I'm a Fangirl...And You Can, Too!

by Bri Ryder

First of all, I had a crazy dream last night that I want to share: 

For whatever reason, there was a production of Miss Saigon happening put on by my high school and Boston Children’s Theatre, and there were also some TPAP people in there, too. I was told that I was sharing the role of Ellen with someone else, but I honestly have no idea who that other person was. It was someone I don’t know. And it wasn’t like, “you get one performance, I get the other,” it kind of seemed like they just tapped you in when they felt tired or something, so I had no idea when I was going on. And I had no script. And I didn’t know anything. But I seemed oddly optimistic. I know most of the songs she sings and I was like, “I’d probably be able to do this.” Though, the show was a little different, including numbers like, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and “I Dreamed a Dream.” But whatever. I had gotten a pretty short haircut earlier in the day and when I looked in the mirror, my dress was attractive and my hair looked good so I was like, “alright, ready.” Thinking about it now, though, I don’t think I‘ve ever looked at myself in a mirror in a dream before. Do people do that in dreams? Is that symbolic?  

Anyway, I have no idea if I went on or what because I woke up. But I did find a script. So I have faith that I did okay. 

Alright, here we are at the point of this blog today! 

Fangirl” is a negatively charged term in my world for several reasons. To me, a lot of the time, it stands for the opposite of professionalism. But, here’s the thing: 

I am a HUGE FREAKING FANGIRL. 

You are talking to a person who used to spend LARGE amounts of time on the message boards for Legally Blonde the Musical. I almost paid for the signed headshot of a woman that I literally worked with this Spring. I saw Legally Blonde the Musical twice on Broadway, once on tour, once regionally in Ogunquit, I have performed in it twice, and honestly? I would be in it a million more times. Playing truly any role. I love it. somuch. There was a time, y’all, that I could actually, for real, tell you every person in the original Broadway production. Who understudied what role, everything. Like, I was a cringeworthy fangirl to the highest degree. 

As I grew up, I don’t know how I got this idea, but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be a fangirl anymore. There was clearly a divide between people who were respected as a part of the industry and those who were just the fans. Fans, of course, are appreciated and respected by artists, but they just simply are not seen as colleagues. And that’s what I want to be: A fellow artist, not an outside observer. So I started trying to hide my excitement from the people I was excited about.  

Over time, however, I’ve realized that being a fangirl is actually super important. Being passionate about projects is ridiculously imperative to being noticed. People who are indifferent are either so cool that you want to hire them, OR, more likely they just seem uninterested and lazy. Protip: Indifference, ignorance, and apathy are super boring qualities. They’re real downers. Nobody wants to work with people who don’t care.  

But what’s the LINE?! 

I really don’t know the answer. At work, when I don’t know the answer to a guest’s inquiry, I always say, “That’s a great question.” It’s become a bad habit. But I’m not lying, usually it actually is a great question.  

This is a great question: Where is the line between fan and potential friend? 

I have no concrete answers and I would love to hear yours. But I think it starts with something that Susan Blackwell says: “No one is above me, no one is below me, haters to the left.” Even playing field. Don’t put people on pedestals, don’t put yourself on a pedestal, and never look at people as anything more or less than that: people. I used to say this, and maybe some of the administrators from TPAP will remember me expressing this last year: Everybody is people. I try really hard, nowadays, to look at everyone as a potential friend, rather than someone totally unattainable. Anyone can be your friend. You just have to treat them like a person. I have two anecdotes. And I’m going to use names because I think these people are great.  

I have met AEA President Kate Shindle exactly three times not including any off-handed interactions we have had on twitter. The first time, I was a totally not nervous high school aged child (I say child because I look back on my child self and cringe a lot, occasionally, I refer to myself as a child still today) at the stage door for Legally Blonde. We took a cool pic and I probably told her that I loved the show and that was it. What a beautiful interaction, great. The second time was at Barnes and Noble in New York City during my terrible year at Pace. She was performing for Dracula and I was really excited to see her. I had ben told by a member of Pace faculty that I wasn’t in the program because I was different and that I stuck out when trying to build an ensemble, so I wasn’t feeling so great about myself. That included height. So when I went to her, I let her know that she gave me hope for my performance life because I was so tall. She told me that I would work if I found what made me special and really rocked it. That made me feel important and I was really happy. She was a huge inspiration to me. Now, I don’t know what happened in my brain between then and this last interaction, but. Dude. She came to do a master class at Boston Children’s Theatre and I could NOT HANDLE my shit. I was sitting in the back of the group like, crying and stuff. Maybe I was going through a rough time or whatever, but man. That was not. I don’t even. I ran into her outside the bathroom and I just kinda looked at her and then walked away. I was like, “I’ll feel better when she is out of the building.” because I couldn’t handle my emotions. It was so silly!! What happened??? My best guess is that I had just left school and she had said some really kind and encouraging things to me so in my brain, I made her a very important figure in my life, and then became overwhelmed. I think if I saw her again today, I’d tell her this story and laugh about it. 

The second story is like, the opposite, and happens to be about our good friend Susan Blackwell who is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met in my life: inside and out. My interactions with Susan have been vastly different every time. The first time was at TPAP, and I was very intimidated, but not in like, a bad way, I was just very overwhelmed. It was a slightly milder version of my final interaction with Kate. I wanted to cry a lot, I wanted to be liked, and I was truly honored to be in her presence. I actually did tell her about how much [Title of Show] meant to me and I totally cried telling her about it and it was a whole lot. She was very non-judgmental, she was warm, and she was kind. But afterwards I was like, “I’ve said what I have to say, but I can’t shake the feeling that I really messed up.” Because I had been “unprofessional.” Obviously, this isn’t really true. I think in many other environments this might have been seen as a faux-pas but not at TPAP, the most loving place on Earth. A year later, we worked together again at TPAP, and I still was pretty fangirly. I wasn’t blubbering this time, but I still felt kinda sglksghlsahgkld, if you catch my drift. But I have this habit of asking people I really admire to eat meals with me, so I asked her and she said yes and then she and I and a bunch of other really cool people sat down at lunch one day and talked about writing. It was rad. I was still weird, but less weird. And finally, this semester at NTI, I spent a little more time with her one on one and she’s the greatest. I feel like I could email her and she would email me back. I talked to her about how badly I wanted to work on FOUND (the musical by Hunter Bell, Lee Overtree, and Eli Bolin coming to PTC this Fall LOOK IT UP, NERDS.) but that I was kind of nervous because I know the team but they see me as a fan and not like, a person to work with. She said that most of the time, the difference is in your own mind and that I should reach out and be like, “Hey let me work on your show.”  

TRUTH BOMBS BEING DROPPED BY SUSIE BLACKWELL, AM I RIGHT? 

So, I’m gonna take that as the truth. The difference is in my mind.  

This actually ties to my last blog about BROadway. Support is so important. Admiration is important. Fangirling is important. Show people how you feel about their stuff!!! You don’t have to turn off your fangirl about things you love! Just don’t like, tell people you want them to adopt you or that you want to have their children or whatever.  

I have so much to say about this, there really is no way to wrap things up. 

A few takeaways: 

1. Fangirling is okay - be nice and be passionate 
2. Don’t put people on pedestals 
3. Everybody is a potential friend [Everybody is people] 
4. Please don’t be creepy 

Honestly, recipe for success right there. 

BYE.