Lessons From The Stage Door (as told by a mom creeping in the background)

Lessons From The Stage Door (as told by a mom creeping in the background)

By Shelly Norman

Most of Shelly’s career had been as a journalist. Her real superpower is stories — telling them or listening. Information is her currency. She is the mother of Editor-in-Chief Molly Norman.

The first time I took my theater-loving daughter to a show, she wanted to “stage door.” I patiently explained to her that wasn’t a real thing. People don’t really do that. I even asked the usher to back me up. I was wrong. Since then I have spent a great deal of time at stage doors. Here’s what I’ve learned:

You really never know

One of my favorite stage door stories is one I wasn’t even there for -- but I see the same thing over and over. Apparently, Santino Fontana was walking past the Broadway Theatre where he was co-starring in Cinderella. And there was a ginormous poster of him and Laura Osnes on the side of the building. A couple stopped him, quite excitedly. (I suppose those in the limelight grow accustomed to that.) But rather than ask for him to pose for a picture with them, they asked him to take a photo of them in front of his picture. They never knew who he was! I suppose we all have some superpower -- and some degree of anonymity about those superpowers. But it boggles my mind to stand at the stage door and watch actors wander off into the dark when only moments before they are on stage bowing to a standing ovation.

The people behind the scenes allow the people in the spotlight to glow

You don’t see the techies or the stage manager or the costume designer or the security guard. But all of those people are integral to the show. I have seen all of these people at the stage door. Occasionally someone will ask one of them for an autograph. They typically defer. Even though they aren’t on the stage, they really are all part of an excellent show. Maybe it’s just because of the holiday season, but I have been thinking lately about the many people who help me to be successful. And it gives me pause to consider: am I equally helpful to other people? My daughter has a Wicked playbill signed by the wardrobe assistant. (She drew a little purse next to her name. Love it!)

Everybody needs a fan

We saw Sara Bareilles in Waitress. Because of her popularity, the stage door was a madhouse. The crowd extended far past the sidewalk and into the street. In contrast, we saw Matilda on tour in Seattle where there was only one other person waiting at the stage door. What a difference! I don’t know what it’s like to have a streetful of fans waiting to get a glimpse of me. I suspect it’s draining. But I do know that when you are one of two people in a poorly lit dark alley outside of the stage door in the rain, the actors appear to be very willing to spend a few minutes chatting with you and signing your playbill.

Some people are just truly gracious

I was at the stage door the day Christy Altomare received the doll that would go on to become Creepy Anya. One would have thought she had never been given anything, ever. She was so very grateful and gracious. It was like it was the first gift she had ever received. I have since been backstage in her dressing room. I can tell you now with certainty she has been given many, many things. And saves them all. But she treats each gift as if it were her most precious possession and she makes the giver feel good about their effort. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more like Ms. Altomare?

Be ready! The Universe wants to give you Big Things

Okay, so this next story didn’t happen at a stage door -- which makes it all the more delightful. My daughter is a HUGE Fansie -- what we call those who are fans of Newsies. She didn’t see Newsies on Broadway, but has systematically been gathering signatures of the original cast. We were at an off-Broadway play and although she had her Newsies playbill back in our room, she didn’t have it with her. We were waiting for the doors to open to Kingdom Come, which played to an intimate (also read as small) crowd, she recognized Corey Cott as an audience member. She walked over to him; she chatted him up; she burst into tears. She will still choke up a little when we talk about that night. She did not get him to sign her playbill, but she got a great story and a warm-fuzzy memory.

I never cease to be amazed at the good people we have met at the stage door and the fun stories we’ve shared. I’m glad I found out stagedooring really is a thing! Thank you, Mr. Usher.

(Photo by Davy Mack)