Is visiting stage door a right for audiences or a restriction for actors?

The coronavirus pandemic has allowed us to re-examine many aspects of our lives: politics, infrastructure and the very notion that we are in any way equipped for disaster. This re-examination has included the arts, and while theatres are sadly closing, this also means a function of the larger stage shows is currently being restricted – that being stage door access. Put simply, ‘stage door’ is where actors will come to the stage exit to meet fans and sign autographs at the end of the show. At present this practice is being discouraged, understandably, due to fear of infection.

Prior to infection, however, concerns about the stage door were already being raised. Actress, writer and influencer Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Miserables) has previously shared her experience of facing online abuse for not showing up and greeting fans at the stage door. Her reasoning for not doing so, on one occasion, was simply to have time with friends she is barely able to see. But for others it’s more serious, such as having to get home to look after family or simply taking care of themselves after a long day’s performance.

How vital is the existence of stage door? 

So, even without the concerns about coronavirus, how vital is the existence of the stage door? Personally, I’m not someone who goes for it. I know there will usually be others either more patient or more determined than I am to see the actors with prepared material for autographs. I understand the appeal, but at the same time, the theatre itself isn’t a convention where the ticket price includes the chance of meeting someone.

They’ve already performed for your money and time; if they choose to meet you afterwards that’s a privilege, not a requirement or something to be widely expected. For some actors it may be the highlight of their show, seeing how their work affects those up-close, but that doesn’t mean they should all have to for the gratification of fans.

If they choose to meet you afterwards that’s a privilege.

To anyone who is bitter towards having to wait, or not having the exact reception they expected, or flat out doesn’t get to see their favourite actor and takes it out on them online, isn’t in the right.  Giving actors online abuse only shows that you ignorantly expect to be waited upon, especially since meet and greet isn’t on most theatre tickets. If meeting actors is your main priority then there are other venues in which to do so: namely conventions, films and concerts, which often have a section for VIP access that includes a meet and greet bundle. If you’re snubbed in this scenario, then complaining isn’t entirely unfounded. Even then, however, it’s always worth remembering that some circumstances such as exhaustion and commitments are out of performer’s control and the best thing to do is always bear with everyone involved.

At the end of the day, actors are human and work hard when performing on the stage. They also have lives outside of the theatre and being there to ask them for an extra autograph doesn’t stop them having greater personal priorities. In summation, if actors are going to come out to sign autographs or talk to their fans then it’s a good idea to be civil, courteous and allow them to feel as happy as you are seeing them. Whilst for the time being social and professional distancing are being encouraged, please be civil with people when the time comes for us all to all be within close proximity of one another.

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