I often think about what motivates me to go to the stage door after a show; or to wait in the lobby for the actors. It's true that my main motivation is to say a personal thank you to cast members that work so hard to entertain, move, inspire and educate me; and I've talked about that on this site before.
But sometimes, especially with Off Broadway shows, where the "stage door" is much more personal and you're often not separated from the actors by barricades, it can be intimidating to approach and greet an actor when you're a stranger to them. This is especially the case when I'm so impacted by the show, or an individual actor's work, that I'm left without words for a while after.
So, when "Choir Boy" ended, with tears from the cast during the bows, and from the audience members as they filed out, the emotion was high. I felt self-conscious about waiting in the small lobby area, unsure about what I could say to these wonderful actors that would do justice to their performances or my feelings. I spent a few minutes fiddling with my phone, trying to play out a conversation in my mind, and watched people still wiping tears away as they headed up the stairs to the exit. No cast members had emerged yet, so I too headed up the stairs, deciding that maybe this wasn't the time to wait. As I reached the door to the street, it hit me that, while this felt a bit hard for me to do, the feelings I had about the show were exactly the reason I go to the stage door...to not miss the opportunity to let the actors know how much they gave me. I may be one of thousands who tell them that; and it might be routine for some of them. But on the chance that I might be the first stranger to say thank you, and "you moved me," I felt I owed them that. And I really wanted to tell them that I could have listened to their singing for hours! So back down the stairs I went, determined to overcome the shyness I felt.
Sure enough, trusting my instincts didn't fail me (they almost never do :)). I didn't get to talk to all of them, and I wanted to be respectful of their time with the friends and family that were also waiting for greetings (and hugs!). But I was fortunate to meet several of the actors, including my favorite, Jeremy Pope (Pharus, the gay student around whom the action revolves); and the director, Trip Cullman, clearly close to his actors, who told me that I had just seen Chuck Cooper's last performance as the headmaster. So I made sure to mention to Mr. Cooper how lucky I felt to have seen him in the role. Another treat was chatting with Austin Pendleton, the actor who played a teacher who manages to reach the boys' hearts in lasting ways. He was incredibly kind and personal as we talked.
I left immensely happy that I'd chosen to wait, instead of leaving with my thoughts unexpressed. It completed this experience for me in a profound way; and it's why live theatre offers something extra to my heart.
Chuck Cooper (the headmaster; left) and Austin Pendleton (Mr. Pendleton, or Mr. P, as the boys call him)
Jeremy Pope (Pharus), Trip Cullman (director) and Nicholas Ashe (Junior)...Jeremy was very excited to tell me that Trip was around and that I should meet him :). It was fun to see the real friendship and respect among them.
Wallace Shawn (Bobby, the antagonist to Pharus, and the headmaster's nephew); I first met Wallace during the 2011-12 run of the revival of Godspell, in which he played Judas. I thought it must have been a bit tough to play the character that is, arguably, the least sympathetic, but he did a great job!
The lobby posters displaying the headshots of the entire cast:
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.