As some of you may be aware, I live-blogged the TEDx Broadway conference held in late January and my frequent updates stood as the most public record of the full event until the videos went live just recently.
Among the presentations, I have to say that the one which most affected me was the hip-hop editorial by Matt Sax (@MattSax), who has created and performed in the shows Clay and Venice. While I am slightly out of hip-hop’s target demo, Matt’s rhythmic commentary on his Broadway experiences past, present and future galvanized me and thrilled the audience as well (though the lack of audience miking doesn’t do our response justice). You can watch on YouTube to see his performance or view it below (he does two pieces; I’m focused on the second one), but the words alone have enormous power. Matt was generous enough to transcribe his handwritten work and give me permission to reproduce it. I suspect you may find it eminently quotable.
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tedxbroadway – 2012
by Matt Sax
Twenty years ago I saw my first Broadway show
The Secret Garden starring John Cameron Mitchell
who would have known, twelve years later Mr. Mitchell
would give me a carwash in the 2nd row
after that first show I devoured scores day by day.
Memorized every lyric on the Great White Way
Was entranced by the majesty – whether comedy or tragedy
I’d imagine shows in my mind doing the play by play.
I knew my fate was sealed by the time I was ten
didn’t know how to begin, only knew I had to get in.
My dreams were affected like never before
wanted to put on a mask – I couldn’t sleep no more
So I trained to be an actor. A serious actor…who sings
but soon I knew I also wanted to create puppet strings
See I’m a product of a generation of entitled, impatient, apathetic,
lazy children who all feel alone… We created the internet
so we wouldn’t have to leave home. We are also brave
and process information differently
We combine multiple mediums
From rap shows to symphonies
We see music visually and hear images implicitly
We cross genre boundaries, prone to eccentricity
We’re a generation who tweets about the skeletons in our closet for recreation
We all have a voice and are prone to speak with exclamations
I AM not a hipster
or a skater
or a thug
or a hater
I AM a great creator and I love the-ator
So where is Broadway going? What is the best it can be?
I think embracing this culture is a necessity.
I hate to say this – but Broadway is looking too much like Vegas
Retreads of old movies are never going to save us.
We need to look closer at the entertainment we’re affording them
We need to get back to creating stars instead of just importing them
And I believe in the importance of critics for chronicling our theatrical history –
But it can’t be that our collective fates are only written by Isherwood or Brantley
We ALL have a voice and we’re not afraid – look
what critic is gonna argue with a million “likes” on facebook?
We’re still in the world wild west where the internet’s free
And because of this the artists have a chance to shape the industry
Its important I swear
the opportunity’s there
to be at the forefront of pop culture
instead of in the rearview mirror
If I’m a little naïve – okay – I know the dollar is important
but for the future of our business we’re alienating people who can’t afford it.
As long as we create shows for only people who can see them
we run the risk of transforming the theatre into a museum.
Today we are willing to pay but expect content for free
so I say we take our Broadway shows and stream them live for a small fee
It’ll expand our reach. A million people watching in Dubai
maybe could save us from the fate of Bonnie and Clyde
I know the finances suck. How can we create a show that sells
when the NY non-for profit houses can’t produce a musical without commercial help?
It’s a different world now and I have to say
we can have people’s ears and hearts before they or we have to pay.
and before the purists scream at me and cry out
fuck out of town, give me an internet tryout
Everyone’s online, from 90 year old jewish women to toddlers
so lets get the public’s opinion before we drop a million dollars.
And so twenty years from now, what do I imagine Broadway to be?
Well I hope and pray that future will include me.
Galinda wants to be popular and so do we. I want to hear
our songs on the radio and keep seeing them on TV
I want Broadway’s reach to expand past the nation
it’s my goal to tell stories to inspire my generation.
And I am humbled to be in the presence of all these people out here
it is an honor and a privilege to have pirated your ears.
copyright Matt Sax, included here by permission