At the Broadway League Conference – Day 2/The Importance of Education

Spring Road Conference Day 2!

Day 2 is only only a half day – partly because everyone runs off to see matinees, and partly because everyone is still stuffed and a bit hungover from the monster party thrown by Book of Mormon last night.

It began early this AM with a session called “Road Committees At Your Service” which was focused on “Arts Education and Community Engagement” in order to not only sell tickets to audiences today but sell tickets to audiences tomorrow.

Honestly?  This is a tough thing for a lot of Broadway Producers to wrap their heads around . . . and I believe this is this one of the fundamental differences between Broadway Producers and Road Presenters and is the cause of many an issue between the two sides.  See, Broadway Producers and even Tour Producers, by nature, must look only at the short term.  Their primary goal is to recoup costs and return money to their investors.  Since every show is an independent entity, and since it’s so challenging to turn a profit, it’s difficult to look beyond that and invest money that helps another show down the line that the Producer may not even be a part of, especially if the Producer’s current show isn’t profitable.  (I’d argue, of course, that if a Producer is looking at being in this business for some, it’s in his/her best interest to try and broaden his/her vision)

The Presenter, on the other hand, is branding an institution, selling subscriptions, and looking at the long term life of one organization.

Short term versus long term business goals = potential conflict.

But that’s another story.  Back to the session.

There were some wonderfully big brains on today’s panel including moderator Al Nocciolino, Jeff Chelesvig and former  Producer’s Perspective “Producer of the Year,” Sue Frost.

Sue’s amazing work with Memphis both here in NYC and on the road was the subject of a lot of discussion.  By getting kids in to workshops and learning choreography from the show, they were able to generate buzz, and inspire a whole group of kids to want to be a part of Broadway, whether that meant in the Audience or even on the stage.  In the Q&A portion of the session, one road presenter stood up to report that a group that was introduced to her theater through the Memphis workshop came back around to purchase tickets for another show. (Success!)

Andrew Haines, Executive Director of Group Sales at Broadway Across America also spoke about how the successful  New York centric “Broadway Classroom” project created by was in the process of being expanded to the Broadway Across America markets around the country (super-smart idea, obvi).

All of this got me to thinking . . . it’s not really Education we’re talking about.  I mean, duh, yes it is, but Education is such a boring word.  I’m bored by it, imagine how kids must feel.

What we’re talking about isn’t Arts Education.  It’s Arts Integration.  It’s embedded education, if you will, allowing kids to take part it in, not just study it.  That’s what creates future audiences.

I don’t need stats to demonstrate this to you (although I could provide them) . . . just think about it.

Are you more likely to want to see a play if you . . .

1) perform in a play


2) read a play

Which one of those options is more likely to give you a strong, vivid, emotional experience that you would want to repeat?

So let’s quit with the Arts Education . . . and focus more on what this panel was already discussing . . . integrating the students into some sort of experience with the show.  Maybe even something like this.

Stay tuned for the report from Day 3 tomorrow!  It’s the last day of the conference, so this is when the good stuff flies.


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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.