The Thrill of Trip Planning

I’ve been planning what has become my annual trip to New York City (for BroadwayCon). It’s always such an exciting thing planning these trips- thinking about the shows you want to see while you’re there and the other locations you want to visit. With the BroadwayCon centred trips, the convention itself takes up the majority of the time, which is by no means a bad thing! But it does limit the time available for show and sight seeing, so there is a little bit of strategy involved in the planning. What can we fit in when not at BroadwayCon and what shows are at the top of our “want to see” list? For me, show planning usually means coming up with a few options because I usually end up going to TKTS to try to get discounted tickets! This year we’re going to try for a couple of digital lotteries, with TKTS being a backup plan for when we don’t win those (we’re entering for Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen so I know the odds of us winning will be quite slim, but there’s no harm in trying!!).

It’s fun to leave some time open for just wandering around the city but I do have some specific locations/stores I like to visit when I’m there. Three of my top places to visit are: Schmackary’s, The Drama Book Shop, and Theatre Circle. Schmackary’s has amazing cookies and I’m planning on making a couple stops there on this trip! I have yet to have any Broadway actor sightings there, but maybe some day! The Drama Book Shop the combination of two of my favourite things in one wonderful place: theatre and books. Even if I don’t buy anything it feels great to just wander around (and add more to my ever growing list of books I want to read). Sure Theatre Circle could be considered as quite a touristy shop but I love anywhere I can buy Broadway merchandise! With BroadwayCon though I do have to keep the Market Place in mind as it is another great place to pick up Broadway merch! This year I know I’m especially going to be on the lookout for Bandstand and Great Comet related items! Sure, my wallet might not be to thrilled having to deal with the exchange rate but if that’s what it takes to be surrounded by all things Broadway, it’s a price I’m willing to pay!

New York is one of my favourite cities and I love that I’ve been able to go there more frequently. As I go more and more often, the more I learn about the city and am able to navigate my way around better and better, particularly in the Times Square/Theatre District. It’s quite satisfying actually knowing my way around! Some of my happiest memories of late have taken place in New York City and I can’t wait to add even more from this trip!

What about those of you who are reading this blog, do you have any go-to New York locations? Any recommendations??

 

 

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Theatre Memories: Stage Door Stories

It should come as no surprise that I am someone who goes to the stage door after a show. I didn’t actually start stage dooring (yes, I will be using stage dooring as a verb throughout this post) show until I went to New York for the first time in 2012. Since then I’ve gone to the stage door of every Broadway show I’ve been to, and a few shows in Toronto. I have noticed that while stage dooring is done in Toronto, it is not as big a thing as it is in New York. The following are some of my own personal stage door experiences!

1st Stage Door Experience (also Busiest Stage Door Experience):

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. My first Broadway show was also my first stage door experience! And what an experience! To this day, it is still the busiest stage door I’ve been to. It was Darren Criss’s second day in the show, so it’s not surprising that it was a zoo. I didn’t get anywhere near the front of the group. I didn’t get any autographs. I got a few pictures from a distance where I’m pretty sure you can see parts of heads and sleeves. At one point I was standing on a ledge or barrier or something and did see and hear Darren, so all things considered it was the best I could have gotten from where I was and it was still great. (And, actually my dad, who ended up standing in a different spot from my mom and I, did get one of the actor’s autographs on his Playbill.)

Best Stage Door Experience:

I have had some really great stage door experiences, but I suppose the “best” would probably be after seeing the Godspell revival, also on my first trip to NYC. This time the stage door was nowhere near as busy. There were other people there but it was nothing like How to Succeed. I was right at the barrier right near the doors where the actors came out. I met and got pictures with almost every cast member (except Morgan James and Celisse Henderson). I also had longer conversations with Telly Leung and George Salazar which was really exciting for me! (I had actually seen George in a tour of Spring Awakening that had a one show stop in Kingston.)  My Godspell experience is certainly one I won’t forget!

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Photo collage I made of stage door pictures after seeing Godspell in 2012 (This is still the background on my laptop). Moving clockwise starting at the top left corner the pictures include Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Wallace Smith, George Salazar, Telly Leung, Uzo Aduba, Corey Mach, Nick Blaemire, Lindsay Mendez.

Worst Stage Door Experience:

This one goes to If/Then. I want to state right off the bat, this being the worst experience has nothing to do with any of the cast members. My issues came from the other people waiting at the stage door. And it wasn’t all bad. I got to meet and get pictures with quite a few of the cast members. At one point though, as we were waiting for Idina to come out, a really tall person came up right behind me and with people in front and beside me, I felt closed in on all and couldn’t really move or see . It was overwhelming and pretty uncomfortable. Yes, when it’s a busy stage door there is only so much room and it gets crowded, but this time it was just a bit too much. When Idina came out I did get some pictures of her but I didn’t end up getting her autograph. I just wasn’t close enough/pushy enough I guess (it was nothing to do with Idina herself, who I know can only do so much when there are so many people and in a short amount of time). Like I said, in terms of the actors though, everyone was great! It was just the crowd with which I had an issue.

Least Busy Stage Door Experience:

There have been a few times when I’ve gone to the stage door for shows in Toronto and I’ve been the only one there. This was the case the last time the Phantom of the Opera tour was in Toronto. I may have been the only person there but I got a lot of autographs! When Buyer and Cellar was playing in Toronto I went to the stage door where there were two of us (the other person being my mother who had been at the show with me!). I got to meet Christopher J Hanke though, which had an added bonus because I had also seen him as Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business, but, like I said before, I wasn’t anywhere near enough to get any autographs at that show!

Best Stage Door Experience Not at the Stage Door:

I saw the In the Heights tour twice. Once in Kingston and once in Toronto. After the Toronto performance I ended up meeting the cast when we were on the way back to our hotel. I had seen the show with my parents and best friend and as we were on the subway I looked over and saw people I thought I recognized from the cast. We debated for a while whether or not it was them and whether or not to go over to them but finally we did, asking if they were in fact from the cast. When they confirmed it, I asked them to sign my souvenir program. It was as they began passing it around that I realized how many of them were actually there! I had recognized two of them!) I talked to them for a little while, telling them how I had also seen the show in Kingston. They were all really nice and it was great of them to take the time to talk to us! It was a really cool experience!

Biggest Celebrity I’ve Met at the Stage Door:

In terms of celebrities (beyond the theatre world), I would say there is a tie for this one between Josh Groban, Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney, although I had the most interaction with Laura. I got Josh’s autograph after seeing Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. In that instance it was a case of him going along the group quickly signing autographs and not posing for pictures. It was still really cool though! I met Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney after seeing The Little Foxes on the same trip. The stage door for The Little Foxes was not very busy and as well as getting both of their autographs I also got a picture with Laura Linney!

People and Moments that Stand Out From Other Stage Door Experiences:

  • Alex Brightman after seeing School of Rock. He was really nice and such a great Dewey! I talked to him about loving the movie growing up.
  • Laura Osnes after seeing Bandstand. I’ve been a fan of Laura’s for a long time and it was a dream come true to get to see her in a show and then meet her at the stage door afterwards! (I wish now that I had gotten pictures with the rest of the cast too.)
  • Ramin Karimloo, Christy Altomare, & Derek Klena after seeing Anastasia. We talked to Ramin for a bit as fellow Canadians and I’ve seen him perform a few times before. (He’s amazing). We talked to Christy for a while. She was really taking the time to talk to everyone and she was extremely nice. She made sure we met Derek too because he had gone to the next people while we were talking to her. He was also great!
  • Norm Lewis after seeing Phantom of the Opera. He was the last person to come out, quite a while after everyone else, but I remember him being really nice and talking to everyone and posing for pictures. (This was also a bit of a weird experience because we were all waiting in one spot, then, after we’d already been there for a while, were told we couldn’t stand there and had to move to a different spot. It all worked out in the end, but I found it strange that we hadn’t been informed of the “right” place to wait earlier. But I still got to meet Norm Lewis, so it was great!)
  • Andy Karl and the rest of the Rocky cast. I was so excited after seeing that show and meeting the cast was the icing on the cake. I was right near the end of the group that was waiting at the stage door, which worked out really well for getting photos and spending a little time talking to the actors, including Andy.
  • I’ve also had a lot of good experiences with the security at various Broadway stage doors. A lot of the time they have been great about letting everyone know if people are still coming out or if that’s it for the night. The people at the Godspell and Bandstand stage doors were particularly good about keeping us updated. I can only imagine what they have to deal with night after night!
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One of my my more recent stage door highlights: meeting Laura Osnes after Bandstand in 2017.

It’s a common thing in this post that the actors I’ve met at the stage door have been really nice. But it’s true, they have been. I really appreciate everyone I’ve met (talked to, posed for a picture with, had sign my Playbill/souvenir program), knowing that it’s not a part of their job to greet fans at the stage door! And I totally understand and accept when people don’t come out the stage door. I’m so grateful for the excellent experiences I’ve had and look forward to any future stage door experiences!

Finding My Way in the Theatre World (A Work in Progress)

Obviously, I love the theatre (every post on this blog and the existence of this blog in itself are a testament to that!) and theatre plays a very big part in my life, but when it comes to where I am and where I see myself within the theatre world, where I fit, well, I’m still trying to figure that out.

In interviews with theatre professionals (actors, directors, designers, etc.) the topic of education is one of those topics that always seems to come up. It’s always a question of did they go to school? Did they not? And whether or not they did, the conclusion is always the same: there is no one way to “make it” (whether that means on Broadway specifically or just in the theatre world in general). Just because going to school is right for one person, doesn’t mean that that’s necessarily the right option for someone else. It depends on each individual person. In my case, I did study Drama at university, though I wasn’t in a “theatre program” per se (it wasn’t a conservatory program or a BFA or anything like that). I was in a general Bachelor of Arts (Honours) program in which I majored in Drama (with a minor in Art History).

Before I went off and studied Drama at university however, I grew up in a town that didn’t have a whole lot of options when it came to theatre. There are a couple of theatres and companies in nearby towns but overall it’s not the best area for gaining exposure to the theatre. In high school I wasn’t interested in taking drama classes, except for the musical theatre class my high school offered every other year, which I took in grade 12 (a class in which we wrote and performed a musical). I knew a life in the spotlight wasn’t for me (I had/have neither the talent nor the confidence for it) and drama classes typically seemed to be performance based. I hadn’t even read many plays before studying Drama at university. The only plays I really read in high school were by Shakespeare (though I was one of those students who did enjoy reading Shakespeare in high school). I was very much interested in theatre in high school and loved seeing shows I just didn’t have a whole lot of experience making theatre.

So while my interest in (obsession with) theatre began earlier, when it came time for me to decide on post secondary education, I had no idea what I actually wanted to do (I mean, I still don’t, but we’ll get to that). I did look into some theatre programs but, like I mentioned before, I knew that I didn’t want to be a performer and I did not want to go into a program for which I would have to audition. Though I was more interested in the production side of theatre, I didn’t really know that much about it or have much experience in it. Nothing seemed like quite the right fit. I didn’t even know for sure if I wanted to go into theatre, I just knew that I liked it (a lot), and that it would be cool to be a part of it in some way.

I decided to into a general Bachelor of Arts (Honours) program. I did get into my top choice of school, Queen’s University, and I got into a program that allowed me to spend my first year in England going to school in a castle (Herstmonceux Castle). In first year I took a general selection of courses (Art History, Drama, English, Film, and some others) and second year was when we declared our majors. I had enjoyed both Drama and Art History in first year so I decided on a medial degree with those two subjects (sort of like a double major but not quite). I found I was enjoying my Drama classes more than the Art History ones so for third year I switched to a Drama major with an Art History minor, which was definitely the right decision for me.

I really liked the Drama department at Queen’s and the variety of classes it offered which allowed me to figure out my own place/path in the program. There were of course the mandatory course requirements, some theory and history courses, some technical with required practical elements of working on the crew for a department productions. Studying Drama at university, I got to learn about and experience all of the technical and production elements that go into the creation of a show that I just hadn’t experienced and didn’t really know about before. I took design courses, looking at set, lighting and costume design. I also took playwriting and Theatre for Young Audiences (in which we wrote plays and then performed them at an elementary school in the area, my group’s play being a kid version of Macbeth. Yes, you read that right!). All of my professors were great as well and helped to make my experience at Queen’s the positive one that it was.

It was great getting to work on productions both for and outside of class. There were so many theatre companies with so many shows being put on at any given time. Some were actually a part of the department and some were companies organized by students outside of the department. With all of these productions there were lots of opportunities to try new things and gain new experiences. At one point my interest was focused on sound design and I was able to work on a number of productions doing that but then I decided I wanted to try my hand at some other jobs so that’s what I did! During my time in Kingston (I also stayed a year after graduation to work and to work on more shows and I continued to figure out what I wanted to do and to just gain more experience) I worked in such a variety of positions on different types of shows. I was on set crew, sound crew, props crew. I did set, props, paint design and sound design. I worked as an assistant technical director and an assistant stage manager. I enjoyed all of it, even though it did get stressful at times. I was able to explore and learn both about the theatre and myself, including how I work both on my own and with others and in leadership positions, like being a crew head. I loved working on shows (and still love it). The collaboration, the creativity, being a part of something, it was all so rewarding. And with so many productions going on around campus, there were a lot of different styles/genres of theatre to experience- plays, musicals, established productions, student written shows. It was a good way to learn about what I really like and am interested in on both sides of the stage.

I don’t think I would have gotten in to theatre (in such a way, or maybe at all) if I hadn’t done it the way I did. I was able to sort of find me way into it, figuring out the things I liked to do and being able to experiment and try new things. Studying drama the way I did increased my overall interest in, respect for and understanding of theatre and my appreciation for it. I learned a lot from my program and I’m so glad that I chose it.

Now I’m out in the “real world.” I graduated 3, almost 4 years ago (it will be 4 years this year) and I am still trying to figure out what I really want to do with my life (beyond knowing that theatre will be a part of it one way or another). For now though, I am happy that I do actually have a job in the theatre, working in front of house, working with other theatre-loving people. It’s great knowing that I have a role in that world, as minor as that role may be. I have also stage managed a couple of productions recently, and while I don’t think I want to “be” a stage manager (professionally), I do enjoy it and I enjoy being a part of the process of creating and putting together a show, and that I’ve been able to do it outside of school!

Overall the theatre industry doesn’t really seem to be the easiest to get into, especially when you don’t know specifically what you want to do and to be able to make enough money to live off of. It is nice to be living in a city where there is a fairly large theatre scene, though it’s nothing compared to NYC or the West End. And there are not really a lot of other theatre-related jobs, by which I mean jobs that might fall outside of the standard positions in a theatre or on a production. Every so often I will look at the job listings on the Playbill website and there are such a variety of jobs. I will see jobs that look interesting and think “maybe I could do something like that,” but we just don’t always have those same sorts of options or opportunities here, which can be a little disheartening.

In all honesty, I can’t really picture myself doing anything specifically, which is extremely helpful when you’re trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. For now, I am grateful to have a job in a theatre and one that lets me be a part of that world, surrounded by people who are also interested in and a part of that world. I think writing this blog is also me trying to find a place for myself or rather, create a place for myself, in the theatre/Broadway world. Now if only I could stay motivated to update it regularly!