Brightman donates the fees for typical online meet-and-greets, the kind of fan interactions he used to offer for free, but sticks with the payments for coaching sessions. For Lauren Patten, a star of Jagged Little Pill, one-on-one online interactions require more emotional work than a quick selfie, which justifies the price.
“I ended up having really nice, intimate conversations with people about the topics of the show,” she said. “This is a level of connection and access that I can never give at the stage door.”
Kristy Poteat, a North Carolina based hairdresser who discovered online stage doors through a Facebook fan page for Jagged Little Pill, agreed. Real stage doors are too hectic, she said: “You’re lucky to get a quick autograph. Having a real conversation with someone you admire is truly a unique experience. “
And the money meant a lot to Broadway actors, almost all of whom are now looking for work. “Some of our top talent earn a very good salary just off Broadway Plus,” said Nathaniel Hill, its founder. (A few actors associated with Hamilton confirmed this.)
For flats, the fees can alleviate rent worries. Murin, who is married to actor Colin Donnell, said the money allowed her to pay for extras. “I felt fine this year on vacation, buying gifts and all that,” she said.
There are also emotional benefits. Iglehart longs to be admired at the stage door. When he meets fans online or through reaction videos, he feels it again. “There’s still that moment of shock and awe,” he said. Patten says the interactions make her miss her show a little less.
Brightman initially signed up to care for the fans – and to direct donations to the Black Girls Code. But as the months passed, “it got a lot more for me,” he said. “I thought I really long for it.” Those stage doors make him feel like he’s still a Broadway actor even when he’s not acting.