Paul Rudd greets fans at the stage door after a recent performance of <i>Grace</i> on Broadway.
Paul Rudd greets fans at the stage door after a recent performance of Grace on Broadway.
(© Tristan Fuge)
Meeting cast members, getting their autographs, and taking pictures with them can be an intense, but exciting occasion. Many spectators accomplish this by "stage-dooring." I've spent a good deal of time and have a lot of wonderful memories waiting outside stage doors. I've also heard and witnessed a lot of good, bad, and questionable behavior while waiting at stage doors.

Some of these actions particularly strike a note within me as a performer, and how crazy things can sometimes get when actors meet with devoted fans. If stage-dooring is something that might interest you the next time you go see a show, here are a few helpful tips that will not only help you prepare, but will also help you enjoy these rare moments beyond the fourth wall, and will be a great assistance to those entertaining you!

TIP #1: Bring your own Sharpies!

I list this tip first because it has occurred every single time I have stage-doored. Usually, a performer will have his own marker or pen, but it's always handy to have your own on standby (See what I did there?). I have since learned to bring at least THREE Sharpie markers. People see you are prepared (both an upside and a downside) and ask to borrow your Sharpie when performers come out to sign. If there are many people in a cast, it can get tedious lending and reclaiming your Sharpie—because once ONE person asks, EVERYONE asks. The simple task of bringing a couple extra Sharpies (just in case) can save you time and help you make some friends. After all, performers are always extremely grateful when they see you share with other fans.

TIP #2: Peruse your playbill for the headshot pages in advance—KNOW YOUR PERFORMERS!

Avoid the embarrassment I witnessed a girl go through when I saw The Phantom of the Opera this past summer. She assumed every single person who came out the stage door was in Phantom—no matter WHO they were: people from other shows, friends / family of the cast… and even random passersby. Admittedly, it can be difficult to tell a performer onstage by their headshot—but still, it's a reference. Though the people she talked to were in good humor, some people can (and did) get a little offended. If you're not sure (or on the off-chance there are no headshot pages), don't assume—just ask.

TIP #3: Be patient!

Patience is a virtue. However, I've heard horror stories from friends witnessing fans' impatience turn to belligerence: yelling, making crude remarks, and giving attitude about the people who just exerted themselves onstage to entertain. Becoming aggressive helps no one and ruins everyone's mood, performers and spectators alike. Not to mention—it's rude. Patience is key to stage-dooring. Just relax and enjoy the experience!

TIP #4: Be mindful to the people around you.

This is a tip a lot of people forget in the presence of celebrities. Everyone tries to get the perfect picture of a person's face, or to touch him, or to get his signature—and people forget about all the other people around them that are there for the very same reasons. People miss out, get trapped in the crowds, or worse, get hurt. Give people a bit of space. And as for performers: when you see someone with food, about to eat, or on a cell phone, or talking intimately with people who may be family or friends, either refer back to Tip #3 or move onto Tip #5…

TIP #5: Be polite. Be normal. Seriously.

This is probably the most important tip. Sometimes, people become so eager to meet performers that all hell breaks loose. Though it may seem difficult at times, keeping your cool and remembering that you're there for the same reasons everyone else is can be one of the best things to keep your experience a positive one. This goes toward performers and other fans. Mind your Ps and Qs ("Please," "Thank you," and especially "Excuse me") and respect people's wishes (if they say, "No pictures," be considerate—no hissy-fits). Lastly, just relax and be yourself. Performers are people, too. They'll appreciate it.

Stage-dooring can be a thrilling experience, and when everyone cooperates, we can all leave with some awesome memories (and memorabilia!) we can cherish for the rest of our lives.