BroadwayCon Brings Community Together
February 1, 2017
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“There’s a place for us / Somewhere, a place for us…”
In 2016, these lyrics, written in 1956 by musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim, became the tagline for the first ever BroadwayCon. Held in the middle of a massive January blizzard, BroadwayCon brought together passionate fans, industry legends and some of Broadway’s brightest stars in a manner that had never been done before,
This weekend, the second annual BroadwayCon promised to be bigger and better. It delivered. Having sized up from a hotel convention center, this year the convention was held in New York City’s Javits Center. 36 hours of programming over three days provided opportunities for attendees to pick and choose panels, workshops, discussions and meet and greets tailored to their own interests.
The Broadway community of both performers and fans is and always has been tight-knit. BroadwayCon is the first event created specifically with that community in mind.
“This is the convention the community deserves,” says co-founder Anthony Rapp on BroadwayCon’s website. Rapp is a veteran of the Broadway stage, best known for originating the role of Mark in Rent and reprising the role in the film adaptation.
BroadwayCon is the place for the theater community to truly express themselves – hence choosing that specific Sondheim lyric as a brand of sorts for the event for years to come. It’s a space for theater kids, and grown-ups who are still theater kids at heart, to feel safe and find others who share the same passion they do. Fans show up in cosplay, dressed up as their favorite characters – this year, cosplay was incorporated into the programming in the form of a fashion show.
More than anything, Broadway and the theater community is inclusive. This begins with creating a safe space for fans to gather. During the course of the weekend, panels were held on topics such as accessibility for, and inclusion of differently-abled people, transgender artists and queer women working in the theater, Asian-American representation on Broadway and what it’s like to be “out” on Broadway.
The “Being Out On Broadway” panel was widely talked about following it; attendees found it to be extremely powerful hearing successful Broadway actors, such as Jay Armstrong Johnson and Andrew Keenan-Bolger recounting what it was like to be closeted in the theater industry, and eventually what led them to live as their honest selves.
Not everything at BroadwayCon touched on such heavy and important topics. On the other end of the spectrum, many of the mainstage panels dealt with new and popular musicals, previewing the still-to-be-opened shows of the 2016-17 season, and interactive games where fans could connect with their Broadway favorites. Broadway veterans Chita Rivera and Joey Grey both held Q&A sessions on the mainstage, as well.
For an event that has only just surpassed its second year, BroadwayCon has proved to be incredibly successful. It’s a testament to the strength of the Broadway community as a whole, what was accomplished this weekend at the Javits Center: a group of thousands of people from many different backgrounds came together and bonded in celebrating their love of theater.