5 Things I Loved About BroadwayCon.
Back in ’11, I posted a medium-sized whiny blog wondering when/where we would get a BroadwayCon. “Movies have ’em, why not us? Huh? Whhhhhyyyyyy-ine!”
Now, normally when I think our industry should do something, I try to figure out how to do it myself, but I knew that producing a convention was something I knew nothing about, nor did I want to learn. So I blogged away, and before I laid me down to sleep, I prayed that a BroadwayCon would one day a-peep.
Then, just last week, it happened.
And it was awesome.
Sure there was a blizzard. And sure some of the panels were over-packed.
But overall, I’d give the very first BroadwayCon a Ben Brantley-sized rave.
And here are five things I loved about it.
1. If You Hold It, They Will Come.
My first appearance at The Con was on the first day, Friday, in the early afternoon. And honestly, since I figured most of the attendees would be in their teens and early twenties, I didn’t expect a huge turnout. #Wrong. Fans (of all ages) were everywhere, and a Hamilton karaoke party was already underway. “Ok, ok,” I thought. “So there are a lot of people here. But surely there won’t be a ton at my session. It’s about producing. It’s not like we have Sutton Foster or a Newsie on the panel.” #WrongAgain. The Producing 101 Panel was SRO, with people S-ing out in the lobby trying to hear how shows like Fun Home, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and more came to be. So not only did people come, but they came to celebrate every aspect of Broadway.
2. The Stars Came Out To Con.
Part of the reason the people came, was that the stars came. I remember thinking when it was announced that BroadwayCon’s success would depend on whether our industry went all in, or whether we kept an arm’s length. And boy oh boy, did the biz jump in. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles, Diane Paulus, Adam Pascal, Faith Prince . . . and on and on, all showed up . . . and showed up with smiles on their faces. It was like an opening night party that the fans got a ticket to . . . and there was no long line at the buffet (ok, there wasn’t a buffet but you get it). Cons like this were created to give the fans access to folks they only see on a stage, and BroadwayCon didn’t disappoint.
3. The Average Age of the Attendees.
I hope BroadwayCon releases some demographic statistics about where these folks came from, how many shows they see per year, and how old they were. My eyeball survey says that it’s a young crowd. And sure, some folks might say, “Ken, they are not the traditional theatergoer, so you know that they’re not keeping your show or any show alive. Broadway survives on the 44-year-old female who makes $250k a year.” All that’s true, but I don’t see these conventions as a short term market. While sure, they do help in the immediate (see #4), today’s twenty-something super fan, is tomorrow’s traditional theatergoer. And if we can rev up their passion even more, not only will they make sure theater is an integral part of their adult life, but they will be much more likely to pass that passion on to their children. And thus, the theater tradition continues.
4. Shows Sold Tickets.
Get hundreds and hundreds of theatergoers in one room and let them talk theater all day . . . and they want to go see theater. And they did. I overheard so many people saying, “I’m going to see the matinee of XXXX,” “I’m going to rush XXXX,” or “I’m seeing five shows this weekend!” Now, obviously Blizzard Jonas effed up a lot of the theatergoing, but without a doubt BroadwayCon helped moved the ticket needle last weekend (I bet BroadwayCon could survey this year’s guests and find out a rough idea of how many did see shows last weekend).
5. I Learned Stuff Too.
I was on panels with Ted Chapin, Hal Luftig, Daryl Roth and more. And I stopped in to other sessions and heard from Bart Sher, Sam Gold, Michael Cerveris and so many more. I could have stayed there all day. This is not a convention just for “stage door kids,” this is a convention for anyone and everyone who loves Broadway and who wants to learn. And I’ll be making sure I clear more of my day next year to listen in.
BroadwayCon was a success just by happening. But it exceeded my expectations in providing such a positive environment for the fans to find each other, and find new theater-loving friends . . . and not just the Facebook kind. The real, “I meet you in person and don’t judge you by your photos,” friend.
The only thing that pissed me off about BroadwayCon was I kept thinking, “Why didn’t they have this when I was a super fan?”
See you next year.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.