me + richard armitage + stage doors, hypothetical and real

[Let me emphasize that this is an account of my feelings. I’m not speaking for anyone else. Other people obviously have very different experiences and feelings about them.]

lsOn the evening of Thursday, September 22nd, although we don’t know how it will work just yet, we expect the “stage door” to open again and fans lucky enough to be at the theater to see Richard Armitage on stage may be able to approach him briefly in person with relative ease for the first time in a little over two years. Those further away will watch via social media. Stage door is in scare quotes because the theater apparently has an unusual exit arrangement for artists. Although there are no guarantees, if the last play is any indication, Richard Armitage will appear, and the fandom will have plenty of discussions about how to do it most effectively. Judging from his behavior in London, I think he has a good idea of how important this experience is to fans. This post is not a list of strategies or rules for the stage door; if Armitage makes himself available, the best way to negotiate the situation will emerge, and apart from not breaking the law and being reasonably considerate of others in the way that most adults are anyway, there’s no wrong thing to do, really. Rather, the catalyst for this post was being asked twice recently if I don’t want to attempt to talk to Richard Armitage at the “stage door” of the Steinberg Center for Theatre when I go to see Love, Love, Love — and thinking about the answer.

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 2.27.24 AMThe question and my answer(s) draw together matters that have preoccupied me really since the beginning of Armitagemania, as I was wondering as soon as there was even a whiff of a play on the horizon what I would do. (I explored it further, and we talked about it more, here.) Two things strike me upon revisiting those posts now. First, I was knocked over by Armitagemania in January of 2010, in ways that stun me even now. It was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever had. On some level, I was afraid I would totally discorporate if I ever met Richard Armitage in person. Not that I’d throw myself at him or anything like that, but that I’d dissolve into thin air (somehow), become so anxious and overwrought I would have to run away screaming. Second, I was also intensely naive, in that I assumed that all fellow fans were sharing the experience I was having and were advising me altruistically. It’s interesting to me to think about the journey from serious confusion about my own feelings and the real need to clarify them by discussing them with other fans, to developing the strength and independence to claim my own decisions as a fan and in so doing, to refuse the labels some others wanted to push on me. Someone was seriously trying to convince me at that time that if I traveled from the U.S. to the UK to see a play, saw it multiple times, went to the stage door, and blogged about it, I’d be stalking Richard Armitage. It’s fun now to see new fans on Twitter and know that the fandom has expanded enough that people feel free to joke about this kind of thing.

stage-door-capMy concern about seeing a play evaporated really quickly, as I gradually reasoned myself that there was no reason that anyone should feel hindered from seeing an actor act — that’s why they sell tickets to plays, after all — but the question of the stage door persisted for me (and persists, though I attended and witnessed Old Vic stage doors). Not because I was concerned about my own behavior, but rather because I was concerned about my feelings — precisely because they were so intense, I was concerned about how they would affect me. And they were so shapeless that I couldn’t entirely put my finger on what they were. Once I knew I would go to see The Crucible, the question became actual, and I spent a lot of time discussing what I would do with Obscura. I told her about my instinctive rejection of it being a good idea, the knee-jerk feeling that I shouldn’t do it. She listened several times to my litany of reservations and then gave me the sensible advice that it was impossible to predict whether I would ever have another opportunity (this is one of the things that makes the whole stage door atmosphere so fraught — its infinitely transitory qualities, and the sobering fact that most fans will have only one chance to “get it right,” to get what they want) and so maybe I should try not to think about my issues and “just do it.” Would I want to regret later that I had had the opportunity and not used it?

Richard Armitage on the night of the rain-out, August 25, 2016.

Richard Armitage on the night of the rain-out, August 25, 2016.

In principle, this was highly sensible advice. In practice, I knew there would be certain restrictions; I didn’t have a smart phone for a selfie and wouldn’t have had the guts to ask a stranger to photograph me with Armitage, and the only person I knew who I was planning to meet at the play was Guylty, so I knew if it were to happen at all, it would have to happen the evening we were meeting, which was supposed to be the second one. However, the issues with the Old Vic roof meant that I didn’t have a first night to scope things out and figure out what I was comfortable with — if I was going to do it, it had to be the night Guylty was there, which was my first night. What happened, from my perspective that night, is described here.

I have never looked at that picture beyond reassuring myself that I still have a copy of the file. In fact, recently someone else (whom I left out of my narrative of that evening at their request) asked me if I have any photos they are in, and I still couldn’t bring myself to look at those pictures. Part of the difficulty is because they are stored on the same media that have the last pictures of my mother, and I don’t want to risk seeing those, either. However, frankly, a bigger part is that I felt a lot of shame about that moment for quite a long time — I still do, at times. I couldn’t bring myself to stand next to him, or even very close to him, unlike the many proud, intrepid fans who gave him a side hug as they posed with him. I’m sure the photo looks a lot more like me standing in front of him, as if he were a monument like the Eiffel Tower. This feeling of shame hit in the late fall of 2014 and persisted for months. At the time I thought I was bothered either because I had been pusillanimous, or weird, or rude. In retrospect, I was happier about the nights when I’d asked for an autograph on my copy of the play, or just stood at the stage door observing what was going on.

Armitage on his way into the Old Vic, June 2014.

Armitage on his way into the Old Vic, June 2014.

I realized recently, though, when yet another fan who has a reticence similar to mine about these situations asked me whether she should attend the Love, Love, Love stage door. We talked a lot about what Obscura has referred to as the problem of the artificial hierarchy in fandom, and the way that the stage door situation foregrounds that aspect of the fan experience. I realized in the course of conversation what the real problem was for me with this situation in general and my experiences in London in particular. It wasn’t fear that I’d behave badly; it wasn’t my reluctance to touch a stranger or my religious reservations about embracing strange men; it wasn’t even my awe before the “monumental” Richard Armitage, who left me largely tongued tied when it came to speaking, anyway. It was that all of the rules I’d built up for myself, all the things I knew I didn’t want, said I didn’t want, suddenly collapsed in my emotions. “The bubble rule” had been a fundamental proviso for me since the beginning of blogging — and suddenly the bubble rule seemed meaningless because Armitage had played the role he’s always played for me. It wasn’t so much that he made me want, but rather that he made me want to want things. And he did it in his presence.

I was — embarrassed. By the depths of my own capacity to desire. By the immodesty of my feelings. Not of my sexual feelings, because although that’s a component of my response to him, that’s not the primary kind of wanting he’s evoked, and I have less issue with acknowledging those responses because they have always seemed physiological to me. But there are so many things I, like other fans, could want, and somehow Armitage speaks to, evokes, all of those varied things for me. Perhaps, above all, the need to be known.

So I gave her the advice that Obscura gave me, with the proviso that one never knows ahead of time how one will feel — and that the risk is there, the risk that one will simply be overwhelmed by a peculiar, intense form of wanting, whatever it is that one wants — to be seen, to be noticed, to be greeted, or all the other things that make up each of our personal lists. It disrupts not so much the political hierarchy of the situation so much as the hierarchy of one’s own values and convictions and all the little rules one makes for oneself about how one will behave and what one will let oneself feel. It’s not so much how much that desire causes us to behave — on the whole fans have been polite and safe with Armitage. It’s how scary it is to realize that even after years of self-discipline, one is still vulnerable to the animating, life-giving need to desire things. This is positive — but it’s also stunning to realize how little effect years of resigning oneself, forcing oneself to not having certain needs fulfilled (whatever they are) have when the object who provokes not only desire, but equally the awareness of desire, the desire to desire, is standing in front of one.

Richard Armitage on screen — made me want to want things. Richard Armitage in person — made me want not only things that I had long told myself I could not have, but things that I had never even contemplated wanting. That wasn’t bad. It was terrifying.

I don’t know what I will do when I see this play. I don’t want another picture of me + Richard Armitage that I can’t make myself look at. A lot of fandom for me has involved learning not to be shamed by my own desire(s). I want to want. I fully expect that will happen again. And I fully expect I will be just as terrified when it does.


Best wishes to all who will see the play — I hope that everyone has exactly the experience s/he hopes to have in the theater or at the stage door.

~ by Servetus on September 22, 2016.

21 Responses to “me + richard armitage + stage doors, hypothetical and real”

  1. You definitely don’t know until your there and in it, and I found, that despite my disinclination, I was just compelled to interact with him.

  2. It has to be what feels right for each person, introverts as well as gregarious. I’m scared to death of the meeting, hugging, photo taking…but I would never forgive myself if I had the chance and didn’t take it.

  3. I’d say try not to plan. Other than in the situation in which one has already clearly decided that one wants to do the stage door, in which case better to find out in advance where it is, be prepared with pen and the thing you want singing, the camera or phone and try these out in advance🙂 Don’t let technical fault fluster you and try to avoid them by trying out the pens and cameras in advance🙂 This to the decided.
    To the undecided like us, go with the flow and see how you feel on the day and what you want most.
    I had to smile at the idea of travel being stalkerish! They haven’t met the opera people, clearly! All stalkers then, the lot🙂 And if you ever think we want stuff S I’d love to show you the same at ROH stage door sometime, or even better, the ballet crowd🙂 Makes one feel like a modest, totally indifferent person at stage door in comparison😀 And i love these people by the way🙂 And it is very encouraging at the same time, the beauty of ageless and timeless love and fascination with artistry and artists. The power they will always have over us, on stage and in their human forms, with the powers of entrapping us almost hidden🙂

    I go through the guilt and pleasure cycles myself every time. Less so now when buying tickets or flights. I’m less afraid of how it makes me feel only because i know it doesn’t actually chance my behaviour (maybe that is one advantage of age? ;-)) But it does harm to no one and in the end it gives so much energy and adrenaline and makes one feel radiant. Better to be shaken a bit by how much we feel than to regret not letting ourselves feel it🙂

    I think if one can be content even with just watching one should try it out and enjoy it. I learned for myself not to want specific things, like signatures or sayings things and such. Because if it doesn’t happen one could be very frustrated indeed. But if one focuses just on enjoying his presence and watching and hearing him with people and such.. well. i’d not want to deprive myself of the chance, because there can be so few of them.

    Having said that i haven’t even thought about it in actual terms for NY at all, i’m still trying to hold off excitement in case it doesn’t work out in the end. I’ll drive myself crazy with the tempting idea of seeing him in the flesh only once i am physically there if all goes ok. Otherwise i may not present myself as a convincing non-threatening normal person at the visa interview :-p (imagine having to convince somebody to let you into a country when you fly half way across the world and back in less than a weekend and all because you mean to try and see the same play several times.. ha.)

    • Wow- “The power they will always have over us, on stage and in their human forms, with the powers of entrapping us almost hidden” That is beautiful.

      I’ve discussed w/Servetus how his artistry and the primal connection I feel through him to all things artistic is probably the core of how / why Armitage nailed me (that sounds bad, but you know🙂 Even more than the sexy thing lol, because I’ve never found sexiness that “distinctive” normally.

      I’m a little concerned as a woman married happily more years than I care to mention, what will happen when I, my “crush” & my life’s companion all occupy the same physical space- who will implode?? (I’m guessing it won’t be Richard lol😉

      I feel that I might be more like Perry and just feel compelled to interact with him, but the time is so limited (& of course Loved One standing “Right There” as well as a long line, so heaven knows🙂 I’ll probably end up memorizing a brief speech & then go completely blank as soon as I see him! I’m sure he’s seen that many times before, bless his heart.

      • I don’t think the line will be anything like The Crucible. It’s a very small theater and many New Yorkers don’t do stage door, especially those of the age to be subscribers.

      • Yep, don’t bother memorising, you won’t remember a word😉especially if you had fun and enjoyed it. Just go with what you feel. I am sure he would be pleased seeing people react spontaneously.And i am totally with you on the artistic connection with him and through him 😊 and your loved one might get that too even if differently.

    • What visa interview? At customs? Tell them you’re there to see Hamilton. And yes ( to you SheRA and others) practice you’re tech – because part of my interaction with him was his getting a little annoyed that I couldn’t work the cell camera to take a photo of him with another fan. (All was forgiven later, or so it seemed)

      • I thought he took a lot of the selfies himself, though I would feel odd about that too- but honestly I take terrible pictures in every sense you can think of. My husband might do it, but he’s not as good as he thinks… and that has ominous implications :O (If my life sounds like a sitcom, you might be right🙂

        • He does, but since we could, the idea was that I would take a photo and she would take a photo. In the end, she got a great shot. Check out “Well there you go – ZAN

      • No a visa interview here to even be allowed to travel. Without it i won’t even be able to get on the plane. Ah the pleasures of non eu travel i had forgotten the old days. I have to go to an interview in person at the embassy here and convince them i do intend to come back. Harder than it might seem. And of course pay a hefty fee for the pleasure regardless of the outcome of said interview. Ie no refund if rejected. I need to get organised as i am looking at 1 month to 6 weeks waiting time at least.
        And tech prep not for me as i have no intention of photos whatsoever 😀 I’ll be glad to just look and possibly say thanks if time or whatever else might feel like needing to be said depending on play impact on me.

      • Ha Ha! “Tell them you’re here to see Hamilton” . That’s great!

  4. Interacting with RA. Wauw, would be a dream come true…and then again, perhaps not. I’m still on the fence on that one.

    Not that I’ll be a blubbering idiot, I don’t think, but it would be…odd, I think. This time ’round, I’m teaching during the run of LLL, I have commitments and can’t go to the States.

    As Hariclea writes: “Try not to plan”. I would write exactly the same. The restricted access, and limited time, and “all walls being up” could just contribute to possible disappointment.

    Your account brought it back in a flash: I remember the rain and the Old Vic roof. Uch, to stand out in the rain looking up at the lit facade of the Old Vic theatre and not really knowing what to do (reenter and meet RA or stay out, I chose the latter) – and in those moments discovering something about myself. No, it wasn’t the best of days.

    Back then, I had decided that IF I got tickets, I would see the play but not go to the stage door. Today, I’m not sure I would be able stay away from the stage door if given the chance to see the play.

    • I did the same thing that night and it was absolutely the right thing to have done (although admittedly, I knew I had other options). But yeah — wanting to stay away from the stage door and succeeding at it are two entirely different things.

      In London there was such a crowd that it was easy just to stand there — this seems a little less that way, so far.

  5. Yes, everyone needs to do whatever her comfort level tells her to (as long as not harmful to others). For me, I had prepared my stagedoor visit because I knew I wanted to try for everything. I have long passed the feeling of fangirl shame and am under no illusion that the person in question would even ever remember me after meeting me for a few seconds. Due to fangirl shame many many years ago I didn’t go to try and see Audrey Hepburn who was in the Netherlands even though I knew where she was going to be one evening, due to media reports. I didn’t go and some months later she died after a quick illness. I have regretted it since and always vowed that if I could get a chance to meet someone I’m a fan of, I would never let embarassment stop me again. I’m not stalking the individual or harming him/her, I’m seeing that person in a public place where he/she chooses to make himself/herself available for fans. So for me, I tell myself ‘why should I diss that opportunity?’
    So, when I went to the stage door in London for Richard, I came prepared.
    I had a little gift for Richard with card to thank him for his creative work, I had a working pen with me and a small N&S poster I wanted him to sign and my husband would do all picture taking honors. I prepared for everything and expected nothing. I ended up getting it all and then some and was very very lucky!
    What people should realize, though, is that Richard does this stage door thing quietly, quickly and effiiciently. He doesn’t really stop to chat or anything. It’s over almost before you know it… and I know I was totally shaking afterwards and had felt like a bumbling fool but no matter, he’d forget me anyhow🙂 I loved every second, and not just my brief interaction with him. Just watching him move along the line and do his thing was lovely to watch as well.🙂

    • It’s interesting, the things that potentially bother people — you were concerned that Richard would remember you (in a way embarrassing for you); my concern was giving in to / exposing my relationship with desire. The issue of what Armitage thinks of me has never been huge (or I wouldn’t have written this blog) and by the time I went to London it was at low point up till then.

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