Theater makers concerned about their industry gathered one week ago, Tuesday May 17th, at midtown’s New World Stages for the 10th TEDx Broadway conference. Answering the question, “What is the best Broadway can be?”, thought leaders with varied areas of expertise took to the stage, delivering eye-opening and often hard-hitting analyses on the state of the artform.
Stellar, a streaming platform and digital marketing group Situation organized the event which was made available to both online and in-person spectators. Situation president/Tedx Broadway co-founder Damian Bazadona and Stellar president/TedX Broadway co-founder Jim McCarthy served as hosts
Talk highlights included:
Bryan Joseph Lee, a queer black man who started CNTR arts, a “creative agency that centers artists activists, and communities of color.” Lee’s grandmother was an avid driver, but as a black woman in the Jim Crow south, she relied on the green book-a guide to safe spaces- for African-American travelers. Lee believes that a similar guide instructing BIPOC individuals how to navigate the industry would be helpful but hopes that one day, equitable opportunities for all will deem the book obsolete.
Theater writer and historian, Margaret Hall , who encouraged fans to not to discredit classic Broadway shows simply because they are problematic. We must instead delve deeper into what the pieces are trying to say. In some cases, they can be reworked. Other times, they are best left on the page and unproduced. Hall admitted that these discussions can be controversial but said it’s “the only way we will grow. We have to have the conversations with grace and consideration. No one size fits all.”
Emanuel “Manny” Azenberg has accrued forty-three Tony awards over his storied career. The producer and general manager sat down with Bazadona for a candid chat about Broadway’s future. “If you have a success, it should be shared,” Azenberg said. He went on to encourage every Broadway show to offer a free performance each month to high school students. By opening the door to see what’s possible, it will ensure that the next generation has the chance at show business.
Theater producer and director Sammy Lopez spoke about his youth as a Los Angeles native. His family would often have “Lopez family jam sessions,” where each member of his family would use whatever they had on hand to make music. From that scarcity, he learned how to be inclusive so that all feel welcome. He hopes that producers will do the same and emphasized that the “power on Broadway is the power of invitation.”
Tony Award winning press agent and lover of furs, Irene Gandy spiced up the event with her own spin on Fifty Shades of Gray for the theater crowd. One must have passion and be handcuffed to live performance to the point where “you can never get enough.” “Don’t ever let fear override your passion,” she said. With decades of experience in the business, she’s well suited to dispense advice.
Emma Daniels graduated as one of the top students in her class at New York’s film academy. She left her native home of South Africa by herself and came to New York by herself to pursue her dreams. It’s a common story except that Daniels has been blind from birth. She challenged the TedX Broadway audience to break away from limitations that the world places on us and to “show up and do the work you were hired to do.”
The day also featured a lively hip-hop arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s “Our Time”, performed by the students Broadway for All, a non-profit arts organization started by actor/producer Osh Ashruf. Britton and the Sting, a funk liberation band, filled the space with uplifting music and joyous energy.
Bazadona shared information about Situation Project, an outreach of his company that offers free Broadway performances to New York City Students. In the coming days, they will be treated to a free performance of the hit Broadway musical Six.
Event organizers also offered complimentary attendance to Tedx Broadway young professionals, a group designed to nurture young talent and provide networking opportunities to industry insiders.
For information on TedX Broadway and to see past talks visit TedX Broadway.