Live Blog: TEDx Broadway

January 22nd, 2012 § 12 comments


“What’s the BEST that Broadway can be twenty years from now?”

That’s the overarching theme of the “TEDx Broadway” conference, taking place on Monday, January 23. Since I’m curious about what might be happening on Broadway when I’m approaching retirement, I’m planning to spend the day listening to the 15 presentations currently scheduled.

Given my range of theatrical interest, I do muse on why this isn’t “TEDx Theatre,” since Broadway represents only 40 venues in a single city (although it feeds a wider network of presenting houses around the country), but I do recognize its economic scale and almost mythic stature. As I am not a journalist, I will confess up front that do not approach the event unbiased; my responses to what I hear will be informed by my own 29-year career in the American theatre.

I will be live blogging through the day (my first such effort) in an attempt to bring some of the thinking presented at the event to those who can’t attend, in something approximating real time. Those who know my online activity may ask why I am not live-tweeting, and the answer is simple: I genuinely hope that the content of TEDx Broadway is sufficiently provocative and detailed that it cannot be reduced to 140 character missives; I want to be able to do it justice.  So bookmark this page and take a look as the day progresses on January 23.  I’ll watch for your comments both on this blog and, when possible, on my Twitter feed at @hesherman; I don’t know whether there will be any Q&A opportunities that would allow be to be your conduit back to the sessions.

Here’s the schedule of speakers, as provided by the TEDx folks:

Session One: Turning from Past and Present Toward the Future

  • Ken Davenport, Broadway producer (OleannaSpeed-the-PlowBlithe Spirit)
  • Jordan Roth, President of Jujamcyn Theaters
  • Randy Weiner, Producer (Sleep No MorePurgatorioBeacher’s Madhouse)
  • Patricia Martin, Author, cultural communications guru and CEO of LitLamp Communications
  • Performance by Joe Iconis, Musical theater writer and concert performer

Session Two: Picture If You Will…

  • Performance by Matt Sax, Actor, writer and acclaimed composer (Clay, Venice)
  • Kara Larson, Arts marketing consultant
  • Frank Eliason, Digital customer service trailblazer
  • Steve Gullans, Author, scientist, and entrepreneur
  • Damian Bazadona, Founder of  Situation Interactive

Session Three: Over the Horizon

  • Vincent Gassetto, Principal of NY’s M.S. 343
  • Juan Enriquez, Economist and bestselling author
  • Barry Kahn, Economist and dynamic pricing expert
  • Gregory Mosher, Tony Award-winning director and former Lincoln Center Theater artistic director
  • Joseph Craig, Entertainment marketing expert

If you’d like to read bios of these presenters, click here and scroll past the marketing materials at the top to get to summaries of their backgrounds.

I’ve been seeing Broadway theatre since the mid-70s and had a ringside seat to Broadway via the American Theatre Wing from 2003 to 2011. I look forward to hearing about what may be yet to come.


There is immediate irony surrounding today’s TEDx Broadway, in that it is being held in an Off-Broadway theatre, specifically the New World Stages complex on 50th Street in Manhattan, a veritable urban mall of theatre. Though I haven’t inquired, the reason seems apparent: the costs of using a Broadway house for such an event, even when donated by the theatre’s owner, can be prohibitive due to house labor costs, tech staff and house staff chief among them. Assuming that at minimum, sound, lighting and projections will be put to use over the course of the day, tech expenses on Broadway might run up quickly — and no doubt that’s an issue that will come up at some point today in discussion of what Broadway might look like 20 years hence. But behind the irony of today’s locale, there’s also encouragement: New World Stages was built as a subterranean movie multiplex, and was converted to live theatres after its failure as a film venue. It’s rare, but fun, when theatre trumps film.

Last night, I solicited via Twitter any advance thoughts people had about today, hopes or concerns. I certainly saw multiple tweets of excited anticipation for the event, noting one respondent with particular enthusiasm for organizer Ken Davenport and speaker Frank Eliason.  I have also seen tweets from several smaller not-for-profit companies, mostly New York-based; do they have Broadway dreams?

However, a number of tweets raised deeper questions. Why so male dominated (only 2 of the 15 announced participants are women), why so few artists (only 3, two slated as performances, not speakers), one speaker of color (Latino), why no (evident) speakers under the age of 35? Also, why so expensive ($100, limiting who can participate) and why during a workday (when younger professionals, if they can afford it in the first place, would need to take a day off to attend)? If this is about a vision of the future, can we vision a more egalitarian Broadway so that process enfranchises those who should, but largely do not, have stakes in Broadway? Indeed of the 13 speakers, only four appear to have direct connections to Broadway; the rest are experts in marketing, social media and customer service in other fields. So perhaps this is going to be more about how Broadway, whatever the product may be, will be connecting with its audience in 20 years, rather than what the work itself may be. But that remains to be seen.

A final note before I head one to New World Stages. I do not know whether it is by accident or design, but today’s event is scheduled opposite the annual Broadway Across America conference in Florida, where that major player both as producer on Broadway and producer/presenter in major venues across the country invites other major players for booth social and professional activities. This event immediately draws some major figures away from the TedXBroadway conference, leading me to wonder whether the intent of today is to “Occupy Broadway” and play to the less connected? However, if there is to be change on Broadway that we can measure 20 years from now, it would be highly unfortunate if today’s discussions go unheard by many of the people who would have to agree to take the first steps in that evolution if it’s to begin anytime soon.


Producer and event organizer Ken Davenport begins session by showing photos of 42nd Street in 1992 and today, as well as his acting head shot from that era; he mentions 1992  Tony winners Crazy for You, Guys and Dolls, and Dancing at Lughnasa. Ken remembers his dissatisfaction  at buying tickets in those days without being told seats locations. A $50 ticket for a play was news; $65 was the musical price. Only two non-profit-theatres had Broadway houses; “Now there are five and counting.”  Asks audience to indicate how many had cell phones, computers and Internet. Notes that Disney’s contract for the New Amsterdam was signed in 1993 and that in 1995 Sunset Boulevard won best musical score  by default. 1996, “the Rent era” begins. Notes the 50% drop in NASDAQ value since 2000. Notes the abandoning of the West Side Stadium project. Notes Memphis being the first show to record and broadcast its production while still running on Broadway. Davenport says Times Square is better: crime down, tourism up. On Broadway: 905 playing weeks in 1992 and 1588 now.

Davenport says that TEDx Broadway is about looking ahead and imagining what Broadway could be. What if in 2013 Playbill goes green and all programs are delivered electronically? In 2016, what if all shows were recorded and sold like cast albums? What if in 2018 Phantom of the Opera closes? What if in 2022 there’s a Times Square roller coaster? What if in 2026 the only vacant theaters are renovated and reopened by a Chinese company? What if in 2028, $75 million for a show is cheap and we elect a female president?

How will our shows be created and marketed in 2032? Event organizers agreed they had no idea, and invited speakers to help try to answer that question.  And if you’re in the house today, you’re going to help create that future.

12:05 PM

Jim McCarthy of Goldstar, one of the event’s organizers,  asks if anyone has been to a TEDx event before; few hands go up. He explains that it’s all about big thinking and the people sitting next to you are as important as the people on stage.  Audience is asked to fill out cards with their 60 second vision of Broadway in 2032; some will be invited on stage later in the day.

12:10 PM

Neil Patrick Harris video. He want to see references to Great White Way done away with; what about “The Great Culturally Inclusive Way?” Suggests that the best of Broadway in 2032 would star Hugh Jackman.

12:12 PM

Jujamcyn Theaters president Jordan Roth begins by parsing what “original” means. In regards to musicals, it means original script and score. Speaks of disdain for musicals from other sources; cites Oklahoma! adapted from Green Grow the Lilacs and 42nd Street drawn from 42nd Street. Emphasis speaks only to what, not how. Nobody sets out to create something that isn’t remarkable. Notes that American Idiot, Fela! and Lion King were all shows that did not have original scores, but quickly notes that writers of original scorns and books are essential. But when we limit our definition of original, we limit possibilities. Originality must come from creative innovation and answering the question of why is this live? As screens proliferate, live becomes more valuable, more differentiated, more unique. Not just a description of what is presented but how. Live must be built into events essence, something you can only experience in a room with a community of others. Artists must make the creative cases of why you have to come particular room at particular place with group of strangers to see. Talks about the uniquely different experiences of War Horse on stage and on screen, each told as only those mediums can do. If we aren’t unique and live, we will become cultural derivatives; “We must do what no other medium can do: be live. And that’s original.”

12:20 PM

Neil Patrick Harris video: how important is originality? “It’s super-duper crazy important” and that’s where Broadway has gone “off the ship.” Mentions various absurd new shows, like Modern Family: The Musical at Second Stage. If critics wouldn’t slam shows initially, there could be great musicals in the next 20 years.

12:22 PM

Producer Randy Weiner says he’s never done Broadway, but will speak about The Donkey Show, The Box and Sleep No More; his perspective is informed by these experiences. He talk about how difficult it was to describe Donkey Show: what is a club, was it a musical, was it Shakespeare? He says that original ideas can come from absolute squalor, describing original venue of The Donkey Show. Two cast members are in the audience, shouting out occasional remarks as he speaks; one a chorus girl, topless save for butterfly pasties (Titania), the other seemingly dressed as a crass stereotypical producer in an ugly fur (Oberon). He talks about the great people working in a difficult environment: Jordan Roth, Diane Paulus, designer Scott Pask and how the show took on a life of its own; he says that others took the idea and used in other ways, citing Ken Davenport’s Awesome 80s Prom. Weiner talks about the experience of the show beginning even with the line outside the venue, fully engaging you in the experience. The show had no seats and early audiences were shocked; they’d sit on the floor. The 360 degree approach 12 years ago was different, “and different is my favorite word and what I strive for in all of my shows.” Marketing integrated into the show; VIP greeter just like nightclub would recognize return visitors and even invite them back for free. Built upon people’s desire to be among the first and tell their friends about it. He said that Donkey Show’s real success came through specific, unexpected social interaction: bachelorette parties. “Sometimes you create something and it’s how does it interact with the world? And you get surprising answers.” Weiner talks about people’s social fabric connection to Broadway, but that needs to be even better integrated into shows. Notes the “real estate play” of Donkey Show, since there are clubs with great lights and great sound that are empty until 11 pm; he speaks about how Broadway is largely unused except from 8 to 11 pm (opposite of Donkey) and wonders about how they could be used although, “I have no idea of how Broadway works.” “Why can’t Broadway come up with other economic models?”

Moves on to discussing The Box, because he saw how much the club owners were making at the bar on The Donkey Show. He framed  The Box with outrageous acts, but framed it “high,” as you could see same acts downtown for $10. Suggests Broadway needing to be positioned as more elite for limited audiences; shorter runs, not just for star shows. Make it narrower but still make it financially successful.

When raising money for Sleep No More, he positioned it as a smarter investment than Broadway because no one was doing anything like it. His marketing budget was zero “because the show was going to be so extraordinary that’s how we’d get people to come…The show is the marketing.” Says that not every show can do that, but maybe there’s something to be learned. Instead of Broadway spending all this money on marketing, they should just put it all into a better, larger show.

12:42 PM

Patricia Martin begins her talk titled, “Will the future ‘like’ you?” She talks about lying on the floor of the Vatican and wondering how that level of creativity happens. Her book prompted by that experience has thesis that we are poised on the edge of another Renaissance, despite difficult economic times. Cites mentor’s research: the same thing that creates a renaissance can also send us into the dark ages. As a result of hyper-progress, as what’s irrelevant is shed, making space for the new. Indicators of of a renaissance: 1) death comes first, 2 ) facilitating medium (in Rome, road; today, the internet), and 3) age of enlightenment (messy concept she often avoids; has everything to do with future of creative work and how we appeal to young audience). Talks about the dwindling of subscriber base at Steppenwolf Theater and charge to find global brands that were doing best work reaching young audiences; they all did one thing well, knowingly or not – they could speak at a higher frequency.

Recipe to higher frequency: in young audiences’ upbringing, they experience truth by believing what they can feel, being heard above the din. Young audiences yearn for higher purpose through human connection; we are more and more becoming wired to be social and feel human connection. She studied science of consciousness: witness, empathize, imagine and then act; but there’s a caveat – it’s most powerful when it happens live. Speaks of difficulty in changing culture because you must walk against the tide of prevailing culture.

So when do we get to renaissance? Currently deep in winter of discontent and have facilitating medium of Internet – so why are we still stuck? Because we don’t have a compelling story of the future. We’re waiting – what’s next? Martin cites Jung: “The creation of something truly new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct, acting out of necessity.” So will to future like us? A conditional yes. “We need stories about the human condition that are told with love, because that is what helps people feel compassion towards each other and through compassion comes enlightenment.”

1:01 PM

Neil Patrick Harris video: What makes Broadway so great is that you can have Spider-Man and a play with Alan Rickman all in 20 blocks. But we need to figure out how to produce more economically. I don’t like shows where people just sit around and talk. Give me City of Angels, give me magic shows on stage.

Composer Joe Iconis take stage to perform. Impossible to live-blog a song. Taking a break.

2:15 PM

Lunch break is over and sessions resume with a performance by Matt Sax. I have no idea how to live-blog beat-boxing and now rapping. I’ll be back when talking resumes.

2:20 PM

Matt Sax is reading a poem about his Broadway experiences, which began with The Secret Garden.  “I’m a great creator/and I love theatre.” “We have to get back to creating stars and not importing them.” “What critic is going to argue with a million likes on Facebook?” “For the future of this business, we’re alienating people who can’t afford it.” “Take our Broadway shows and stream them online for a small fee.” “Fuck out of town and give me an Internet try-out.” “It’s my goal to tell stories that inspire my generation.” “Galinda wants to be popular, and so do we.” I must get the full text of this; impossible to take it all down. Terrific stuff.

2:30 PM

Head of social media at CitiBank, Frank Eliason, up next. Where has service gone?, he asks. If continue on the path we’re on, Broadway will not exist, but let’s put that aside. He starts giving examples of frustration at customer service, and says it gets to core of what’s wrong with theatre today. He talks about companies adding technology, outsourcing, ongoing process. Says that people have lost human connection in business; cites Seth Godin book Linchpin, saying we’re still in the industrial age. 20 to 30 years ago we weren’t part of a process, not part of a process, allowing to make decisions. Today it’s a metric era; everything is numbers, even theatre. As long as we think like big business, we have a problem.

Internet is changing the world; giving consumers a voice against big business. People only talk about you if you create a good experience. Why do we think stars are a draw? Because marketers tell us so. Now we can just get opinions on Twitter or Facebook. Now it is the renaissance, about the artistic experience. We’ve been missing human connection, and Broadway will not exist unless we change — must be about human connection.

What is the experience of being part of a good show? Standing in line like commuting. That’s not what theatre used to be like. Used to be special, and not like it now. Says we no longer feel a connection to people on stage; big money shows are mostly special effects, but we can get that on TV or in movies. Broadway is missing it because the best shows won’t attract masses.  Broadway numbers look great, so “we’ll keep delivering the same damn thing,” just like, say AOL. Need to evolve while still on top.

Competing with videos, with “way too much content.” Yes, there’s human connection, but it’s not different enough from other sources. What has happened on Broadway over 10 years? Up and up and up. Without changes, consumers will say they’ve had enough.

Now that audiences can connect directly with artists, marketing budgets will be reduced. You will see audiences encouraged to keep their phones on and communicate about theatre — and artists getting to know their audiences in unique way. Unnamed people will become stars, because new communication can make that happen. Talks about taking his children to Mary Poppins. Rushed in, rushed out, employees everywhere who didn’t care; interactions with people inside the theatre wasn’t a great experience. The kids loved the show, but Frank said it felt like going to a movie theatre. He says it’s the consumer’s own fault for saying it’s acceptable and that the next 20 years will be consumers fighting back. The future? He thinks artistic houses outside Broadway will be more successful than Broadway unless there’s real change.

2:50 PM

Kara Larson says that we are always predicting the future – but we’re terrible at it. Our dream of the experience at Disney world is delightful; we don’t anticipate heat, crowds, crying children. [HESherman note: why the Disney bashing today?] So if we’re terrible at making predictions, what can we do. Predictions in science and business are based in facts, but always leave out variable; sometimes too complex, sometimes we don’t know what the variable is. We have blind spots; situational bias; she cities a military commander in 1911 thinking airplanes would be of no value militarily, Margaret Thatcher saying no woman would be prime minister of England in her lifetime. Larson says it is nearly impossible for us to predict a future completely different from our own; we are trapped in its own history.

What of Broadway? Physical place, dream factory. In 20 years, predicting only that Broadway is a street and there will be theaters that people attend. Suggests we shouldn’t predict, but adapt (per Danish physicist). Accept change as it happens, accept it as it arrives. Or, create change — make it happen. Best way to predict the future is to create it, and let others adapt to you.

3:00 PM

Next presentation is by Steve Gullans. Speaks about the wisdom of crowds; opinion of 100 people is better than opinion of one, even an expert. But when we ask opinions, we have to consider whether we have the right crowd; you need the right opinion, the right audience, and how do you find them? He reviews networks in social networks – Facebook, Twitter, etc. [I have opted not to summarize this; it’s all theories about networks, social contagions, etc.; not uninteresting, but not new and feels textbook.]

Broadway could use social media better. How do you find the right networks? How do most people get connected to Broadway for information — connections are too distant. We’re not far from “smart networks,” people like you with same interests and issues, and they will be virtual, with key influencers at the center. Privacy is an issue and will be solved. We already have networks of friends, but not enough about themes; a matter of time before two cultures merge and smart networks will grow using emerging new technology. In the future, we will see what’s in the laboratory today in the real world: voice analysis, brain waves, smart fabrics, facial analysis; we will move from active input (typing) to passive input. A portion of audiences will have passive inputs uploading information to the cloud to be analyzed in a way that informs and improves what’s out there, including Broadway.

3:20 PM

Event organizer Damian Bazadona of Situation Interactive wants us to think of Broadway as an idea factory that opens hearts and minds. To be the best in 2032 is to fill our idea factory with the greatest talent over other idea factories — innovators. Technologies will open talent pipeline: 1) means to fuel our creativity, 2) access to join collaboration and 3) perspective to support our purpose; a perfect storm for talent. How will we win? By expanding the exposure of Broadway. Why so optimistic? Innovators will want financial opportunities for growth; drama and theatre arts among professions with lowest earning potential. Must increase exposure of Broadway to expand financial opportunities for innovators. Bazadona says our talent can’t be limited solely to theatres, and believes it is starting to happen; the more distribution, the more financial opportunities, the more people will choose to work on Broadway. How do you draw talent to field with limited supply and playing at 80% capacity? Only by expanding distribution channels. There must be growth potential for innovators to impact change. Innovators will want to believe in our greater purpose. Currents auds are 83% white with average household income of $250,000 — that’s not where innovators will come from. He notes that people’s willingness to pay ever higher prices shows commitment, but it’s an impediment to getting potential innovators to see the work. There is no financial model for new audience development on Broadway in a marketplace driven by supply. By growing business, we will alleviate reliance on ticket revenue and create new ways for people to touch Broadway.

In 2032: incredible original productions, full theaters with more diverse audiences, less risk from external factors (“screw those external factors” like press attention and arts education), healthy progressive investment, expanded potential for new works and a wider platform to share our greater purpose. “I think we can win the talent war.”

3:40 PM

Due to technical problems, I have lost my contemporaneous summary of the talk by Barry Kahn. From memory, his theme was one of greater cooperation, rather than competition for ticket sales. While I have not been editorializing to date, I will say that his theme was solid, but did not seem fully cognizant of the current means of Broadway sales, in particular his repeated references to box office sales at a time when most Broadway sales occur over the internet, or the various cooperative efforts made by The Broadway League or Serino Coyne’s “Season of Savings” promotions. He spoke about how fragmentation has led to the creation of new sales channels like Groupon, StubHub and ticket brokers and said that these channels should be combined with regular sales means for a better audience experience.

4:10 PM

South Bronx public school principal Vincent Gassetto is next up, following a video about students from his school attending Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. He believes that schools partnering with Broadway has infinite possibilities. He needs to expose students to as many things as possible to hope they make a connection or find an interest that may propel them to a positive future, creative a drive or desire for something different. Planning Broadway trips are a logistical nightmare. But impact is immeasurable: students want to be in show, create sets, play  music — discussing their future. Attending the theatre also showed students positive social interaction. So how can schools contribute to making Broadway the best it can be in 20 years? Schools offer 1.1 million students, an opportunity to reach into population of young, talented and driven people who are nearby, and that can have an impact on the industry by creating new artists and audiences. If changes are not made, students will grow up without interest in industries like Broadway and arts education is not coming back anytime, so principals want to partner with industries to create arts education.

4:20 PM

Juan Enriquez is the next speaker. Wonders why are there so few medical and science plays on Broadway? What evidence is there that anyone would be interested? All of the television programs about science and medicine (Grey’s Anatomy, ER, M*A*S*H, etc). So how to we get back to what theatre did best? Addressing fatal flaws in heroes. Stories about the gods. At Harvard Medical School, students are reading Sophocles, in order to prompt students to address their studies with heart, not just science. Should theatre remind work about Sophocles? Because art is long, but life is short. Maybe we want to revisit this on  Broadway in the next 20 years. What else can we threaten people with beyond death? Immortality. This is a theme we’re constantly considering in life, but not seeing in our stories. How are we immortal? Facebook as an electronic tattoo, a global tattoo that will likely last longer than the body. Does Google equal immortality? We are moving to the side of the Greek immortal gods, instead of the flawed hero. Are we voyeurs or narcissists? We no longer need to be an architect to become immortal in the age of Google. From immortality, we are moving to pre-reincarnation, e.g. cloning. So perhaps theatre can explore these themes. [HE Sherman comment: Enriquez continues to present medical progress, with the purpose of provoking thought among creative artists. yet I wonder how many creative artists are here today to take up this information. And progress in life and science are certainly fodder for theatrical work, but isn’t all of life, not just the science of life itself?] What happens if we don’t just preserve the species, but fundamentally change what it is to be human?

4:45 PM

Entertainment market researcher Joseph Craig is next. He suggests that Broadway doesn’t think about or talk to their audiences on a regular basis.  He reviews audience demographics of Broadway and says that we are not replenishing audiences, and in 20 years they’ll be going to theaters not suited for their physical needs and limitations. Talks about how men don’t talk about shows they see. Cites annual audience of 12 million visitors to Broadway must grow; 80% capacity is not enough. Audiences 83% white, but that’s the race with slowest growth rate over 20 years. Are we going to be inclusive or exclusive? We have to get “See a show” into the lexicon of every visitor to New York; need collaboration to get people to Broadway in general. For future, Broadway must address aging audience whose income grows more limited as prices rise, the proliferation of distractions vying for entertainment dollars, the move of the “instant gratification” generation into our market and Broadway does not make it easy for them to participate, and how do we look beyond tourism growth and grow domestic audiences. Cites example of Las Vegas losing its appeal and need to rebuild and rebrand in late 80s and early 90s; Las Vegas had become a joke. So when was the last time that kids thought going to a Broadway show was hip? Cites Disney as being smart and bringing whole new generation into to the theatre [finally, someone who praises Disney]. Vegas experience shows Broadway the dangers of being complacent. “There’s a lot of cat fighting between shows on Broadway. We need to put that pettiness aside and think about what’s best for Broadway.”

5:00 PM

Gregory Mosher opens by saying we’ve reached the point in the event where everything has been said, but not everyone has said it. His talk: “Don’t Be The Turkey,” based on story about turkey who is so happy about growing bigger and bigger…until mid-November rolls around. Keeping the avian imagery, he talks about inductive reasoning — if we only see  white swans, we conclude all swans are white but they aren’t. As we move ahead to 2032 we must build on facts, not assumptions, even though we’re in the hope business. So we have to define our business. We’re in the theatre business — but tell that to The New York Times or Kodak, whose business has changed so radically. Customer satisfaction can actually hold us back, especially when faced with disruptive technology (i.e. electric car). We have to accept that we’re good at sustaining technologies, but hard to jump into disruptive if you’re great at the other. Broadway? Remember that we’re good, but that what makes us good is the thing that makes us get not good. Don’t expect same project margins or volume with disruptive technology. Get your disruptive tech people “off somewhere” so they can be on their own to become very excited about even small things that are only at the beginning. When you have a disruptive technology, go find a new audience. Overall, accept failure. Many great things were mistakes: chocolate chip cookie, Post-It Notes, Viagra. We don’t have the luxury of a generation to find what’s new. We must commit to tinkering and failure, because that generates research and progress. We must commit to encouraging.

Mosher talks about the change in neural patterns that allow him to multitask (on a computer), but overall we can’t engage deeply, with a book or (though he has the habit) in a play. New textbooks are multimedia. It’s useless to Google in order to truly understand evil, loyalty, friendship, or a broken heart. And that’s why we need Tony Kushner and a group of great artists to show us that.

“Broadway for 30 years overlapped with the work of the greatest artists. It may once again.” But Mosher doesn’t care. Serious work will play in smaller spaces because that will return us to the way it was for thousands of years.

5:20 PM

TedX Broadway has drawn to a close. What’s above may well be irrelevant once the videos from the day are posted for all to see, but in the meantime I do hope this provides some window into what went on at the event.

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  • So in twenty-years, can we expect Broadway to be as male dominated as these panels are?

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  • Tom O’Connor

    Thanks for the account. I was there and can say, with respect to my friends involved in planning, that I am still surprised that a day of presentations about the future of broadway contained no substantive discussion of producing costs, the state of labor relations, or theatre criticism. One might think of these things as being “in the weeds”, but from where I sit, they are the areas in greatest need of innovation.

  • Jim Joseph125

    Great summary of the day. A truly inspiring afternoon. You made some interesting points regarding the scheduling of the event which I wasn’t aware of, and yes, I saw the irony of meeting about the future of Broadway at an old multiplex! As a Latino who’s been in this business for 20 years, I too was disappointed in the lack of diversity among the speakers and participants. Despite that, I hope this event leads to some serious analysis of where we are and where we can go a an industry!

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  • Damian B

    Thank you Howard for helping with all of this.  Means a lot.

  • Michael Edan

    Re: Neil Patrick Harris video: What makes Broadway so great is that you can have Spider-Man and a play with Alan Rickman all in 20 blocks. But we need to figure out how to produce more economically. I don’t like shows where people just sit around and talk. Give me City of Angels, give me magic shows on stage.   

    What he’s talking about Broadway and doesn’t know the name of the play that Alan Rickman is in?  And they sat and stood around and did a lot talking, so I question whether he even saw it.  And if he wants magic acts go visit Vegas.  I appreciate your dedicated time to go to this event Howard and to report on it.  I found it not just discouraging but rediculous that there were so few speakers who were women, artists, of different ethnicities, let alone specifically linked to theatre.  Some good ideas, but also an avoidance of specifics about the bottom line which unfortuantely is money.  The complexity of costs to mount a Broadway production is apparently way out of hand as ticket prices reveal.  The earlier comment by someone wanting to make Broadway offerings a more elete situation was noting less than revolting.  Broadway should be a place presenting exceptional theatrical experiences . . . period!  Phantom is a wonderful show,, and one of the reasons it’s still running is because so much of the set changes are executed without excessive technology and it keeps the operating costs down. 

    Re: A portion of audiences will have passive inputs uploading information to the cloud to be analyzed in a way that informs and improves what’s out there, including Broadway. [during a performance?  you’ve got to be kidding me]

    Thought Juan Enriquez brought up some interesting questions.  Based on your reporting of the event Howard, it seems there was a mish mosh of ideas, some needing more flushing out, and some seemingly rediculous.  All I know is that I rarely go to Broadway these days because it’s too expensive, although I will go to tks occasionally. 

    I also don’t understand some of the stuff producers do or don’t do.  The fact that the play RED closed shortly after winning a major Tony award is in my opinion totally rediculous.  I don’t know what went on there, but from the reports I heard from people who went to see it [I did eventually see a video of it at Lincoln Center] it was a riviting piece of theatre.  And even if it was a matter of Mr. Melino’s contract being up [I don’t know if that was the case, it’s a ? guess on my part] he’s not the only actor in the world who can play that role.  So why did the producers not manage to stratagize in such a  way to keep the show going?  I’m wanting to spend my money on Broadway theatre for something that will rock my boat about the human condiditon, that may or may not involve technology, special effects.  But I’m also different from many of the masses who seem to be satisfied with glossy entertainment packages that they can easily forget after three days.

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  • Thank you for doing this. I watched all of the videos, but your reflection and commentary was interesting as well. I was stuck in Houston and did not get to attend, so I am gobbling up everything I can. 

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