by Wolfgang von Zaftig
     and Patrique vaan Straade


Wolfgang: Darlings, I truly hope you enjoyed the show, but if you did not, we are here to help you cope and shine during the post-show activities. In addition, we will supply you with a list of discussion topics to help stimulate conversation.

Rule #1 - Going backstage

Before going backstage, remember the actors have just completed a very exhausting job and may not be in the best of spirits, or in the mood to entertain. Should you feel there is sufficient reason, there are many ways for one to get backstage to pay your compliments to the actors. However, in today's growing climate of stalkers, I would not recommend taking the Eve Harrington route for meeting your favorite celeb.

Patrique: So do give them time to compose themselves before you storm the Bastille, dears. Of course you have followed our sterling example and remembered to send something backstage to let your friends know you were in the audience. (Hopefully, this did not throw them into a nervous fit during performance! Why, I remember the time I let poor Patti know I was going to see Anything Goes. The poor dear wasn't able to perform that night. But Linda was fabulous so we forgave her . . . eventually). By sending a little something, even a Hallmark, you are not only alerting them to your presence, but also giving them a chance to tell Hank the doorman to put you on 'the list.' Trust us dears, if you are not on the list, you have to be as famous as us in order to be allowed past the velvet rope and into the hallowed halls of backstage.

Wolfgang: The most important task backstage is to commend your friends on their performance and inform them where they can meet you for drinks. (Yet another chance to be seen!)

Patrique: Also, remember that staring is rude. You are not there to gawk at the stars or the occasional unclad chorus body. It is polite, however, to tell the stars, when you see them, how much you enjoyed the show. And dears, only tell them that if you mean it. Remember; if you can't say anything nice, discretion is the better part of valour!

Rule #2 - How not to be a stage door groupie

If you are not fortunate enough to know someone in the show and cannot get backstage, there is nothing shameful about 'waiting around for the stars upstairs' outside, by the Stage Door. It is a time-honored practice, and often times the only chance one gets to brush against theatrical royalty. However, here especially manners are important. Remember, dears that these souls have put in a hard day's work and are dying to get home to their loved ones - be it a person, a pet, dinner or a cocktail!. So please be courteous and respectful of their desires. If they rush by without so much as an autograph, much less a 'how do you do,' don't assume they don't care about their fans. They may have a pressing engagement or (gasp) a life they have to attend to.

Also, please, Please, PLEASE use common sense when asking for autographs. Don't just rush the poor dears. Don't push kiddies aside to get to The Phantom. And whatever you do, don't ask him or her to sign every piece of memorabilia you own! I once saw an opera junkie ask Regina Resnik to sign 20 records, 10 books and 50 programs! God love her, she looked at the fan coldly, lifted a single finger and said "one!"

Rule #3 - Know where your car is parked

Wolfgang: Sweeties, nothing can ruin your image quicker than wandering up and down the streets of New York looking for your car. Inform your driver of your plans, going backstage, waiting at the door, etc. This should give the other drivers time to pick up their clients and leave a spot up close for your driver to be waiting for you. Additionally, make sure you know what your driver looks like and he/she knows what you look like. Most cars will look alike, and you do not want someone standing there with a sign advertising your name.

Rule #4 - Choosing the proper place for drinks

There are many places for cocktails after the show, but how many are truly worthy of a DQ's presence? One can never go wrong by visiting Sardi's or Joe Allen, but also never rule out locations which may be a bit farther away. You've rented a car already, why not make the most of it? The important thing is to find a quiet bar, preferably with a piano, where you can discuss the show.

While I am on the subject of quiet places for cocktails, might I mention a fabulous place for dinner before the show? Down the block from the New Amsterdam and the Ford is a little restaurant called Chez Josephine (414 West 42nd Street). Owned and run by Josephine Baker's sons, it features marvelous food at reasonable prices, and a setting which is befitting of any DQ. Jean-Claude Baker is one of the sweetest men in the city, and I guarantee he will remember you on your next visit. Please call for reservations (212) 594-1925.

Once again, the same rules which applied at the stage door apply at your choice of location for cocktails. Do not stare, point or gawk at celebrities who may be seated near you. The polite thing to do is to buy them a drink and have a waiter bring it to them along with a brief message of how much you enjoyed a performance. If they are in a social mood they will most likely stop by your table to thank you when they leave. If they are feeling particularly friendly, you may be invited to join them, but never assume that, by purchasing a drink for them, they are obligated to speak with you. They do have lives of their own, and you do not have the right to disturb them whenever you feel like it.

Rule #5 - Let the games begin

Patrique: You are comfortably ensconced at your table with a crowd of your nearest (at least in proximity) and dearest (for the time being) friends. You have just seen a show and you are ready to unwind. Now is the time to bitch, dish, praise, let loose and have a free-for-all about what you've just seen. Before you do, take a moment to see if the actors or writers you are about to rake over the coals are sitting within earshot. It they are, use discretion or let fly; it's your call. (However, I would recommend you decide if you plan on ever working with these people or being invited over for dinner before you let slip a single barb)

Wolfgang: After finishing with your basic thoughts of the production: who's singing/acting wasn't up to par, who did a phenomenal job in the show, your overall impression of the show, etc., you can start the true DQ assessments.

Topics For Discussion

Topic #1 - How did the show compare with expectations?

You've read all the reviews. Does Ben Brantley know what he is talking about when he states Ragtime feels "so utterly resistible"? Is it true when he says "like its heroine, Sally Bowles, it wants nothing more than to shock, and as with Sally, the desire winds up seeming more naïve than sophisticated"? Darlings, nothing is more enjoyable than trashing a critic. Of course, trashing people is what we do best. As my dear Grandmama used to say, "If you have nothing good to say about someone, come sit by me."

Patrique: Just remember, dears, that critics are by definition critical; that's their job, what they do, what they live for. They exist in a rarified atmosphere where they not only see hundreds of shows, but they see them for free. And, unlike Wolfgang and myself, they need to earn a living doing this, so they must oftentimes write with a certain, shall we be kind and say 'flair,' in order to justify their positions with their bosses. They are not gods or goddesses (and remember ... those that can, do; those that can't, critique) and their opinions mean no more or no less than your own.

Wolfgang: But definitely less than ours.

Topic #2 - Compare the revival with other productions of the show

We know you have every recording of the show, and no doubt saw it before on Broadway, or on tour. Perhaps you saw it staged in London or San Francisco or, God forbid, even did it yourself back in high school or college!

Has the performer who originated the role kept his place as the only one capable of doing it properly, or have you seen something truly brilliant and new? Have you noticed nuances in the characters which were always there but never truly developed? Did the actress really think nobody would notice her trying to be Merman as Mama Rose? Sweeties, now is the time to show a critic what it means to be critical.

Patrique: And darlings, please do us all proud and make statements that go beyond "get her" and "oh was she dreadful or what?" This is your chance to shine. Your chance to be the Frank Rich of your table. Your chance to prove that, yes, you do know what you are talking about. Especially about the most important aspect of the show:

Topic #3 - Discuss the wardrobe of the characters on stage and the characters in the audience

All right, so we are showing our stripes as the vainglorious creatures we are. But, get a few cocktails in us and we can probably costume any show from our combined wardrobes. (After all, dears, we practically are the theatrical museum in this town) So take a few minutes - or hours depending on the number of Gibsons imbibed - and let loose! Were you appreciative of Bobby and Victor's costumes in CABARET? Did you love Helga's underthings? Were you aghast at what they put poor Betty in? Could you believe what Bernadette was wearing? Let it fly, dears, let it fly!

Wolfgang: Don't forget to offer your opinion of those watching the show. That woman in the third row wearing the spandex pants and halter-top; all she'd need is curlers in her hair and she could be starring in Killer Joe. Or, perhaps you noticed the young starlet schmoozing the producers in her La Croix knock-off? And nobody could miss the young student with his tight jeans showing he's not that young.

Most shows, regardless of how good they are, can be improved.

Topic #4 - How would you improve the show?

The choreography during the Frug section was horrid. What would you have done to improve it? Or, perhaps the leading lady should have been replaced during previews? Obviously Betty would have played the role to perfection.

Patrique: Also, don't be so shallow as to forget the really important things. As the ad campaign says, 'plot does matter.' So put your BA in Theatre to good use, and tackle the writing, the plot, the motivation (or lack there of), etc.

Wolfgang: Dare I say we have run out of things to talk about? After three columns, have we covered all there is to say about attending the theatre? Darlings, don't be absurd! We'll always be cruising the boards, dishing out our opinion on various subjects. If you ever have any questions, e-mail us and we'll be happy to help!

Patrique: And, darlings! Maybe one day we'll be back on a regular basis. But only if you clap your hands three times and say "I do, I do, I do believe in DQ's!"

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