Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stage Door Traditions

The air was chilly and crisp, but the anticipation kept me warm. We were waiting outside the Artists' Entrance at the Pasadena Playhouse after a stellar production of Art starring Bradley Whitford, Roger Bart, and Michael O'Keefe.

I don't remember who taught me about waiting by the stage door to meet the performers. I certainly didn't do it all the times I went to Broadway shows as a youth. But once I learned how to do it, I was hooked.

Because theater actors will always come out the stage door and greet their fans. It's a tradition, even today on Broadway, where actors will autograph Playbills and pose for pictures while receiving accolades for the performance they just finished minutes ago.

I was eager to meet the actors in Art for a few reasons. One, the show was incredible - a brilliant play executed brilliantly by three skilled wordsmiths. I laughed, I gasped, it was better than CATS.

Two, I had a minor connections with two of the actors - I'd acted opposite Bradley Whitford for a day on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and had seen Roger Bart in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown on Broadway. Awkward hellos always feel less awkward when you have an "in" to start the conversation.

We waited for a while outside, managing doubt that they would come out at all. But true to theater form, they did. Michael emerged first - we told him his performance was wonderful. He smiled and walked away. (That's the other piece of stage door etiquette - the space around the stage door is where you say hello. After the performer exits that zone, you leave them alone.)

Bradley was lovely - when I mentioned we had worked together, he perked and asked, "Oh! How are you doing?" Like we were old friends - so sweet.

Roger Bart came out next, and I have to admit, I totally fell in fandom love. He was funny, down to earth, and seemed genuinely interested to meet us. When I mentioned seeing him play Snoopy on Broadway, he quipped, "Wow, back when I was a young man."

As the conversation continued, he learned I went to MIT and instantly started asking questions about how I went from an engineering school to becoming an actor and writer. I would have loved to take him out for a drink and tell him my life story, but out of respect, I kept it brief, congratulated him on the show again, and said farewell.

As we walked away, my friend realized we didn't ask for a picture, but that was okay. I look forward to working with these guys someday (especially Roger) and saying, "I met you at the stage door after Art." They may not remember me, but I'll remember them.

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