|Name(s):||theater, theatre, musical theater|
|Scope/Focus:||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.
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
Fan InteractionsActors may interact with fans on social media.
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:
- 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.
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
- 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