It's not what you think. I mean the term "crushing" quite literally here. As in, I almost got crushed to death at the stage door for "Glengarry Glen Ross" (starring Al Pacino).
The stage door after a show that features a "big name" is always a bit dicey. Unless you're right up at the front of the teeming masses, it is highly unlikely you will get the coveted signature on your Playbill, or even get an unobstructed shot of the actor. Case in point, I have a most excellent photo of Daniel Radcliffe's hat (no face, just hat..and an ear~see below) after "How to Succeed..." from across the street; that's as close as you could get.
So you need to make a beeline for the stage door after the final bows if you want even a ghost of a chance. I've been in extremely claustrophobic stage door mobs before. In fact, one of the more worrisome ones was at "Promises, Promises" for Kristin Chenoweth & Sean Hayes. I somehow got propelled through the crowd to within one layer of the barricade but was immobilized; I couldn't even get to my purse or pocket for my camera or phone to let my friends know where I was after we'd gotten separated. A very nice woman next to me passed my Playbill to those actors I couldn't reach, and it was worth the uncomfortable 40 minutes to get to see Kristin (she's adorable & so sweet!) & Sean (also very nice). But it would have been impossible for me to get out of that mob even if I'd changed my mind about waiting! I had to just hang in there and find my stage door zen. :)
The other crazy stage doors were those for Scarlett Johansson & Liev Schreiber after "A View From the Bridge," Alicia Keys after "Stick Fly," Alan Rickman after "Seminar," and for Al Pacino after "The Merchant of Venice."
Photos are generally not my motivation to go to the stage doors, but if I can maneuver my camera, I figure why not see what happens.
Scarlett Johansson at left; Liev Schreiber below left; Alan Rickman
But honestly, nothing compared with this past Friday night's scene. I had really decided that I wasn't going to worry too much about the "Glengarry" stage door, as I'd met Al Pacino after "Merchant" (he bounded over and gave me a big hug; still not sure why, but hey, it worked for me :)), and knew it would be chaos. However, I really love Richard Schiff, Bobby Cannavale & Jeremy Shamos and figured I'd at least survey the situation before I gave up the fight. This was the very first performance of the play; it had been scheduled to take place a couple of days earlier, but Pacino had another commitment out of town and they delayed it to, thank goodness, the night I had tickets! So that also meant that it was the very first stage door for the cast as well.
It was deceptively calm at first. The aggressively controlling stage door manager was physically preventing people from entering the small barricaded areas without showing that you held a ticket from the show (he pretty much whacked me across the chest in his zeal, so I knew he was serious about this!). I didn't have much time to think, so I popped into the holding pen while I decided whether to wait or not~the decision was then made for me as more people piled in behind me, and again I got pushed forward until I was just behind the front layer.
And the waiting was uncomfortable, but fairly civilized....that is, until the first actors began to emerge. It was so crowded that when Jeremy Shamos came out first, and started to walk by thinking no one would be interested in him, a couple of us called out his name to get him to stop and he looked around confused because he couldn't see who was hailing him...and we couldn't move to help him find us. Oh well...Jeremy, you were great and I'm sorry you didn't think we wanted you to sign!!
Then came Richard Schiff and the crowd started getting hyped, pushing forward, waving Playbills and memorabilia. Being of short stature, I soon found myself engulfed in arms, hands, Playbills, Sharpies, and after getting knocked in the head and face several times, I started fighting back so that I could see/breathe, etc. Richard is a quiet, patient soul who calmly signed everything he could reach, including the random "West Wing" photo or memento. If he could see the person for whom he was signing, he'd make eye contact, say "thanks for coming," etc. He tweeted a photo of himself as he was making his getaway that gives you a better idea of the crowd.
And if that was bad, then came Al himself, and it just got nuts. The crowd started surging forward pushing all of us in the front into the barricade and the strap of my shoulder bag started tightening around my neck. The police and stage door guys were trying to control things, but it was tough. They started yelling at those in the back to move back as the people in front were getting crushed, but it didn't help much. And the poor guy next to me, who was ready to bolt after Al left couldn't get out to leave until the police stepped in to part the crowd.
I foolishly thought things would thin out after Al's limo left, but I waaaay underestimated Bobby Cannavale's popularity and it was just as bad for him.
After it was all over, I actually went over to the stage door manager to personally thank him for his efforts in crowd control...and especially for kindly making sure Richard Schiff did not leave without going to both sides of the stage door crowd to sign. Not surprisingly, he said he didn't get thanked very often :).
Was it worth it? Yep. In no small part because humans fascinate me and stage doors are a veritable petri dish of human behavior!!
This August '12 article from the PBS/NYC site, MetroFocus tells us that "[i]n the 2010–2011 season, 10.2 million tickets were purchased by people who lived outside New York City." Well, I had the pleasure of being at a stage door with a gentleman from waaay outside NYC who reminded me of what an impact the theatre can have on the human heart.
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" was a rollicking good time! Every cast member hammed it up in all the right ways, and seemed to genuinely be enjoying themselves so much that there was little way to avoid having just as much fun if you were sitting in the audience.
There are more than twenty talented actors in this cast (not including the adorable canine who makes a cameo), and meeting them at the stage door after the show was more than just signatures and polite greetings. Fans were still laughing and talking about who they voted for in the "to be determined" ending that makes the denouement of the show different for each audience. Who was the murderer? The pair of lovers that end up together? The mysterious detective investigating the crime? As artistic director Todd Haimes says, in the show guide provided by the Roundabout Theatre:
"At the point where Dickens left the novel, the show will literally stop, and the performers will ask the audience to decide how it should all turn out. It isn’t up to Rupert (writer/composer) to decide what Charles Dickens might have written. Instead, the audience gets to vote on three different questions, and each performance can have a different outcome. With several characters or pairs of characters as options for each vote, Rupert wrote songs for each and every possibility, meaning that the show has hundreds of possible combinations of endings (some of which Rupert himself has yet to see!).
Interestingly, some of the fans at my performance pointed out to one of the actors at the stage door that the combination of Rosa Bud and Helena Landless were not an option for the audience to vote for, and it had seemed a natural. The actor noted that it had been discussed as a possibility, but the director decided against it.
(photo and study guide page courtesy of roundabout.org website)
My performance happened to be on the very first weekend of previews, so the actors were particularly fun to meet, as they lamented the challenge of memorizing myriad endings (some of which may never come to pass!).
Below are Stephanie J. Block (Edwin Drood) and Will Chase (John Jasper) interacting with fans after the show.
Andy Karl (Neville Landless), Peter Benson (Bazzard) and Robert Creighton (Durdles) were all smiles; as were the fans :).
Chita Rivera was wonderful as "Princess Puffer;" oh would that I will have her energy when I reach her age (80!!). She did not come out after the matinee because she had guests visiting; instead she had the stage door manager collect the Playbills and signed them backstage.
But the best part of this stage door experience was the jovial fan standing right behind me who was bubbling over with excitement to be there. He spoke very little English, but each and every time one of the actors would emerge, he would exclaim, with childlike glee, "I came all the way from Spain!." That seemed to be all he could really express in English, but for a few "thank you"s and "wonderful"s. And it wasn't limited to one actor in particular. He had clearly loved everything about the show and was just thrilled with it all! And In doing some checking, I've discovered that broadwayworld.com has a Spain-specific site
The actors were clearly touched (as were all of us around him, I think), and I will always remember his ebullient "I came all the way from Spain!" whenever I express my enthusiasm for what a great experience the stage door can be!
If it was possible to order up stage door experiences from a menu, then my meals on Sept 21-22 would be deemed delicious :)!
Jake Gyllenhaal after his performance in "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet," an off Broadway play. He is an incredibly sweet guy; so patient with all the fans (of which there were manymanymany). I commented on how intense the play is and how difficult it must be to perform it 8 times a week, and he said that he was thankful it was only 90 minutes :). He also seemed genuinely appreciative of all the thanks being offered. I think you can tell when reactions become perfunctory, but his was definitely not.
One of Jake's costars is Annie Funke; who gives an achingly poignant and totally fearless performance as the bullied and neglected teenager in this dysfunctional family. I loved her, and loved getting to say thanks in person. My hotel was right across the street from the theatre and she and her party came over to the hotel for drinks after the show. Clearly I have good taste in hotels!
Paul Rudd and Kate Arrington are two of the four actors in "Grace" at the Cort Theatre. It's a dark, twisty roller coaster of a play that left me breathless. I again mentioned to both actors how impossible it seems that they can give these kinds of emotionally draining performances every day (and twice on Wed & Sat!). Paul responded that he was, in fact, exhausted, but loved the play. Kate said she was glad there was no intermission and had just gotten through a run of a show that was over 3 hours long, so this seemed easy in comparison :).
Ed Asner and Michael Shannon were the other two actors, and I got a chance to meet them the next day at the Broadway Flea Market, but on Saturday, in the words of the stage door manager "Michael is getting his hair cut, and Ed's taking a nap" :). Ah, the glamorous backstage life on a two-show day! As I say in my Stage Door Tips, avoid Saturday matinees if you really are anxious to meet a particular actor, as they don't always do the stage door between shows.
In honor of the story, it seems only fitting to post these photos in black and white :).
The "Chaplin" stage door was so much fun! A really nice and jovial stage door manager saw to it that everyone waiting had a great experience and that is always a bonus! More importantly, the cast was just a blast...really happy to interact with all; posing with anyone who asked, chatting as much as you wanted, and hanging around to make sure they'd gotten to each person.
Rob McClure, in particular, is a sweetheart. He took so much time with everyone, and that's impressive considering he is in pretty much every scene of a 2 1/2 hour, physically demanding musical. Count me as a fan for sure.
Rob on the left; Jen Colella (Hedda Hopper) and Wayne Alan Wilcox (Charlie's brother; in the hat) center, and Jen again on the right (it was her birthday that day!).
The young boy who plays Charlie as a child and Jackie Coogan, Zachary Unger, is in the foreground; and the other young boy signing is Ethan Khusidman, who plays a young movie theater usher. Zachary has remarkable poise and personality!
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.