1 PM: At the Stage Door

News   1 PM: At the Stage Door
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Stage Doorman John Sheppard
Stage Doorman John Sheppard Photo by Photo credit: Starla Smith

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John Sheppard was the first person to arrive at the Lunt-Fontanne April 23, the morning of the opening of Titanic . As Stage Doorman, it's his job to unlock the famed door on Manhattan's West 46th Street and waited for the electrician to arrive to turn on the lights.

"Opening night is always crazy," said Sheppard said, standing on the step outside , and would have continued, except just then, a man with a package dashed through the door behind him. Sheppard turned in a flash. "Excuse me," he said, asking for ID.

It turns out this is the father of Titanic star Michael Cerveris (who created the title role in Tommy). The elder Cerveris has a last minute opening night present for his son: an old travel poster he'd found that advertised the Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage.

With some 100 people working backstage and lots of props and presents that might walk away, it's Sheppard's job to carefully guard his post.

"Most people are polite and nice," he said, after promising to deliver the package to Cerveris. "A few people who work at other theatres think they can just walk in."

Through his door passes delivery after delivery: letters, manila envelopes, boxes, Playbills. At about 12:30 PM a truck from Zuzu's Petals shows up and suddenly the "beach" outside the stage door is a fragrant carpet of roses and snapdragons -- part of the opening night gifts to the cast from the producers. It's up to the manager to make sure the right bouquet gets to the right dressing room.

From here on in, Sheppard's life is only going to get busier.

-- By Robert Viagas

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