Are you a superfan of anything — a sports team, a musician, a TV show, a game, a musical, a comic series, a book, a podcast, a celebrity, a politician, a social media personality or anything else?
Would you consider yourself a part of that thing’s fandom — that is, the community of people who have formed to share their love for it, whether through online chats, fan art, conventions or other avenues? Do you have a name for yourself, like Taylor Swift fans who call themselves Swifties, “Star Trek” fans who call themselves Trekkies, Minecraft fans who call themselves Minecrafters, “Harry Potter” fans who call themselves Potterheads or Real Madrid fans who call themselves Madridistas?
In “The Phandom of the Opera,” Michael Paulson writes about the fans — or “Phans” — of “The Phantom of the Opera,” the longest-running show in Broadway history, which gave its final performance on Sunday:
Its success was powered by all kinds of engines, perhaps none more striking than the group of die-hard patrons who call themselves Phans. They come from all over the world, drawn by its soaring Andrew Lloyd Webber score and Gothic love story, and have devoted themselves to the show, seeing it as often as possible, of course, but also collecting memorabilia, dressing up as characters, and conversing about it online.
Frank Radice, a Long Island call center operator, proposed to his wife at a “Phantom” installation inside a Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, and Tracy O’Neill of Connecticut used the show’s “All I Ask of You” as her wedding song. Elizabeth Dellario, a New York City tech worker, named her cats Christine and Erik after characters in the show. Erin Castro, a Los Angeles office assistant, makes Lego figurines of the cast. Katie Yelinek, a Pennsylvania librarian who has seen it 69 times, said, “I can honestly say I’ve shaped my adult life around going to see Phantom.”
Mr. Paulson interviewed six Phans about their love for the musical, including Wallace Phillips, who creates fan art based on the show:
Wallace Phillips didn’t even know what “The Phantom of the Opera” was when he dressed as the Phantom one Halloween. He was 10 years old, growing up in Silver Spring, Md.; he just thought the costume was cool.
His mother gave him a cast recording and then, in 2010, brought him and his sister to see the show on Broadway.
“It was eye-opening, and awe-inspiring,” he said. “I was enthralled.”
Phillips is now 27, living in New York City, where he moved to study animation at the School of Visual Arts. He’s making his way as a freelance filmmaker, while working as an usher at “Hamilton.”
How much does he love “Phantom”? At last count, he had seen it 140 times.
Phillips expresses his Phandom through his artistry — he hopes one day to make an animated film of the musical, and meanwhile, he does concept art and drawings, some of which he signs and gives to cast members.
“Despite all the times I’ve seen it, I’m always surprised, every time I’m there,” he said. “That overture! That chandelier rising! The theater transforming! It keeps me awed every time.”
Students, read the rest of the fan stories, and then tell us about your fandom:
How were you first introduced to the team, celebrity, musical, book, artist or whatever else is at the center of this fandom? How did you come to fall in love with it?
How do you participate in the fandom? Do you collect memorabilia? Chat about it online? Cosplay? Create fan art? Write fan fiction? Attend or watch shows or games? Share your love with friends? What else?
What does being a part of this fandom mean to you? How has it affected your life? If the thing at the center of your fandom were to end, how do you think you would feel? Why?
The article shares some of what fans of “The Phantom of the Opera” have done because of their love for the musical, including getting tattoos, traveling from around the world to attend performances, dressing up for shows, and naming their pets and children after characters. What is the biggest thing you have done or would do to express your devotion to your fandom?
The Times has written about how fan culture can go too far. Do you think people can be too enthusiastic about or too devoted to something? Have you ever witnessed or been a part of this kind of fandom?
If you’re not part of a fandom, share why. Are you a person who tends to like a lot of different things, rather than be obsessed with one thing? Have you just not found a fan community you enjoy? Or is it something else? What do you think about fandoms in general?
Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.
Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.