Waiting by the stage door to catch a glimpse of a favorite star -- maybe even to get an autograph -- is a time-honored Broadway tradition. But on West 41st Street outside the stage door of the Nederlander Theatre, the fans and stars of Rent have raised stage-door-sitting and autograph-hounding into the realm of Olympic events.
Here are the teams and the conflict: The Fans want contact; the Stars want to go home. Herewith, the main events:
Slalom Roller-Blading: Spectators ooh and aah as we watch Gilles Chiasson of the Rent ensemble, having apparently laced up his roller-blades in his dressing room, blade through the theatre, the lobby, out the front door, through the crowd, and down 41st street. Gilles won the USA a gold medal for creative ways to get through a crowd without signing any autographs. We'll forgive him, though. He did it with a smile and he's just so damn cute.
Hide-and-Seek with Anthony Rapp: Similar to the children's game, except instead of one person being "it" and everyone else hiding, in the Rent Olympics everyone is "it" and Anthony is hiding. If you're lucky you can see his head poke out around the doors into the theatre for a split second before it goes back in again. I was tempted to yell, "Come out, come out, wherever you are!" but I thought in my present company it might be taken the wrong way. My original impulse was to assume that since he has the most credits of anyone in the cast that he's the least likely to want to talk to a fan. We were quickly assured by Nederlander Theatre workers that Anthony Rapp is one of the nicest, shyest people in the cast.
Adam Pascal Tackle: This is perhaps my favorite event to watch. The point of the event is to stop the quickly-moving Adam Pascal as he tries to escape the theatre unscathed and unhounded. One must be careful: he's a fast moving character. The gold medal last week went to a 17-year old blond woman who out-ran him, dove in front of him, threw out her hands and demanded an autograph. She is currently being considered for the first round draft pick for the NFL. Taxi Dodge: In the spirit of the running with the bulls in Pamplona, part of 41st Street is blocked off during Rent performances so that the hawkers can sell the T-shirts, mugs, magnets, posters, baseball hats, playing cards, action figures, whatever, outside the theatre. This leaves one lane for the taxis driving down 41st Street. One lane of traffic plus New York City taxi drivers plus 500 teen-age fans coming off of a rock musical . . . you get the picture. No injuries were reported as of the Aug. 11 games. And, unlike the Spanish version, males and females alike are able to compete. The object of the game is to get from the front door of the Nederlander Theatre to the parking garage down the block in groups of ten or more while letting taxi drivers pass you.
The "That's MY T-Shirt" Dive As the pile of XL $16 T-shirts with a stick figure that says "Will you light my candle?" starts to run low, the competitors/consumers are forced to resort to violence as they grab for the last shirts in the pile. This event has created a controversy similar to rugby as people wonder how the players do this without protective padding. The referees (the vendors) award points on originality and least damage done to the merchandise.
Events that are being considered for future games: The Daphne Rubin-Vega Hair Dodge (you can put an eye out with that stuff . . . but I confess, I'd kill to have hair like hers), The Scalper Scavenger Hunt (for people just too busy to wake up at three in the morning to get tickets) and The Idina Menzel Personality Game (What's she like? With a such power in a voice like that, inquiring minds want to know!)
So stay tuned for the medal standings. The cult that surrounds this show will certainly not fail to continue to provide news for the world. However, whether to look for that news in the New York Times theatre listings, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated -- or the obituaries -- depends on the amount of action at the Nederlander that day.