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We Love You Conrad

This week, The Plus Side investigates… “fandom”

When hanging out with friends, especially when I was younger, conversations frequently circled back to one essential topic: celebrity crushes. Whether it was Zac Efron, One Direction, or the Jonas Brothers, every girl seemed to be a fangirl of someone… except for me. 

Sure, I loved listening to pop music and knew every pop-culture movie and song, but that was it. I had no clue what Zac’s favorite color was, or when Zayn’s birthday is, and I had no idea (until I just searched it up 2 seconds ago) that the Jonas Brothers are from my very own state, New Jersey.

Even once I became extremely passionate about musical theatre, I still did not have a single celebrity crush. I’ve seen many shows that I’ve absolutely loved, but I’ve never been “obsessed” with Jeremy Jordan or Laura Osnes. In fact, I’ve never waited outside a stage door or gotten an autograph before. 

However, eventually, people tend to slowly grow out of their ‘fandom phases’ with both pop stars and Broadway stars alike. It all starts when you forget the words to Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” Or when you are no longer up to date with Lin Manuel Miranda’s up-and-coming projects. Or when you tuck away the life-size Ben Platt cardboard cutout that you placed by the window of your bedroom so that people could wave at him through a window. 

If you don’t believe me:

BUT I’m here to tell you that interning at Broadway Plus has FINALLY awakened in my inner fangirl. When I got my first hosting assignment a few weekends ago, I knew I had to get my excitement and butterflies out of my system before the tour, as I was supposed to be the composed host, not the jittery fan (at least not in front of my guests). So, once I was alone, I jumped and skipped and screamed like a complete lunatic and then pulled my act together.

When going backstage, famous actors and actresses passed by me left and right and I had to will myself not to faint. Right before the experience was over, I told my guests to take one last look at the stage and the performers to soak it all in– and sure, that was for them, but it was also secretly for myself. I could’ve stayed rooted in place for the rest of my life and been completely content. 

Everyday when I get home from work, my roommates ask me about my day and I excitedly rattle off my lineup for the week: “I’m now hosting at Chicago on Thursday and at Beautiful on Saturday…and, you’re not gonna believe it, but I’m also hosting at Wicked on Tuesday!” It’s absolutely crazy and it feels like a dream that I don’t ever want to wake up from. I’ve learned that if Nathaniel or Lizzy ever ask me if I’m free, I SAY YES and make myself free, as I don’t want to pass up on any opportunity to experience the backstage world of Broadway. However, now that I have a few Broadway hosting experiences under my belt and I’ve calmed down a little from the high of fandom, I actually feel that Broadway Plus strives to do the opposite of “fandom.” Broadway Plus merges the gap between the audience and the performers, making the stars of Broadway feel less like gods/goddesses and more like fellow human beings. When you go backstage and pass performers leaving the theater, stripped of their make-up and their costumes and blending into the masses of the crowded city, the mist that creates this “us” vs. “them” mentality is broken. When a performer brings me and my guests onto the stage, we are able to breach the divide that is typically present between the multitude of seats and the elevated surface they’re all directed towards.

Standing on the stage, I expected to feel on top of the world, yet I ended up realizing something else entirely. All of a sudden, it dawned on me that what creates the theatrical illusion of being immersed in “another world” is not solely the stage, or the performers, or the set, or the costumes, or the lighting, or the orchestra, or the audience, but the combination and harmony of them all working in tandem. Theatre is man-made and man consumed, and yes, the performers are extremely talented, but they are also people who make mistakes and have lives beyond the timeline of a show. Therefore, while I can’t call myself a devoted fangirl of a single actor or actress, I can state with 100% certainty that I am a devoted fangirl of theatre, as I believe that theatre in its entirety is the one thing capable of harnessing magic and of defying the bounds of any one human’s capabilities.  

Although I acknowledge that some people would prefer to remain mystified and to keep their life-size Ben Platt cardboard cutout by their bedroom window (and I totally understand if that is you), I challenge those of you who are willing to test the waters to take a hiatus from conventional “fandom” in order to reflect on the massive amounts of collaboration and human connection that theatre fosters. Who knows…maybe you, like me, will find this perspective to be a “plus side” that ultimately enriches your relationship with the world of Broadway!