By DAVID STONE
—Autograph June 2010
New York City is autograph Mecca. Every day in the city, you’ve got sporting events, concerts, book signings, political rallies and that promised land for the autograph hunter—the stage door to a Broadway show.
At the Shubert Theater, a revival of the classic Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit was performed, starring the legendary Angela Lansbury. Ms. Lansbury won her record-tying fifth Tony Award for her performance in the play. It took quite a while for me to obtain her autograph, as she refused to sign upon entering the theater and she didn’t she leave the theater between matinee and evening performances. However, after an evening performance, the Murder, She Wrote star exited to a cheering crowd and she took the time to sign Playbills and posters for all who had them. Ms. Lansbury also took the time to greet people who didn’t have show material for signing.
Another hit of the season was the new play God of Carnage at the Jacobs Theater, featuring an all-star cast of Jeff Daniels, James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden and Hope Davis. The show won the Tony for Best Play, among other awards. At the stage door, crowds formed after every performance in hopes of receiving autographs from the cast. It was very interesting that when one star of the show was about to finish signing autographs, the next one would come out and start. Mr. Gandolfini came out first, and he was very cordial and friendly. He took pictures with all who asked, and signed autographs for all, even signing Sopranos-related items. Even though Ms. Davis was second to exit, she seemed almost apologetic about the delay. She also took the time to converse with fans and sign all autographs. Next was Mr. Daniels, who, while quite shy, signed most autograph requests, although he seemed picky about which items he would sign. Finally, Ms. Harden came out, and while she was only signing Playbills, she was a true sweetheart, taking time to talk to each person waiting at the barricades.
The new play 33 Variations, at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, starred Jane Fonda in her first return to Broadway in over 40 years. At each performance, Ms. Fonda would sign any item a collector would ask her to, including photos, magazines, and copies of her autobiography. She ended up also being one of the few A-Listers on Broadway who would also agree to sign before the performance. She took time to acknowledge each person waiting, responding to everyone’s comments or questions—and at a Broadway stage door, that can be tricky for a star to do!
A revival of the Ionesco play Exit the King played the Ethel Barrymore Theater during the spring. The show starred Oscar winners Geoffrey Rush, who won a Tony for his role in the play, and Susan Sarandon. I obtained both of their autographs before matinee performances. Mr. Rush would often walk to the theater and, while he would only sign Playbills, he was willing to sign multiples for each collector. Ms. Sarandon, on the other hand, was driven and accompanied by a bodyguard, and would sign only one per person, but did not limit her signing to items related to the show. Surprisingly, for this show, collectors tended to gather before the performance. Most collectors wait until afterwards because the stars are more willing to sign—barricades have been set-up so the situation feels a little more controlled and they don’t have to worry about how much time it takes.
One of America’s most beloved musicals, Guys and Dolls, had a short-lived revival at the Nederlander Theater. The show starred Oliver Platt, Lauren Graham and Craig Bierko. All three stars were very good about signing, but there were still some restrictions. Ms. Graham would sign non-play related items, but none related to Gilmore Girls, which disappointed some collectors. Also, Mr. Platt would personalize photos, DVDs, or any items not related to Guys and Dolls. As I usually do, I stayed on the safe side and asked the stars to sign a Playbill.
At Studio 54, a revival of the classic play, Waiting for Godot was staged, starring Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin and John Goodman. Even though he seemed a bit irritable at times, Mr. Goodman was very generous with collectors. Mr. Irwin was not only generous, but took the time to thank each collector for asking for his autograph! It took a few tries for me to get Nathan Lane. After my first attempt, he just ran straight for his waiting car. Soon after, though, I requested his autograph before a show, and he quickly signed my Playbill.
Matthew Broderick starred in The Philanthropist at the American Airlines Theatre. Surprisingly, there were no barricades up at the stage door and I was the only person waiting for Mr. Broderick after the performance. He was very friendly and patient with me as I fumbled with my camera. Due to equipment malfunctions, I wasn’t able to get his picture, but he kindly signed a Playbill for me, and I went home happy.
A long-standing tradition in New York theater is Shakespeare in the Park, presented by the non-profit Public Theater. The shows are held outdoors in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, and tickets are free. In 2009, the festival’s comedy Twelfth Night starred Anne Hathaway, Broadway veteran Audra McDonald and Hamish Linklater, known for his role on The New Adventures of Old Christine. Instead of setting up barricades at the stage door, the security at the theater had collectors just stand across the pathway on the lawn—providing for a much less crowded collecting experience. The entire cast was wonderful, not only about signing autographs, but showed immeasurable patience, talking to each person asking for an autograph.
If you can get to the city this summer, you have a shot at Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in The Addams Family, the Green Day (Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool) in American Idiot, and a phenomenal cast in the revival of Promises, Promises including Kristin Chenoweth, Sean Hayes and Nathan Balser.
At the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing (and possibly signing) Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice and a spectacular cast in The Winter’s Tale.
If you do decide to go to one of the Shakespeare in the Park productions, you’ll need to get in line very early in the morning for the free tickets. But the wait is worth it! Stars overhead and on stage! What could be better?