BroadwayCon — Dressing the Table

2016-01-23 09.22.17Holding a gathering in the Northeast in the dead of winter is a risky gambit, and BroadwayCon is feeling a bit of the blizzard’s sting. Weather-related travel complications knocked Darren Criss and Jeremy Jordan off the schedule, several panels were smaller than advertised, Sheldon Harnick had to drop out, and special blizzard-friendly programming is on tap for Saturday night (audience karaoke, anyone?). With all Broadway shows cancelled, $20 BroadwayCon passes are available to anyone who had a theater ticket for tonight.

Nonetheless, there was an impressively large turnout for the Saturday morning sessions, and those who made it here were treated to some excellent programming. I began the day with “The Art of Stage Management,“ conducted by a killer panel of Equity stage managers from productions like Wicked, Spring Awakening, and the upcoming revival of The Crucible. Really, what better room to be in in case of a weather emergency? It was purely a Q & A format and the smart audience proved themselves worthy with bright questions and knowing humor.

Equity Stage Manager all-stars

Equity Stage Manager all-stars

Some bullet points:

The benefit of being a stage manager rather than an actor?
“You can’t get typed out of anything.”

Is a degree in stage management a necessity?
No, but internships are a great way in, as our classmates who might move into positions where they can offer you jobs.

How to succeed in stage management?

Know what you want, or fake it till you make it. You have to love going to Staples and sharpening pencils. Taking a psychology class wouldn’t hurt either, and always, ALWAYS, speak in a calm and measured voice, no matter the calamities happening on stage.

Stage managing is “the art of balancing temperament.”

Next up was a panel on “How to Market a Show.” “How many people here see 10 or more shows a year?” asked Michele Groner, VP of Strategic Planning at Serino/Coyne. Up went the hands of 95% of the audience. “And how many people pay full price?” she then asked. Four hands went up. Such are the problems of today’s theater marketers, who look at the world’s population as groups of either “avids” or “occasionals,” depending on their theater-going habits.

Scott Moore, of AKA NYC, pointed out that the real problem is not discounting, but that today’s savvy audiences always want to “pay the best for the least,” seeking great seats for small change. And all the panelists pointed out that marketing is profession that has seen vast changes. Prior to the rise of social media, they could run a tv spot and know exactly how and when a box office would be affected. But now they must react to the flurry of Twitter and Facebook that, like a blizzard, can blow up when least expected.

The morning ended with four members of Fun Home discussing their show, which is about to reach its one-year mark on Broadway. Lisa Kron took us behind the creative process involved in writing “Ring of Keys,”  and was joined by Judy Kuhn, Emily Skeggs and Michael Cerveris in discussing how the first “lesbian protagonist” on Broadway proved to be a universal character to whom all audiences could relate. They also spoke to how the Stage Door Johnnies, and especially in this case the Stage Door Joannies, are an integral part of their performing experience. Greeting the crowds after the show has proven to be a cathartic experience for the actors as well as the young women and men who were affected personally by the production.

Michael Cerveris thanks the crowd.

Michael Cerveris thanks the crowd.

Author: Stanford Friedman

With an MLS in Library Science from Rutgers and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia, Stan’s published works range from the technical to the abstract. He has written cover stories and reportage for Library Journal, obituaries for The Times of London, over 200 cookbook reviews for Publishers Weekly, and dozens of TV and theater reviews for New York Press. Prior to his current career, he worked a variety of theatrical odd jobs ranging from clerk at the Drama Book Shop to a roving Renaissance festival bloodletter to Special Effects Technician for the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. Follow him on Twitter: @BroadwayCrit and Show-Score.

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