actors are now themselves and no longer characters as they greet fans.

Stage door encounters are not something that actors are obligated to do. As an audience member, you bought a ticket to the performance, you did not buy a ticket to meet the actors afterward; this is an additional experience. Nothing says that the actors need to stage door; it was not a part of the contract they signed. However, most of the actors that you will meet enjoy getting to know fans at the stage door.

Ron Simons, an actor, and a producer says:

“My experience, fortunately, the people have been very gracious and supportive of my work, and I appreciate that. I know that I don’t do as much social media as I should, because I'm so busy, but I love interacting with fans of my work.”

Interacting with actors on social media is another thing that has become more and more common in recent years. Postive things can come from the interactions on social media, such as knowing more about the actor that you admire and getting a look inside their personality off of the stage. The positive side of the interactions can translate into the stage door, resulting in the kind of stage door experience that someone should have.

While some of these interactions can be great, and you can definitely find some good advice, interacting with your favorite actor on social media could also lead to some things that are less attractive. The actors that you will find on social media are the ones that would like to be there, the ones that are okay with sharing part of their lives on this platform.

Etiquette basics

“When there’s a very sort of special experience that happens when it's always unique; and wonderful when somebody is able to illuminate for you something you didn't even realize was in your own work. When somebody brings a totally different perspective on to what you were creating, they see themselves in your work, is particularly moving.” ~Alexandra Silber (Broadway star)

Fan etiquette that you should follow at the stage door needs to transfer to interacting on social media and vice versa; what say and how you say it will be on social media forever. Actors are just like any other person, just because they are famous does not mean that they are less human.

As a fan, this is the kind of thing that you would love to hear, especially from someone that you may have just seen perform on stage. This is what one would call a positive stage door experience from the eyes of a professional.

Sydney H, a fan of Broadway actors, says “All this being said, I definitely don't think every actor-social media interaction is bad — I have seen fans come together to send gifts to actors and shows, compile fanart and letters into books delivered to the theatre and so many more awesome incredible things to show their appreciation.”

Another example of a positive experience from theatergoer Hope K speaking of the time she saw Anthony Rapp in If/Then on tour.

“He came out, and I slowly walked over and asked for his autograph. He was very soft spoken and signed my Playbill. I told him he did so well, asked for a photo; he posed and smiled, then quietly said, ‘thank you’ and moved on. I was so relieved and so excited that I stood there starstruck for a good bit before I could find my friend again.”

Just don't do it

“I think it's really cool to be a theatre fan in the age of social media, but there are boundaries that come with that. Many actors and shows are very active on social media, and engage fans with live streams, Instagram takeovers, and more, which gives you an exciting opportunity to see how these shows and how these people's lives really work.” ~Sydney H

On the other hand, Zach Adkins, who plays Dmitry in Anastasia on Broadway, took to Twitter to talk about a negative experience. The tweet below is just one of the many things that would be considered over the line in terms of things that happen at the stage door, and then continue to happen on social media with interactions. This is just the start of many of the things that you can come across, and they are all mostly in the same vein.

Actors want to meet you at the stage door, but it is just that at the stage door, they do not want you to follow them farther. If you start following people outside of the stage door, they might no longer want to meet you, and this could ruin the experience for people that follow the appropriate etiquette.

Rachel Bay Jones, who plays Heidi Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen, wrote a response to a question in a fan survey. The question was described as crazy stage door story, and her answer was as follows: “People following me home for hugs.”

Following an actor is not okay. First, it might give off the wrong idea, like that you're a stalker, and they might start thinking that everyone will want to follow them. A few people who don't follow the rules that are laid out, and ones that are very basic that should be followed fans that break the rules will ruin the experiences for other people.

Relatability

“I was so happy because she played a lesbian POC, and I had never seen myself represented like that onstage. When she came out, I got a selfie with her, and said something like ‘thank you so much. You were amazing, thank you so much,’ and I was stumbling over my words.” ~Hope K (re: Tamyra Gray If/Then) 

One of the great things about being a fan of Broadway actors on social media: seeing the inner workings of their job and their lives. I love what they are willing to show us of their personal world.

Amanda I responds, “BUT one thing I like about Broadway actors is that they’re their own brand of celebrity that interacts with fans on a more personal level.”

For us theatre fans, these Broadway actors are our own versions of Hollywood celebrities. I think it’s great that we get to have similar interactions that people who love Hollywood actors experience, but it is with people who really understand the way that we think as devotees of stage works.

“Many fans seem to feel entitled to interaction with their favorite actors — hogging time at the stage door, tweeting/tagging them constantly, and more. I recently witnessed a person redo their entire Twitter account to match a Broadway actors' tweet at him, and then get upset when he blocked them. They then got a ton of their friends to constantly bother him on social media until he unblocked them.” ~Sydney H speaking about the bad side of social media.

The above experience is a prime example of the kind of fan behavior that might make an actor wary of interacting with fans of social media.

“You aren't entitled to their content simply because you are a fan of their work. They aren't obligated to remember that time when you mentioned them in that tweet – they're a person too, after all.” Sydney H continues, making the point of the kinds of behavior that can be found on social media, and the entitlement that some fans feel.

Cliquishness

“I try to stay away from the theatre fandoms because I feel like they can get cliquey and there’s drama and just energy that I don’t really want to be a part of. A kind of problem with this though is that people can feel entitled to talk with/meet people at stage door. With me, and this usually applies to ensemble people, but I usually wait to see if they sign other people’s things first because I don’t want to feel like I’m bothering the actors because they don’t owe the fans anything, you know?” ~Amanda I

The cliquey side of fandom behavior is another thing that can become unpleasant. I understand being friendly with people and bonding with them, but some of what happens is very much over the boundary line that should be drawn.

The other thing about fans that get cliquey is that they get a sense of entitlement towards their show or performer. If other people try and join the fandom of a specific show or a specific performer, some fans might say that they will not let new people join the fandom. We are all fans of the same thing, and we should all be able to be a fan of whatever we want without backlash.

That's a wrap

"Because at the end of the day, they are performers and we are their fans, and there is a certain level of professionalism that we, as the fans, have to uphold." ~ Syndey H

Actors are people, too, and they should be treated just like any other person who uses social media. What you say to an actor and how you connect with them should maintain the absolute best etiquette and demonstrate the good manners that you would use with any other person you admire.

Stage dooring can be something to look forward to at the end of a performance; it is a way that you can interact with the actors on a more personal level. Some of the stage door experiences can be positive, such as fans coming together to create books or other projects.

Another thing that can happen at the stage door is pushing and shoving to get to the front of the barricade. It's not necessary. If the actors come and sign, they will get to everyone. There is no need to push another person out of the way so they get to you first.

Bottom line: It is fine to ask actors politely if they have any advice or ask them a question if it is not too personal. You need to watch what you say to an actor on social media because you wouldn't want them to delete their account, which would ruin the interaction experience for everyone.

Have you had an amazing or awful stage door or social media experience? Share it with us below! And weigh in on the conversation about fan etiquette at the stage door or on social media.

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