By Eric Gelb
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook… Social media outlets that used to be solely for connecting with friends have turned into a fangirl Mecca! Anyone that’s even walked near the Nederlander in the past two years has seen the long lines Disney’s Newsies generates at its stagedoor. Girls, boys, parents young and old flock to meet and greet the stars of Disney’s latest bona-fide hit after each performance.
However, with the help of social media, the fanbase doesn’t stop at getting one autograph and meeting the performers after the show. So now, even though the curtain is down, the show continues outside and online, beyond the lip of the stage. With the help of the internet, it as an easy task to locate cast members online — which many fans do — helping each cast member not only quickly gain followers but fan accounts as well, which is a blessing and a curse. However kind the support is, there is a line between being a supportive fan and being a bother to the performers.
Asking for autographs with the intent of giving them away on tumblr, sending Schmackary’s and gifts expecting a twitter shout-out or some sort of thank-you beyond a tweet or a letter back — is all inappropriate. Asking a performer to “follow you!” on twitter many times in a row is silly – ask once, and if it doesn’t happen, don’t tweet it again! Some performers have even taken to twitter to reiterate that their job does not require them to pose for pictures and sign autographs – and when they do so, it’s out of kindness and not out of obligation.
Take Lesli Margherita (Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda), who posts video blogs online for fans to enjoy. She’s not getting paid to do so, she’s doing it for all fans, so when fans tweet her repeatedly asking when the next is coming out angrily, it feels inappropriate. Think of it like getting a free ice cream as dessert at a restaurant on your birthday – you can’t really complain about it, since all you paid for was your actual meal. Make sense?
So, what is appropriate? What is proper stagedoor etiquette to follow? It almost feels like abiding by rules sucks out all the fun, but trust me… performers will be happier to greet audience members after the show if you act grateful rather than deserving. But you can definitely…
- Ask for an autograph or a picture.
Most performers are more than happy to oblige to this request, and most love it when you follow them on twitter or congratulate them on a performance well done, whether it be in real life or on social media. Performers are contracted to perform their show for you and give it their all, and not to meet you afterwards or follow you on twitter.
- Talk to them!
No one likes awkward pauses (First Date the Musical anyone?) while you’re waiting for a Playbill to be signed or to get your Sharpie out, so make sure you have a topic ready. It’s okay to reference another show or piece of work they may have been involved in (if appropriate). Don’t make it awkward for them!
- Flattery is always good.
It’s okay to tell a performer you thought they were awesome when they did xyz or during song xyz. Performers love to hear they’re doing a good job and entertaining, so don’t be afraid!
- Try and make new friends!
I’ve made many friends at the stagedoor! Most fellow patrons at the stagedoor are kind and understanding that you want to meet the performers just as much as they do, so don’t push or shove. If you’re alone, asking nicely to someone closeby if they could take your picture and offering to reciprocate may work very well for you – it might even lead to a new Facebook friend!
- Be conscious of your (and the performers) time.
While I’m sure the cast of Heathers would love to stay and hear your obsession with “Candy Store” all night, they have plenty of other fans to greet and talk to. Talking is cool, but we’ve all seen (and awkwardly looked away from) people talking a performer’s ear off… and pitying them too! Keep it endearing but concise.
- Make sure you say please and thank-you.
Most people in the theatre community are very gracious and kind. When you finish your encounter, make sure to thank them for their time. Don’t push the envelope during stagedoor or online encounters, and you’ll leave the theatre not only feeling uplifted by the show but with a twinkle in your eye after meeting one of its stars, knowing you’re not “that guy”!