Two weeks have passed since passionate Broadway fans and industry insiders gathered in Midtown for the 7th annual TedX Broadway Conference. Perhaps some of the ideas that were generated there have already been implemented Or, as co-founder Jim McCarthy suggested, ”Maybe these ideas will act as a time bomb. One of the speakers you hear today might ignite a spark down the road and will change your perception or the way you do things.” Co-founder Damian Bazadona joined McCarthy at New World Stages on February 27th for the sold-out event. In the past, the two have framed the event around the question, ”What is the best Broadway can be?” This year, the query was different: ”What is something you’ve paid a price to know?”
Each year, speakers are carefully vetted and come from various backgrounds—not necessarily within the performing arts. However, each of them offers significant contributions to the Broadway ecosystem.
David Yazbek, one of Broadway’s hottest composers (The Full Monty, The Band’s Visit) kicked off the event. After attending a Zen retreat, Yazbek realigned his desire to be a ”rock star” and found contentment in what he deemed as an uncool profession: that of a Broadway composer. He referenced the great Sufi mystic Rumi and has since relished in his successful—and surprising— career.
Few folks embrace the uncool factor better than Melissa Anelli. The CEO of Mischief Management followed Yazbeck and proposed the notion that’s it actually cool to be uncool because it ”leads you down a path of productivity.” She shared a cheeky anecdote about her days as a journalist. She landed an interview with Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling and was so fan obsessed, she stole toilet paper from the author’s residence in England. Her point? It’s ok to be a super-fan. She ended the talk on a humorous note that if Rowling ever saw her Ted Talk, she’d probably understand why she snatched the Charmin.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after Ken and Daniel Trush spoke. The father and son started Daniel’s Music Foundation, a non-profit organization based in NYC that provides music services to people of all ages who are living with disabilities. After Daniel suffered a brain aneurysm and a coma in 1997, the pair were determined to seek a meaningful life for Daniel, their family, and their community. Their talk was deeply heartfelt and emotional—but they also brought levity with some rather funny moments.
Julie Stroud might live in San Francisco, but she’s visited New York multiple times to see her all-time favorite show, Dear Evan Hansen. The life coach was struck by the similarities she saw between the lead character and her own childhood. ”There is no greater tribute to art than how it can change, ignite, and reassemble us,” she said.
Patricia Ione Lloyd ended the first session by divulging how she listened to her gut in order to find greater purpose. She left a desk job doing what she sarcastically referred to as ”officey things with paper” after the tragic Charleston shooting. She has written for a number of networks and is currently at work on a mainstage production at the Public theater. ”We need shows that open hearts and minds,” she implored.
Other speakers at Tedx Broadway included Edward Poteat, a leading developer of affordable housing in the New York metropolitan area. Poteat actually argued the case for gentrification- commonly an unlikely angle for artists- because it nurtures art, creates jobs, and improves education. Producer Ron Simons discussed why he left acting and instead, chose to start producing stories that will ”inspire generations to come.” Theater Manager Jim Joseph urged the continued need for more diversity on Broadway. ”Hamilton is great, but it’s not enough,” he said. Joseph manages the Samuel Friedman, home to Manhattan Theatre Club.
One singular sensation, Michael Riedel, talked about the urban blight that had consumed the theater district in the 1970s. Thanks to a meeting between lawyer Bernard Jacobs and Director/choreographer Michael Bennett, A Chorus Line recharged the scene and became the economic boom New York desperately needed. ”Broadway is responsible for saving the city. It doesn’t get the credit it deserves,” said Riedel.
Forbes magazine proclaimed Angel Rich ”the next Steve Jobs.” This powerful African-American executive started Credit Stacker, an app that promotes financial literacy. Rich’s no-nonsense delivery, combined with brilliantly funny slides, had audiences in stitches. ”It’s ok for people to underestimate you,” she said. ”Be like the Trojan horse. Glean information from those around you and then surprise them with your knowledge and abilities.”
Ryan Chang, founder of academic services group Ivy Consulting, shared his experiences as an uber rider. Dismayed by his low rating, he set out to engage more with his drivers. ”Tweet less, connect more,” was his simple, but powerful takeaway advice.
David Korins’ work has been seen on several Broadway stages. The acclaimed set designer encouraged folks to ”be the star of your own show” and ”create the world in which you want to live.” Though the philosophy sounded Oprah-centric, Korins talk was delivered with the confidence and swagger of Dane Cook.
Televison’s Pacey Witter, aka Joshua Jackson from Dawson’s Creek ended the day with his upcoming Broadway co-star Lauren Ridloff. The pair will headline a revival of Children of a Lesser God. Ridloff, a deaf actor, signed her portion of the talk. Together, they discussed how they were paired in the upcoming play and how it imparts the notion to trust one another.
During the day, Bazadona stressed the impact that Situation Project has had on over 17,000 kids in NYC public schools. Each year, students from one of the poorest congressional districts have the opportunity to see a Broadway show, thanks to this program that was started in 2011 by Bazadona and principal Vincent Gassetto.
Over the last 7 years, Tedx Broadway has become one of the year’s most highly anticipated days- both for attendees and former speakers. Friendships have been forged, Business partnerships have developed, and concepts have been cultivated which have improved the consumption and appreciation for Broadway. As it grows, it becomes more like a family reunion that you actually want to attend. If you missed it this year, be on the lookout for next year’s event.
More information can be found here: https://www.tedxbroadway.com/2018/