GUEST BLOG by Nathan Johnson: Elevating the Brand of Broadway

I didn’t grow up a Broadway fan. I wasn’t the kid that collected Playbills and hung them on my walls. I didn’t take holiday trips with my family to New York when I was young to take in a show. We typically found ourselves running away from the freezing Minnesota winters to warmer climates. Occasionally I would see a traveling Broadway tour (which I almost always enjoyed), but between family, friends, and extracurriculars, my life seemed pretty full. I was quite alright without adding “Broadway” to the mix.


So, in 2007 when I married the love of my life, actress Laura Osnes, and we moved to NY, that all changed.  Laura is a “Broadway Baby” through and through. She doesn’t like Broadway, she LOVES Broadway. Needless to say, my education started immediately.


Over the course of the next few years, I had some incredible experiences in the theatre. I assume if you’re reading Ken’s Davenport’s blog, I’m preaching to the choir. You probably already know that good theatre can challenge, inspire, develop empathy, and even cause us to just escape with a good laugh.  There’s just something about experiencing live theatre at that level that is impossible to get elsewhere.


While I felt at home in a Broadway house, many of my friends and acquaintances outside of the theatre community didn’t seem to care about taking the time to go to sit through a show. Their lives were full. From their perspective, Broadway seemed like something that was for the older generations, tourists, and for the super-committed thespian fan. Their perspective sounded a lot like me before meeting my wife. I couldn’t help but see that there was a major glitch in how Broadway was perceived by much of my demographic.


I am a photographer and business owner. After a brief stint of acting, and realizing it wasn’t for me, I began photographing a lot of actor headshots and portraits and eventually began shooting Broadway campaigns. I was fortunate enough to work with Ken on his incredible production of Spring Awakening…a production that made me ugly cry in my seat.


Five years ago I opened a photography studio in West Chelsea called Drift Studio (driftstudionyc.com), and have developed a great client list, including most of the major publications (Vogue, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Nylon, Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, Esquire, to name a few). Each of these companies do a pretty bang-up job at creating the level of content that cuts through the noise to reach a younger adult audience to bring them the newest of Hollywood, fashion, and music goings on (ignore the fact that the print divisions are going the way of the dinosaur). Why wasn’t Broadway included in the mix? You might see the occasional feature on one of the theatre elite, but it was a rarity. Why wasn’t anyone creating the type of Broadway content using Broadway talent to reach my peers? Why was almost all of the content that I was seeing so fan-focused?


Over the course of the next few years, I was fortunate enough to connect with others in the industry who felt the same way and wanted to do something about it. So we began to team up to create the kind of content that we wanted to see. Through a series of companies and brand partnerships, we have worked to create hundreds of photo editorials, feature stories and even events to try and make a connection with a new audience. Currently, much of our original team is at TodayTix, of which I am a Creative Director of a new venture called The X (cultureliveshere.com).


It is my hope that we, along with other outlets, elevate the brand of Broadway in a way that is exciting, glamorous, relevant and sexy and engage a new demographic of theatre-goers who deserve to know the power of the live theatre!


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Nathan Johnson is a NYC based photographer and founder of Drift Studio.

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