Transcript – How to Make Broadway More Accessible: Opening Remarks by Ken Davenport

Ken Davenport:  Welcome to the first ever symposium about accessibility on Broadway.  (Applause)  My name is Ken Davenport and I’m the producer of Spring Awakening.  On behalf of The Broadway League and all of our speakers today, I want to thank you for being here on a Friday of a long weekend.  So why are we here?  The truth is I was inspired by David Stone. Just do me a favor and don’t tell him I told you that. Several years ago, David, Wicked and The Broadway League invited members of our industry to the Gershwin Theatre to hear from experts about what we can all do to make Broadway more green, and how important that was to us all. When the meeting was over, I remember walking back to my office and looking at everything I did from there on out through a slightly greener lens.  The simple act of gathering people together in a room to hear about one single issue, which is actually what we all do for a living, lit the fuse on a conversation about a topic that affected us all, and I believe Broadway is better off today because of it. And well, if you know anything about me, it’s that I like to start conversations.  So here we are today lighting another match about an issue we’ve all dealt with in one way or another, whether we like it or not.

As many of you know, before I started producing I was a company manager and general manager for Broadway shows and national tours.  I was the one on the front lines getting the calls from TDF saying, “We have to do a captioned performance,” or from the presenter or theater owner saying, “We have to do a signed performance,” or “You have to keep the wheelchair locations on hold even if you’re sold out.”  Of course whenever I got these calls, and whenever any one of us gets those calls, we always do whatever is required.  Because it’s in our presenter contract, because it’s in our theater owner contract, or because it’s part of the ADA.  Producing Spring Awakening has changed all of that for me.  In the past six months I’ve talked to so many artists and audience members from communities I never imagined being part of before.  This made me realize how many people there are in the world that would love to be on our stages, in those seats, and behind our scenes if we just made it a little easier for them to do so.  And why wouldn’t we want to figure this out?  The more artists we have, the more audience members we have, the better Broadway becomes.  My hope is that today after you hear from some of these people, you’ll walk back to your office and think about what we can all do to make Broadway a little more accessible.  Not because someone tells us we have to, but because we want to.

And with that I’d like to introduce our very, very special guest speaker for today who Acelaed all the way up from Washington D.C. to be with us.  He is a social leader, educator, author, film producer . . . don’t worry, I’m working on adding Broadway producer to his list of credits.  Most importantly he is the Chairman of the Special Olympics that now has a reach of over 4.4 million athletes in over 170 countries around the world.  Please help me in welcoming Mr. Timothy Shriver.  (Applause)

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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.