Conference suggests ways Broadway can be better
By Mark Kennedy, APNEW YORK--A conference on how to make the Broadway experience better for theatergoers has come up with some prescriptions: Be brave in the stories that are told onstage and embrace youth and technology.
January 30, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
“Broadway, I don't think, has boldly gone where it needs to,” said “Star Trek” actor George Takei, riffing off his old TV show's motto. “I have a sense that Broadway hasn't entered into the 21st century.”
The second TEDxBroadway conference on Monday brought together 16 speakers — producers, marketers, entrepreneurs, academics and artists — to try to answer the question: “What is the best Broadway can be?”
“We use the word 'best' because the goal of today is to go right past better all the way to the extent of what is possible, even if it seems a little bit outlandish,” said co-organizer Jim McCarthy, CEO of Goldstar, a ticket retailer.
TEDx events are independently organized but inspired by the nonprofit group TED — standing for Technology, Entertainment, Design — that started in 1984 as a conference dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” Video of the Broadway event will be made available to the public.
While the health of Broadway is good, with shows yielding a record US$1.14 billion in grosses last season, some speakers noted that total attendance — 12.3 million last season — hasn't kept pace, meaning Broadway isn't always attracting new customers.
Three speakers — one the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — argued that new technology means the stage experience doesn't need to be confined to the four walls of the theater and so can grow new audiences.
David Sabel, who has helped drive the National Theatre of Great Britain into the digital age, pointed out that broadcasts of his stage shows on movie screens across the world haven't dampened demand at the box office and have actually themselves become profitable.
“I think in our business, digital is uniquely not a threat but an opportunity,” he said. “What if we could open it up and invite a much greater audience in to speak with us?”
Randi Zuckerberg said the Broadway community could increase visibility by having auditions for minor parts via YouTube, have live tweeters backstage, offer crowd funding to knit people to productions, give walk-on parts for influential figures or even make the Playbills electronic.