Being a student within the Theatre and Dance department (my second major is Theatre with a focus in acting), one is required to crew four shows within his or her time at UT. This requirement, needed in order to graduate, presents students with the option of either participating in a shop during the day, scheduled like any other class (i.e. costume, set, etc.), or do run crew. Run crew requires two to three weeks almost every night where students help tech the show and serve as running crew during its, well, run (hence the name). Though spending two to three weeks on campus until late is less than ideal for a social college student like myself, it nonetheless fulfills the requirement in an almost painless way, and leaves me with time (while listening to the songs of Madame Butterfly currently being performed above me while I sit and work in the dressing room) to do homework, ponder life, stress about upcoming assignments, and of course, blog.
Like I mentioned in one of my first blog posts (okay, okay, every blog post), I am a huge Broadway fan. At almost ever musical I see, aside from seeing the show itself, one of the most fun and exciting parts (whether it be in New York City or a national tour at the Hobby Center in Houston) is stage door-ing (yes, used as a verb). For those to whom the following word (verb) means nothing, let me explain further in detail (“Wendi’s Way of Stage Door-ing,” let’s call it…it has some nice alliteration, too). Stage door-ing is lining up at the stage door or exit of the theatre after the play in hopes of meeting the actors as they exit. Upon curtain call of the show, Wendi immediately stands up and begins to exit her row to leave the theatre. Depending on the location of seating, this if often extremely hard, because you have to push past people (who hopefully, being that it is curtain call, are already standing and applauding) and awkwardly run (as fast as you can without looking like an idiot) towards the back of the theatre to leave and go stand by the stage door (where, usually, some form of a ate is set up to keep away the masses, similar to a concert). This brings up another point; if you want to stage door, make sure you find out where the stage door is before the show starts. Otherwise you get caught in a mess of people trying to find the stage door and it’ll take you longer and by time you get there it will be too late (to those rolling their eyes and wondering where the hell this post is going, hang tight). “Too late” constitutes several possible circumstances. Primarily (and this usually is only the case if you’re in New York with other die hard theatre fans who also know the stage door protocol), there will be so many people already out there that you’ll be forced to stand in the back. Sometimes the actors are great and will make sure each and every person standing there gets a picture/autograph/whatever, but often times this is not the case, especially if you’re waiting for a Sutton Foster/ Jeremy Jordan/ Bernadette Peters caliber actor (granted, these type of people may not even come out, so in the off chance they do you need to be prepared). Secondly, sometimes the actors literally change and leave at the speed of light, so getting lost/ taking your precious time will not work in your favor, either. The best is to run out at curtain call and get a front spot, Sharpie and Playbill (and someone with a camera, who knows how to take pictures as you’ll have one shot and about five seconds to get a non-blurry shot before the actor moves on to somebody else) in hand.
Back to the point of this post (yes there is one); whenever I am waiting outside the stage door, I get occasional glances inside the backstage of the theatre as actors exit and wonder to myself what it must be like back there. I mean, backstage of a Broadway theatre during a show? This thought also always occurs to me whenever I am sitting in the audience and can see actors within the wings. I think it would be so fun to stand backstage during Newsies or Wicked and see how the actors and crew work together, collaborate, and hang out during the show. For those of you non-Broadway people, think about it as backstage at the Kodak Theatre during the Oscars, or in the green room at a Kanye concert.
While sitting here in production lab, I begin to think if it’s really as not-so-exciting back there as it is in here. To me, these people are talented Broadway stars that get to sing some of the best music every night. To them, however, it’s just their job, and it’s them doing the same exact thing every single night. They perform these shows eight times a week, somewhat similar to how I am crewing this play and am here six nights a week. What looks so exciting and special to me sitting in the front row of the theatre or standing outside the stage door is probably a similar set up what’s in this room with me; actors absentmindedly on their laptops, costumes being hung on racks, and crew members waiting for their cue. Cliché alert: I guess it’s all about perspective. To someone, this UT production of Madame Butterfly may be on a Broadway caliber, and, though it’s doubtful anyone will be standing outside the stage door when I exit, it’s interesting to think about my experience backstage here. Though I may complain about having to be here until eleven every night for a few weeks, it’s actually kind of fun to think that the costume crew head of The Phantom of the Opera and the stage manger of Once are currently in their respective theatres at the same time doing something similar to what I am doing. I am doing and experiencing what those much envied people behind the stage door are doing, and though I can’t wait for the next few weeks to fly so my life can go back to normal (making a sorority girl miss out on her weekends in college is simply unethical…kidding), it’s interesting getting a chance to see (yes, Thoroughly Modern Millie reference…) “how the other half lives”.