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Ask Lyn: Should actors have to appear at stage door?

Ask Lyn: Should actors have to appear at stage door?

Ask Lyn: Should actors have to appear at stage door? cover photo on Stagedoor
"Dear Lyn, recently on Twitter I saw the actor Nicole Raquel Dennis asking fans to be respectful of those performing in shows.

She gently reminded us that when you buy a theatre ticket you “pay to see the show not meet the cast.” Layton Williams has also recently announced that he won't be leaving by stage door anymore, because of covid safety. But surely actors doing stage door is part of the experience for many fans?"

  • Jules, Motspur Park

Dear Jules,

From the Victorian era of the stage door Johnnie to our own age of the post-show selfie with a favourite cast member, the post-show encounter at the stage door has a long history. But one which Covid has interrupted. We will return to that.

I’ve always thought that it is a bonus if the cast do stage door after the show but definitely not a crime if they don’t. Put it this way, after a long day putting everything into your job, you might flattered but nonetheless daunted to find that the exit to your office is blocked every evening by lots of people who want to talk to you and sign autographs because they think you are the best accountant/barista/ actuary in the world. Particularly when it’s already 22.30 and you know that if you don’t get to Waterloo within the next half an hour there is an hour’s wait for the next train, and when you get home there is the dog to walk, the passport application to fill in, and your electricity bill to pay.

Of course, most successful actors know that a significant part of their success and currency is down to their fans’ devotion (social media has fuelled the perception that the stars we love are public property) and will do everything they can to reward that devotion. When Kit Harrington played Dr Faustus in the West End he must have spent almost as much time signing autographs at the stage door as he did on stage. It was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch would not do stage door when playing Hamlet, but nonetheless he could often be found there post-show being generous with fans.

Ian McKellen On Stage. Photo by Frederic Aranda.

When back in 2019 Ian McKellen celebrated his 80th birthday by touring the country with Ian McKellen on Stage to raise funds for theatre the whole thing was like a glorious meet and greet, and afterwards he was in the foyer chatting to the delighted crowd, his graciousness and patience ensuring the charity buckets got ever heavier. A class act in every way.

I reckon graciousness is the key here. But Nicole Raquel Dennis is right, buying a theatre ticket is not the same as purchasing a ticket for a meet and greet (there are other avenues to do that). At the moment, theatre is having a tough time and a Covid infection within the cast can lead to the cancellation of shows for several days. So it seems sensible that theatre performers are limiting their social contacts. Often at the request of producers.

If that means you can’t get a selfie with your favourite star that’s a disappointing, but it’s a small price to pay for ensuring the show does go on. I am confident that stage door will eventually return, but for now the priority should be to keep everyone safe.

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Written by

Lyn Gardner

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