In January of 2013, I posted on Twitter about the need for a BroadwayCon to exist. I had often scrolled through my Twitter feed and felt pangs of jealousy as superfans of everything from comic books to plastic pony characters had conventions to gather together and geek out with others who shared their passion. But where was I, uber theatre fan, to go? Thankfully, I’m one of the lucky ones that has found a life-partner who shares my love of all things theatre (love you, hon!). But still, it was usually just the two of us, alone in our car, screaming out the lyrics to Brotherhood of Man at the top of our lungs and scaring everyone else on the freeway as we passed by.
But THEN, one fateful day two years later, it happened.
February 5th, 2015, Mischief Management announced that they, along with Anthony Rapp of Rent fame, were putting together exactly what I had always hoped for: BroadwayCon. My little Renthead heart, which had plastered posters of the Original Broadway Cast of Rent on my dorm room walls the way other people proudly displayed Nirvana and Trainspotting posters, skipped a beat. I was SO IN.
From the moment I walked into the New York Hilton for the very first BroadwayCon, I couldn’t stop grinning. The motto “There’s a Place For Us” surrounded me on official BroadwayCon merchandise and in excited murmurs of participants everywhere I turned. Many of the artists and guests who spoke that weekend shared the sentiment that they wished a BroadwayCon had existed when they were growing up. They reminisced that today’s stage door culture and Ham for Ham street performances are a far cry from the rentheads who waited in patio chairs on street corners for orchestra tickets (there were no apps for that!). I related to what the fans and artists my age were saying. I remember being the girl who checked the renthead listserv (where I had to get all my Broadway ‘celebrity’ news) daily from my dorm room in Seattle, where I longed to be able to get to New York to be at the Nederlander in person. I devoured stories of those who had met the cast and seen the show multiple times, and I gathered every piece of press I could find on the show. To be at BroadwayCon was to be in a place filled with other people who had had similar experiences. And we were sharing those experiences side by side with younger people who are now reveling in the widespread access and appreciation of all things Broadway. They were all people who shared a love of the thing I love. It was a game changer.
The Con brought me several moments of tears- tears of joy, tears of relief to have found a place to belong. But also, there were moments of confusion as I wrestled with the fact that here I was, in my mid-thirties, and though I had loved theatre all my life, I had never had the courage to pursue it as anything more than a hobby. I wanted so much to truly belong to this community, to be immersed in it, to contribute to it, and to embrace it as a large and valuable piece of who I am. At the time, I was about to embark on a graduate school career that would include studies of the theatre in relationship to political and cultural climates, but wouldn’t leave much time or space to actually participate in it.
It’s hard to believe that that was only a year and a half ago. Now? Here I am, diving in to the theatre life with both feet. I owe a lot to that first ever BroadwayCon. Much of what happened that weekend would eventually shape the future I am creating for myself. There was the sheer delight of sitting in a lighting design panel, the thrill of breathing the same air as Jonathon Groff, Laura Osnes, and countless other Broadway artists I adored. The stirring of frustration and need for dialogue after panels about the lack of gender equity in Broadway, or about producing old favorites that are problematic in their presentation of women and people of color. The fact that I loved every minute of it is what I remember when I get discouraged about the difficulties of making a career change.
I am not creating something new here, that I know. I am deeply inspired by the work and enthusiasm of the amazing Broadway Girl NYC, aka Laura Heywood. And there are also already people here in Seattle doing a fabulous job writing about the local theatre scene. I am working on compiling a list of resources that includes all these fantastic people, and I hope to collaborate with them on this thing that we all love. While I will never try to be anyone else or copy their work, I do draw encouragement and wisdom from people like Heywood. I am blown away by her excitement, her dedication, her grace and positive outlook while she blazes a trail for the rest of us. I leave you with some of her comments from a panel at BroadwayCon 2017, about being a Professional Fan. Oh, and I’ll see you at BroadwayCon 2018!