BroadwayCon: A Theatre-Nerds’ Heaven
On Friday, January 27, 2017, the curtain rose at the Javits Center and ushered in the second annual BroadwayCon, a weekend-long celebration of all things theatre. For three days, Broadway fans countrywide converged in New York City for a jam-packed program of performances, workshops, and autograph signings featuring the biggest names in stage acting, directing, and producing.
Ever since BroadwayCon was first created in 2016, I playfully entertained the possibility of attending one day. As a Florida native, the daydream seemed unlikely to ever graduate into reality. But once I started college in New York, my dreams of attending BroadwayCon were suddenly not as chimerical as before, as I now lived down the street from its venue. Needless to say, I booked the all-inclusive weekend pass for BroadwayCon 2017 without much hesitation.
BroadwayCon is basically Comic Con if you replace the Star Wars clad geeks with triple-threats in character shoes. It is, for the most part, a gathering of serious Broadway fans. This year, the program featured panels with stars, specialized workshops for voice, dance, and acting, and multiple performances that showcased the best of Broadway’s past and what’s to come next season. But aside from the panels that featured those who made it to the Great White Way, there were also Q&A sessions with real casting directors and panels with Tony-Award winning directors that revealed a behind the scenes look at producing a Broadway show.
For me, walking into BroadwayCon was like coming home. I was with my people; the ones with the iPods filled with cast recordings, who enter Broadway lotteries on a daily basis, and know what a sitzprobe is. There is an unspoken connection between theatre-geeks. It is different from one that exists between trekkies or sci-fi nerds, probably because true theatre nerds are harder to come by. Everyone likes a good Broadway show. But the people who live and breathe for the creation of this essential art are unique.
BroadwayCon was a celebration of this bond. All of us there were affected by theatre, in one way or another. And as I strolled through the Wicked cosplayers and Broadway legends (I quite literally walked right into Alexandra Silber of Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof), Sondheim’s iconic lyrics from his West Side Story, affirming that “there’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us”, rang truer than ever.
But despite the obvious influence theatre had on all of us, our stories were far from identical. For some people at BroadwayCon, theatre was just a hobby. For others, it was the ultimate goal in their fledgling career. Some people just liked watching shows and for some, costumes and tap-numbers were an essential escape from the all-too real world around them.
One of the walls at BroadwayCon read #TheatreMakesMe. The idea was to inspire passersby to post a note on the wall to complete the hashtag according to their own feelings. Although it started out bare, by the end of the weekend the wall abounded with sticky notes bearing exclamations like “Defy Gravity!” and “Feel Alive!”
For some reason, when I tried to articulate what theatre made me, I was stuck. The overflow of responses to the wall intimidated me. Surely, my response wouldn’t be able to hold its own weight amidst a sea of equally meaningful sticky notes.
I still put my note on that wall and as I walked away from it, I was surprised to feel an intense pride in taking part in something bigger than myself. BroadwayCon was a symbol of this movement, a community of people who, for whatever reason, just love the theatre.