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!!
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.