|theater, theatre, musical theater
|works produced on-stage for entertainment, education, and enlightenment
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People have been going to see theater all over the world since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks. Styles of acting have changed, official stances on the morality of actors have changed, and budgets have changed, but fans of the theater have remained as devoted and entertained as ever.
Theater as a General Fandom
There are many people who enjoy going to see a lot of theater but would not consider themselves part of a fandom. There are also people who might be fans of one or two shows in particular but are not part of the larger theater fandom. Some theater fans like musicals but not plays; others enjoy plays but not musicals; some fans enjoy both.
Location does not necessarily hinder one's participation in or enjoyment of theater. If a fan does not live near one of the large theater districts, they could see a show at a local community theater, at a regional professional theater, at a college or high school, or during a tour of the professional production. However, not all shows make it to tour, and tours often only reach major metropolitan areas.
Fans can enjoy their favorite shows outside the theater house by listening to soundtracks, watching video recordings (sometimes legal, sometimes not), and reading the script, if available. There has slowly been a movement by theater producers to utilise technology to make theater accessible to fans all over the world: see the Royal National Theatre's National Theatre Live, the streaming service BroadwayHD, and the recent trend of special live broadcast musicals on Fox and NBC.
Participation in the theater fandom (especially the Broadway fandom) often makes people fans of specific actors, just as in any other fandom. It is always very exciting for a fan to see that their favorite theater actor has been cast in a new production, or is taking a role that they will excel in. Theater can also be a way for a fan to see their favorite film or TV actor live.
Most of the fandom focuses on Broadway. Broadway is mostly known for its big musicals, but big-name plays perform there as well. Theaters in New York City that have fewer than 500 seats are called Off-Broadway. The Original Broadway Cast is often held up as the idealized version of the show. The idealization of certain casts and the sidelining of others is a source of discourse.
A smaller part of the fandom focuses on the West End in London. There is some overlap in shows in the two locations. Shows will sometimes start on the West End and move to Broadway, or vice-versa. There are also a number of professional theaters in London that are not considered West End but are still appreciated by fans of theater, including Shakespeare's Globe and the Royal National Theatre, which does National Theatre Live, broadcasting live recordings of their productions to cinemas around the world.
Somewhat connected to The West End, but often not, there are also musicals (with fandoms) coming from other areas. Musicals beginning / premiering in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Russia are common to see in fandom spaces. But there are of course performances elsewhere. There are some shared performances from Latin America, especially Mexico City, but less common. There may also be "native" musical forms from other continents, but western theater fans may not know about them. However, the musicals mentioned above may also be translated plus performed in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. In Japan there is a special theater, especially among fans of yuri or femmeslash, f/f, the Tarazuka, which is all-female in it's actors. And there are also a variety of other stages that perform both domestic and international theater such as the Toho company and others. - In general, these musicals have fandoms in their original languages, plus smaller ones internationally including in some parts in English.
There are, of course, innumerable plays and musicals out in the world, and the lineup on Broadway or the West End is constantly changing, but some shows pick up more fan followings than others. It is often listening to or seeing one of these popular shows that can get a fan invested in the rest of the fandom. Some examples of popular shows with followings of their own within and without the theater fandom are:
- Les Miserables
- Phantom of the Opera (and other Andrew Lloyd Webber shows)
- Into the Woods
- Disney stage shows - Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Newsies, etc
- Be More Chill
- Cats (musical)
Actors may interact with fans on social media. Many theater actors are active users of the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram, and fans on Twitter, who may be part of Broadway Stan Twitter, are known to keep track of how many times their favorite actors have liked/replied to them. This may include making a twitter thread of "notices."  Some fans may see it as a challenge to be noticed by an actor without a large social media presence.
On Instagram, fans may also make fan accounts, dedicated either to a Broadway show, a Broadway actor, or Broadway as a whole. The content these fans post may range from clips of Bootlegs, to screenshots of Tumblr posts, to simply reposting photos from actors' personal Instagram accounts with new captions. Many fans tag actors in the instagram posts they make about them, although it is generally considered rude to tag actors in bootlegged clips of their performances, because of the controversy surrounding their existence at all.  Theater actors and crew members will also occasionally do "takeovers" of Instagram accounts, both official accounts from theater companies and fan accounts, as a means of seeing more of their day to day life. 
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Sending fanmail to either an actor or an entire production is a common practice, both with fans who participate in Theater fandom, and non-fannish fans. It is common to write to actors to request playbills (signed or blank), signed photos, and also to ask them to fill out a questionnaire sheet made for them.  Broadway fanmail is typically addressed to the Stage Door address where an actor is performing. Fans may also address mail directly to the stage manager, most often with a request for a playbill signed by the entire cast. Fans also may send actors gifts, handmade or storebought, and fanart. Some shows have a wall in the backstage area where fanart is collected and hung up.
Stage Dooring is the practice of lining up at the stage door following a show. Audience members head to an allocated area outside the theater and wait for the actors to emerge. Actors usually will sign Playbills, merch, or other belongings. An actor may or may not stop to exchange words with fans or allow selfies. The atmosphere of each stage door varies greatly depending on the popularity of the show or the actors. There is considerable discussion about etiquette for the stage door.
The stage door experience is intended for audience members, but depending on security, non-audience members may also arrive. Because it is up to individual actors to decide whether to make an appearance at the stage door, and an actor may take days off or make uncharacteristic opinions depending on their mood, fans are often warned to be respectful to actors at stage door to make it a good experience for them. Usually, a significant amount of the main actors come to stage door, but when an individual actor gains a dedicated following, they may avoid the stage door to avoid aggressive attention.
Some actors will let their fans know on social media if they are planning to appear at the stage door.
Controversies in fandom include:
- Accessibility of Theater
- Classism in Theater
- Racism and Colorism in Theater: x
- The Fourth Wall
- The Ethics of Bootlegs and Bootleg Sharing, often connected to Classism in Theatre, since most of the time Broadway tickets are very expensive.
- Stagedoor etiquette and general theatre etiquette.
Resources & Links
- BroadwayWorld.com Broadway message board; West End message board
- TheatreBoard.co.uk message board
- Musicals.net message board
- FYeahBroadway on Tumblr
- Crack Van fandom overview
- Sarah on twitter: -bway notices, April, 3, 2018
- Ness on Twitter: open letter to broadway instagram stans..., April 20, 2019
- Nicole on Twitter: people who tag actors in bootlegs make me want scream, April 30, 2020
- bwaycontent on Instagram: David 2/26 Instagram Highlight, February 26, 2019
- officialbroadwayworld on Instagram: Kerry Instagram Highlight, accessed July 1, 2020
- michele on Twitter people do it all the time w/broadway! people send in questionnaires to cast members, letters, and send the stuff in w/the self addressed stamped envelopes so they could get the questionnaire back along w/a pb (if it's bway anyway lol) or w/e they give back to you on the west end, June 24, 2019
- Broadway Fan Mail Fan Mail How-To (FAQ), accessed July 1, 2020.
- See Brendon Urie on Twitter during his run of Kinky Boots on Broadway: Hey I love y'all. But I can't keep coming out to stage door when you scream in my face and don't listen. So I'm done hope to see y'all later, July 29, 2017
- See Audra McDonald on Twitter: So sorry I can't do the stage door today. Rushing to catch a plane!!!, September 28, 2014 or Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter: No stage door tonight, gotta stay healthy for the long weekend of shows & Grammy Monday., February 12, 2016