5 Things I Loved About BroadwayCon.

Back in ’11, I posted a medium-sized whiny blog wondering when/where we would get a BroadwayCon.  “Movies have ’em, why not us?  Huh?  Whhhhhyyyyyy-ine!”

Now, normally when I think our industry should do something, I try to figure out how to do it myself, but I knew that producing a convention was something I knew nothing about, nor did I want to learn.  So I blogged away, and before I laid me down to sleep, I prayed that a BroadwayCon would one day a-peep.

Then, just last week, it happened.

And it was awesome.

Sure there was a blizzard.  And sure some of the panels were over-packed.

But overall, I’d give the very first BroadwayCon a Ben Brantley-sized rave.

And here are five things I loved about it.

 

1.  If You Hold It, They Will Come.

My first appearance at The Con was on the first day, Friday, in the early afternoon.  And honestly, since I figured most of the attendees would be in their teens and early twenties, I didn’t expect a huge turnout.  #Wrong.  Fans (of all ages) were everywhere, and a Hamilton karaoke party was already underway.  “Ok, ok,” I thought.  “So there are a lot of people here.  But surely there won’t be a ton at my session.  It’s about producing.  It’s not like we have Sutton Foster or a Newsie on the panel.”  #WrongAgain.  The Producing 101 Panel was SRO, with people S-ing out in the lobby trying to hear how shows like Fun HomeBloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and more came to be.  So not only did people come, but they came to celebrate every aspect of Broadway.

2.  The Stars Came Out To Con.

Part of the reason the people came, was that the stars came.  I remember thinking when it was announced that BroadwayCon’s success would depend on whether our industry went all in, or whether we kept an arm’s length.  And boy oh boy, did the biz jump in.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles, Diane Paulus, Adam Pascal, Faith Prince . . .  and on and on, all showed up . . . and showed up with smiles on their faces.  It was like an opening night party that the fans got a ticket to . . . and there was no long line at the buffet (ok, there wasn’t a buffet but you get it).  Cons like this were created to give the fans access to folks they only see on a stage, and BroadwayCon didn’t disappoint.

3.  The Average Age of the Attendees.

I hope BroadwayCon releases some demographic statistics about where these folks came from, how many shows they see per year, and how old they were.  My eyeball survey says that it’s a young crowd.  And sure, some folks might say, “Ken, they are not the traditional theatergoer, so you know that they’re not keeping your show or any show alive.  Broadway survives on the 44-year-old female who makes $250k a year.”  All that’s true, but I don’t see these conventions as a short term market.  While sure, they do help in the immediate (see #4), today’s twenty-something super fan, is tomorrow’s traditional theatergoer.  And if we can rev up their passion even more, not only will they make sure theater is an integral part of their adult life, but they will be much more likely to pass that passion on to their children.  And thus, the theater tradition continues.

4.  Shows Sold Tickets.

Get hundreds and hundreds of theatergoers in one room and let them talk theater all day . . . and they want to go see theater.  And they did.  I overheard so many people saying, “I’m going to see the matinee of XXXX,” “I’m going to rush XXXX,” or “I’m seeing five shows this weekend!”  Now, obviously Blizzard Jonas effed up a lot of the theatergoing, but without a doubt BroadwayCon helped moved the ticket needle last weekend (I bet BroadwayCon could survey this year’s guests and find out a rough idea of how many did see shows last weekend).

5.  I Learned Stuff Too.

I was on panels with Ted Chapin, Hal Luftig, Daryl Roth and more.  And I stopped in to other sessions and heard from Bart Sher, Sam Gold, Michael Cerveris and so many more.  I could have stayed there all day.  This is not a convention just for “stage door kids,” this is a convention for anyone and everyone who loves Broadway and who wants to learn.  And I’ll be making sure I clear more of my day next year to listen in.

 

BroadwayCon was a success just by happening.  But it exceeded my expectations in providing such a positive environment for the fans to find each other, and find new theater-loving friends . . . and not just the Facebook kind.  The real, “I meet you in person and don’t judge you by your photos,” friend.

The only thing that pissed me off about BroadwayCon was I kept thinking, “Why didn’t they have this when I was a super fan?”

See you next year.

 

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Comments
  • Aggie says:

    I attended Broadway con too and went to your Saturday panel on PA.

    I love your #3. I am a female in my 20s who make way less than 250k. But I love the theatre (average of 3 shows a month) and every show I watch are either via rush or lottery. So yes , I am not part of the audience that will contribute to your production revenue. Crossing my fingers for the day I can pay my way to watch a show without waiting in the cold at 7am for the box office to open at 10am . 🙂

  • Sue Cohen says:

    1. When I saw tickets for sale, I bought one for the whole weekend, and signed up to help out as a volunteer, too.

    2. I did not go for the stars, although it was fun to see casts of Hamilton, Rent and Something Rotten. My “stars” are the producers, and I sure did meet a lot of you!

    3. I am the average theater attendee, over-40 tri-state area woman with income to afford decent seats on a regular basis. I worked the registration desk on Friday morning and was surprised to see how many young people were there as well as how many international fans attended. However, I doubt the organizers, Mischief Management, will release any stats. They seem to be a young company surviving on volunteer power. Playbill’s participation brought the whole event to a professional level, IMHO. Thank you Playbill.

    4. I saw two shows over the weekend!

    5. I also learned so much and had one-on-one conversations with Daryl Roth, Hal Luftig, Barbara Whitman, Jodi Piccoult, Charled Busch and you, Ken Davenport (twice!) BroadwayCon mission accomplished!

  • Bobbi Smith says:

    We were two women who see a show every month and thought this would be fabulous. For us,it wasn’t.
    Perhaps we were too old, but the standing in line for the opening show was crazy, though we enjoyed the opening and the panel discussion with the cast of Hamilton! Meeting some stars and taking pictures, which we are still waiting to see, was fun and those lines weren’t too bad.I thought we would see many women just like ourselves, but it was mostly young people who have a lot more stamina than we do. We expected to be able to come in each day, but the blizzard messed that up for us, so although we paid for the whole weekend, we only got there on Friday. Would we do it again? I don’t think so. I really think it is for the young despite our love for Broadway! That’s not to take away from the people who thought it up and the people who really enjoyed every minute of it.

  • Kenny H says:

    I was so disappointed I couldn’t get into the Producing 101 panel. It felt like only 30% of the crowd outside the Beekman got to go in. Thankfully, I did get to see Ken talk at the PA panel.

    Regarding #4, I bought 4 full-price tickets and 1 discounted ticket for the BroadwayCon weekend. Obviously, I only got to see 3. I dumped the 4th show because I heard it was a stinker, and I will try to get a post-dated ticket seat for the 5th show when I return to NY in April.

    As for BroadwayCon 2017, I am awaiting ticket sales.

    • Jared West says:

      I felt the same one! It was one of the top panels that I wanted to – and we stood in line for quite a while…but didn’t make it in.

  • Lisa Ennis says:

    How was Broadway-Con?
    The Broadway stars were warm, welcoming, fabulous!! The actual performances gave us gleeful enjoyment that literally made us stand and cheer! The fans were terrific! The Broadway part of the weekend? Fabulous. The management of the event? HORRENDOUS!! Please Playbill (Ken, it was SO bad), get rid of Mischief Management! (In all my years of attending events -and I plan events as well- I have NEVER been to one that was well done by Mischief Management) (ask me about Walker Stalker and fire codes being broken and the chaos that ensued there) Anyway, back to Broadway Con, long lines, mobs of people (thought the stampede before the opening ceremony would leave people trampled to death but the worst that happened was many many of us with $250 and $600 passes ended up “watching” it from the back of the room behind poles…) We were hoarded like cattle in and out of the main stage area and in and out of autograph/photo sessions all weekend. It was pathetic. We missed many panels we wanted to go to because of still being stuck on lines. (I missed yours Ken!! Not happy about that!) (The wait to get a photo and then back on line for the autograph with Jonathan Groff was insanity. I think we took up afternoon residence in that area and got to do nothing else.)
    Theater fans are of a caliber that deserve respect and a proper level of treatment. Many of us financially support theaters, theater companies, performing arts groups…we invest in shows, we spend thousands on tickets every year, we donate to charities like Broadway Cares, and then we come to an event like this, meant to give back to us, and we are hoarded like cattle and treated like second class citizens by the management?…
    (We personally have been to The Tonys, Drama League Awards, Talk Backs, Show openings, Broadway Flea, charity events, etc etc and always had the absolute best and most organized time. This was a stressful disaster when not soaking in the delightful performances or discussions that we were actually able to see and hear.)
    Please please fix the management end of this before next year. The fabulous people and fans of Broadway deserve it.

    • Ellis Bell says:

      I don’t know if you’re intentionally trying to sound elitist, but seriously? No con of any kind is going to be on par with THE TONYS. Cons are crowded, noisy, and there are long lines. That’s the point of going to a con.

      ‘Theatre fans are of a caliber that deserve a proper level of treatment.’ Are theatregoers gods compared to other fandoms or people.? I must have missed that memo. Your complaints aren’t completely invalid, but seriously consider re-framing it as actual concerns, and not stuck up first class complaints.

  • Lynn Manuell says:

    I was there from 10 am till 12:30 am the next day on Saturday. I found a great mix of theater professionals of all ages and young theatre goers. I too wish it existed when I was young but it did my heart good to see celebration of every aspect of Broadway. Kudos to the organizers who really rolled with the storm and the people who came over early because their shows were cancelled – what a way to spend a blizzard!

  • Sheryl Wiener says:

    I was there. I loved it. I bought my ticket before any of the stars were announced. I did it because I love Broadway and the theater. Were there problems? Yes. Definately. Some were addressed and adjusted after the first day. Some remained. Hopefully they will learn and make it better next year. The part that was great was the fact that everyone that was there, genuinely wanted to be there for the shared love of theater. That includes the ticket holders, stars, panel members, moderators and volunteers. I cant wait till next year.

  • Dennis Kulchinsky says:

    Ken are you no longer a super fan? Any chance next year the con is held in Spring or Summer?

  • Andrea Wilhelm says:

    I think one thing to add is that people flew to New York just for the con. And those are the people who were most likely to also buy tickets. Multiple people from Australia. India. UK. They likely wouldn’t have justified the trip just for Broadway (Broadway being always around and something you can always do “someday”), but because the con is only once a year, and this was the very first one, many people traveled across the seas for their love of Broadway, and ended up contributing to the pool of Broadway grosses because of it.

  • Brian says:

    Ken – you are the only panelist I met. As I said then, thanks for sharing all that you share.

    There have been some statistics about Broadwaycon released. 50% of the attendees were under 30. That made for a good mix of attendees.

    Overall I enjoyed the event. I almost asked for a refund on Friday when there was no organization in the waiting area outside of the ballroom. On Saturday, I couldn’t believe how much more organized they became overnight – they could tell us just where to line up based on ticket type and they set up barriers to delineate the lines. Brilliant last minute programming changes for Saturday night due to the blizzard. Having the folks onstage calling their Broadway friends and miking their phones was a great way to spend an hour. Hearing from Betty Buckley, Patti LaPone (even if she didn’t send pizza), Joel Grey, Harvey Fierstein, Idina Menzel, etc. turned out to be a lot of fun. I expect a few of them may attend in person next year after hearing the appreciative crowd.

    Was it perfect? No. The organizers must better address crowd control. The schedule was a bit too tight – if you wanted to get into some sessions you needed to skip others to get in line early. The autograph tickets were a joke – the wrong times were printed on the tickets and the lines were long enough that you had to miss other activities. Of course, we can’t attend everything!

    But then again I was in a room with a lot of other people (variously described as 1,000+, 2,000+, 3,000+ and 4,000+) who laughed at jokes my friends wouldn’t get, who swooned at our Broadway celebrities (who can forget Rob McClure doing all three parts of “Pretty Women”, Sara Bareilles’ song, Lin’s impromptu rap, or the preview performances of upcoming Broadway shows), who could pack a room of producers talking about producing on Broadway, or who thoroughly enjoyed being snowed in at the conference on Saturday with fellow theatre geeks.

    Yes, I did see some Broadway shows (King Charles III, School of Rock, and Color Purple thanks to a last minute cancellation that made a great seat available Sunday night). I sorely missed seeing A View from a Bridge due to the Saturday cancellations, but Broadwaycon made a good consolation prize that night. Yes, I travelled into the city from the Midwest for this event.

    Hopefully they will do this again – probably depends on if the event was a financial success. Hopefully they will give first year attendees an advance purchase opportunity for a 2017 event. And hopefully Broadway will continue to thrive. I suspect it will based on the giddy excitement of the young attendees who are the future audiences. Try keeping them away!

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    I find it incredibly hard to believe that the average Broadway-attending 44 year-old woman makes 250K per year.

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