NEW YORK CITY — In 2016, I was able to attend the first ever BroadwayCon, founded by Broadway actor Anthony Rapp, and this past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the second BroadwayCon at the Jacob Javits convention center in New York City. The event was a three-day convention, from Friday, January 27th, to Sunday, January 29th. Attendees of the conference were able to attend different panels about favorite shows, with favorite actors and actresses, and to learn more about many different aspects of theatre, from set design to theatre criticism to auditioning. There is also a marketplace where you can find any kind of Broadway swag that you could ever dream of, and opportunities to get autographs and photos with many different stars of the stage.
While last year the biggest story was perhaps the blizzard that shut down Broadway, this year I would say there was excitement in this growing convention. More stars and more performances were available this year, and the venue was a much larger, more comfortable way to enjoy this experience. Also, through the use of technology, the audience was treated to new things such as Facetime conversations with stars who could not attend in person. One of my favorite events was a panel with new stars now in the current cast of Hamilton on Broadway, as well as over Skype, the inclusion of the stars of the cast performing Hamilton in Chicago.
I prefer to be a consumer and critic of theatre, but I want to let people who might be interested in this opportunity to know about another exciting opportunity available at BroadwayCon. After purchasing a pass, which was $250 for a general pass for the full weekend, attendees receive emails reminding you to sign up for and audition for master classes with different stars. For instance, patrons can submit a video to BroadwayCon by a certain date, about a month before the event, and they may be selected to participate in a master class where you will be able to learn tips and techniques from a Broadway professional. Examples this year were opportunities to meet with a casting agent discussing how to audition for a comedic side role, a tap dance workshop with a star from Thoroughly Modern Millie, song interpretation with Jenn Colella from If/Then, an advanced ballet workshop, script writing workshops, and much more. I was able to talk to many high school and college students who had attended for these opportunities, which will be a boost to their resumés and skills as they try for a career in the arts.
The events I enjoyed the most were the panels for three shows I got to see while I was in New York City, Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812; In Transit, and Dear Evan Hansen. Learning about the creative choices, the paths that the shows had to follow in order to make it to a Broadway stage, and the experiences that the actors have now that they have arrived on Broadway were fascinating and also brought a new level of humanity to the stories told in these musicals. Additionally, there was a panel with performances and discussion of shows currently getting ready to open on Broadway, and that gave me such excitement regarding the continued growth of storytelling and connection that we get through the theatre.
As I said last year, this is a new convention that is not without its growing pains. A lot of the issues with lines and lack of food and vendors have been improved with the new location. However, there was still a bit of confusion that could be clarified next year. Organizers worked hard to help the attendees feel happy and enjoy the events, but there are still ways that I know the event will improve as they continually develop this over the years.
Also, I echo my thoughts from the previous convention that as a girl who grew up listening to cast albums in my room, telling people who my favorite singers were only to have them look at me like I was crazy, there is a bit of cathartic healing to be in a room with thousands of other people who get it. It is even more amazing to stand in front of someone like Alison Fraser, who originated the role of Martha in The Secret Garden, and helped me get through the dark junior high days by her lovely voice telling me to “Hold On.” Having the opportunity to let someone know that they were instrumental in helping you develop some of the best of you is something I will cherish always.