Friday, December 30, 2011

Twitter: Fan Mail For the Future

One of the things I love most about live theatre is the access to the actors and actresses. I got my first taste of this when I waited at my first stage door a few years ago. I’d see very few Broadway shows that that point in my life. But I’d hear the rumors of “close encounters” and after seeing the magic that was the musical Next to Normal, I knew I needed to try to see some of the people who performed such magic on stage.

I went to wait at the stage door of the Booth Theatre. I was a “first timer” and didn’t have a Sharpie for getting autographs (a mistake I’ve only made one other time since). The first actor came out the door (Aaron Tveit). I didn’t push my way through and let him get on down the line.

Ignore the face issues. I'd had a long day & all my make-up had worn off! :)
There was a lady standing behind me that could tell I was a tourist and crazy nervous. With my very…pronounced Southern accent, I’m used to getting attention in New York. She told me to push my way up front (there weren’t many people there anyway) so I could get my autographs. I got all the other casts members autographs (save Jennifer Damiano, who didn’t come out that night), and the lady who encouraged me to “get in there” was kind enough to take a picture of me with Alice Ripley. To this day, I appreciate the lady who gave me the courage to do something out of my comfort zone, and to Alice Ripley, who was one of the kindest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet at a stage door.

That was my first addictive taste of not only being in the same room watching magic happen on stage, but then getting to personally thank the actors for doing what they do. Sure, they get paid for it, but how often do you get to tell an actor or an actress that you appreciate what they do? If they are a television or film actor…probably never. But you can with those who frequent the stages of New York (and other areas of the country).

It’s rare that I don’t “stage door” a Broadway production. The times that I don’t seem to be the shows with the biggest names (i.e. How to Succeed with Daniel Radcliff and Follies with…well, the entire cast). I don’t like to fight the crowds. But shows like Jerusalem offered me the chance to have an actual conversation with John Gallagher Jr (of Spring Awakening and American Idiot fame). American Idiot offered me the chance to talk with some amazing actors and actresses and let them know how much their work meant to me. And I finally got Aaron Tveit’s autograph at the stage door for Catch Me if You Can (truly an amazingly sweet person).

While I love my times at stage door, one of the coolest tools that I have found to communicate with the actors and actresses that I love so much is Twitter. So many people blow it off as silly and non-effective. I will very strongly disagree with anyone on this. While I have truly mixed feelings on tweeting while watching a performance (I plan on writing a little more about this in the near future), I LOVE the access to the stars that I get.

Not everyone tweets. But some do. And I’ve found that theatre performers are fantastic about tweeting fans back. I won’t lie, it started with American Idiot. I began to follow and tweet cast members of the show. But then I found that I could tweet members of other casts and people were tweeting me back! In fact, Lexi Lawson (who I saw on tour in both Rent and In the Heights) has tweeted me back the few times I’ve tweeted her (or mentioned her in a tweet).

In just the past week, I’ve had tweets from a tour cast member of the American Idiot cast and from a cast member of a tour of Spring Awakening I saw a little over a year ago. Sure, they don’t know me. There’s no reason for them to tweet me back or tweet me at all. But knowing that they take the time to do that means something to a little insignificant person like myself. The Idiot cast member even mentioned my tweet, along with the tweets of several other fans, in a blog post he wrote.

Essentially, twitter turns actors into “real people” for the masses. Not that they aren’t real anyway, but it gives the fans access that was previously unattainable by the general public. And while I feel it helps me to feel validated in my thoughts and opinions, I think it also lets the actors and actresses have a sense of connection with their fans and lets them know first-hand that they are touching hearts and lives with the work that they do. And who doesn’t want that kind of validation?

There are some superstar tweeters out there. Wallace Smith (one of American Idiot’s Favorite Sons) is a gem. He tweets back, re-tweets, AND he is continually tweeting uplifting words of wisdom and things to brighten anyone’s day. Kelvin Moon Loh (ensemble member in the American Idiot tour) has been a great person to answer tweets AND he blogs. As I mentioned before, Lexi Lawson has been great about tweeting back and seems to try to answer as many tweets as possible. Sometimes you get lucky. I sent a reply tweet to something Steffi D (former Canadian Idol contestant and cast member of the equity tour of Spring Awakening) the other night and she tweeted me back. Aspen Vincent (swing on the Broadway run of American Idiot) likes to tweet back occasionally and also tweets for her cat, Miss Kate Vincent.

Does twitter changes lives? Probably not. But I think it’s the wave of the future as far as fan-actor connections go. No more fan letters covered in glitter and stickers. Instead, we vlog, blog, and tweet to let our “heros” know what we think of them. That colored, glittered, sticker covered letter I sent to Joey McEntire from New Kids on the Block when I was 8? I have no clue if he ever got it or read it. But knowing that I have a tweet that was read by an actor I admire, and that they then took a couple of seconds to tweet me back…well, that means the world to me.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really unique perspective that I never thought of. I love theater and I love social media, so I don't know why this has never occurred to me.

    I'm going to try to get to more productions this year. And I'll try to tweet some compliments out when possible.

    Did you ever read the one where I tweeted Kevin Spacey? Check this one out: