For some theatregoers a visit to the stage door is as much part of the whole theatre experience as the show itself. Getting a programme signed by and/or having a picture taken with the performers or simply thanking them for a great show can make a theatre fan’s day. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of performers enjoy talking to the people who support them and their work. I used to stage door a lot for photos several years ago – for me those were a great memory and just a “nice to have” thing. Now I really only visit the stage door if there is someone in the cast I know (meaning someone I have met before and who I like to have a chat with). I rarely take photos at stage door these days and I usually won’t approach performers I don’t already know.
So for me the stage door is a place to meet the performers I know (some of whom I’ve been seeing on stage for years and years) and say hello after the show.
But no matter for what reason a fan visits the stage door – photos, signatures, a quick chat – in my opinion there is a certain “code of behaviour” that should apply to everyone. I’ve been acting accordingly since my first ever stage door experience and I think it’s due to this “code” that performers don’t mind me turning up at stage door after the performance (at least I hope they don’t – I tend to tell them to let me know in case I’m crossing a line and so far I haven’t had any complaints).
So here goes my stage door etiquette in no particular order (this applies to male and female performers, of course, I’m just too lazy to write he/she all the way through).
1. Stand back. There’s nothing worse than jumping on a performer as soon as he exits the theatre. This person has just finished work and is probably tired. The last thing he needs is someone who grabs him straight away demanding signatures, photos etc. Try stepping away from the “holy door” (after all blocking the exit won’t do you any good anyway) and approach the performer politely.
2. No photos without asking. This is one of my stage door pet peeves: Fans just snapping away while a performer is talking to another fan (or to a friend or a family member which is even worse). It’s distracting and think about it: Would you appreciate a stranger taking random photos of you without your approval? Just ask the performer if it’s alright to take a photo, it’s not that hard. It’s different when the performer is a proper celebrity and you’ve got dozens (or even hundreds) of people waiting for him. In that case acting like a paparazzi can be the only way to get a snapshot and said performer will be used to it (in cases like this someone will usually tell the waiting fans if photos are not allowed).
3. No screaming, squeaking and so on. I understand it can be exciting to meet your favourite performer. But acting like a crazy fangirl will do you no good. Wouldn’t you rather have a nice little chat and maybe have a picture taken with him to put on your wall at home? How is that supposed to work when you start making funny noises as soon as you see him?
4. No alcohol. One should think that was no issue at a place like this but sadly it is. I’ve experienced wasted fans at stage door several times over the years. And trust me, it’s no pretty sight. They dance, they sing, they jump up and down, they lie on the pavement (no kidding!) – in short: They make a complete fool of themselves and they are an annoyance for both performers and other fans.
5. No random hugging. You may have talked to a performer various times. He may know your name and he may hug you now and then. This means the performer either appreciates your support and/or is an open person that will “bond” with fans quickly or the performer is simply a rather good actor and just likes to be the fans’ darling in general. Either way, this alone doesn’t mean he is your friend. And it doesn’t mean you can throw yourself into his arms whenever you see him. Let the performer approach you and if he wants to hug you, he will. And please, never ever walk over to a performer and ask for a hug. Just don’t do it, it’s awkward.
6. No pushing. Very often you won’t be the only one waiting at stage door. Usually there is a mix of regular fans and people who have watched the show for the first (and maybe only) time. A lot of times you won’t be the only person waiting for a particular performer. But no matter how impatient you may be – don’t push other fans away and don’t jump into conversations and so on. Just wait until it’s your turn.
7. You don’t own the performer. In case you have spoken to a performer several times and he recognises you please be aware of the fans around you that may only be there for this one time. Let them go first to get their programme signed etc. A performer may only have a limited amount of time he can stay at stage door after the show due to having a train to catch etc. So if you are a regular at the show let the one timers go first. That may mean the performer won’t have time left to chat with you once he’s finished signing and having photos taken. But there’s always next time for you. Plus nothing looks better than being polite and letting others go first – very often the performer will notice and appreciate this.
8. Don’t become all personal. I’ve said it before: The performer is not your friend just because he recognises you and knows your name. So please don’t burden him with your problems and don’t tell him all your random holiday stories. He’s not your psychologist and he’s not your best buddy and there are boundaries you have to respect.
9. Don’t chase. Never, and I repeat, NEVER run after a performer. If he comes out of stage door quickly and rushes down the street straight away he probably has a good reason for this. He may be in a real hurry or maybe he’s just not in the mood to chat. No matter what the reason is, let him go. Don’t scream after him, don’t try and grab him and don’t chase him down the street.
10. Respect. This should be a given but from what I’ve witnessed at stage doors in the past it needs to be pointed out. Always be respectful at stage door (and anywhere else actually, respectful behaviour should be the most natural thing in everyone’s life). A performer is a person and should be treated as such and not as your personal object of worship. He’s allowed to say no, he doesn’t have to have a chat with you and he’s allowed to have a bad day. The stage door is not part of his job which means you are not entitled to anything.
This list could probably go on forever but I think I have captured the main points so I will stop here. No matter if you are a regular stage door visitor or if you just take the occasional stage door trip to get a signature or a photo – I hope you have a great time. Most performers will be happy about the support and will gladly meet their fans. Just act in an appropriate way and treat both performers and your fellow fans with respect. That way everyone can go home with a smile on his/her face.