On July 4, I read in The New York Post that Ben Platt fans waiting at The Music Box stage door after the show were angry he did not come out. One Tweeted, “You’re an a--hole!” adding something about the waiting children.
Seriously, angry audience members! What do you think you’re owed?
I was 9 when I saw my first Broadway show, The Diary of Anne Frank, with my family. We drove from Buffalo and sat in the second row. The play and the actors mesmerized me. Afterwards, I did not want to reenter the real world which had become less real and engaging. I could not get out of my seat. Then, I wanted to meet Susan Strasberg, who played Anne. I wanted to take her home. My parents suggested we wait a few minutes at the stage door, but there was a good chance she wouldn’t come out. She didn’t.
“The actors are probably exhausted,” my father said. “They have to rest for tomorrow night’s show.”
We saw The Most Happy Fella and No Time for Sergeants on that same trip. Both delighted me, but didn’t move me in the way Anne Frank had. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to see good to amazing shows on future family trips and since I moved to New York at age 20. Only twice did I speak to actors: in 2014 after Fun Home. Sydney Lucas, ‘small Allison,’ was hanging out, happily talking to audience members. I told her she was terrific and thanked her. A few months ago, John Leguizamo came out to the Public Theater lobby after Latin History for Morons to sign his book, Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends for audience members who bought it, which I did.
Dear Evan Hansen and Ben Platt wowed me. I have not stopped thinking about Platt’s talent and his effect on me. When I watch a Dear Evan Hansen video, I think, “I want to take Ben Platt home.”
If we’re lucky, we take home meaningful experiences from the theater, from all art forms and treasure them. If we are grabbed, connect, stay with it, see something about ourselves, and it sticks afterwards, isn’t that the deal? In an interview with Walter Cronkite, Sinatra was asked what he owed his audience. He answered something to the effect of 'My best performance and that's about it.'
Decades ago one evening on the phone, I asked a friend’s husband, a dermatologist, a question about a cyst on my arm. He said, “Do you think I want to discuss cysts and moles and warts after 9:00 pm?”
No one in any field is obliged to meet and greet a soul after the house lights go on. Ben Platt has to protect himself, save himself, nurture himself and does NOT owe audiences anything other than the best performance he can give. He gives that from the second he appears on the stage. Night after night after night.