by Mo Brady
Cameo is a marketplace where users can receive personalized video shoutouts from their favorite people. With a quick digital payment by credit card or through apple pay, fans can request a video sent to them. These videos can then be downloaded from the app and shared across social media.
Cameo is a popular platform for talent in many industries, from Real Housewives to Instagram comedians. Some of the platform’s most famous users include Todrick Hall, Perez Hilton and Kathy Griffin. In recent months, Cameo has become popular with theatre performers as well. Broadway actors currently on Cameo include Laura Osnes, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Desi Oakley and Hailey Kilgore. The costs for these video shouts with Broadway talent range from $2-$40 per video.
I don’t see a problem with Cameo. The issue is not when an actor decides to charge for appearances - virtual or otherwise. Some actors may choose to donate the funds to charity, others may choose to keep the funds themselves. If there’s a market for personalized videos, anyone should be available to take advantage of them, whether they have 1,000 followers or 1,000,000.
The problem is when Cameo is billed as an alternative to stage dooring. This tradition of theatre actors meeting and greeting show attendees ebbs and wanes depending on the show and actors’ popularity. But at its core, this has always been a free experience.
I’ll admit that the stage door is not always a civil landscape. In recent years, exiting some Broadway theatres has turned into a war zone. Throngs of people will crowd around barricades looking for a selfie to post online. There are a few bad eggs out there who will harass actors or require more than is culturally appropriate.
Actors have the right to stage door or not stage door. That’s a decision they can make whenever they want, and they don’t have to provide an excuse for it. They have been employed by the production to come to work and perform in a show. They haven’t been employed to greet fans afterwards.
However, using Cameo as a paid alternative to stage dooring sets a dangerous precedent. When we deny audiences the chance to meet us for free - and instead charge them as an alternative - where does this line of thinking end?