One of the absolute best parts of the theater that I feel people don’t talk about enough is the people - the community.
Sure, every June as we all get ready to sit down together in NYC and across the country to watch the Tony Awards, or are preparing for one of the major benefits like Broadway Bares, or even just during Pride Month in general, theatrical and non-theatrical publications will talk briefly about how Broadway is a community. And it is! It’s a fantastic community with the same pros and cons that any community might have.
But only “Broadway” is discussed as being the community itself.
And as soon as you call something the “Broadway” community, there is an innate elitism to that term - whether geographically or in terms of production budget - which gets thrown into everyone’s minds.
But what is this Broadway community? Is it just the thousands of people actively working in NYC’s largest theatrical houses? Just those who contribute to the city’s multi-billion dollar industry?
I don’t think so, no.
I think the Broadway community is far larger than that. Personally, I would consider the Broadway community to include anyone and everyone working in theatre across the entire country. I would even consider the Broadway community to include the multitude of theatre lovers - those who don’t necessarily work in the industry, but participate through other means by supporting those who do, or even just attending all productions they can and keeping tabs on what’s happening in the industry.
In my opinion, it is crucial to consider everyone involved in the theatre everywhere as part of the Broadway community.
Allow me to explain!
The Other Sport
People always talk about how sports are such a great influence on development, particularly the aspects of teamwork and community. We make books and TV shows and films by the dozen on this subject.
Bu what about theatre?
Doesn’t theatre have the same positive influence on people that sports do? I would answer with a resounding yes. Not only do you learn to work as a team (though we usually use the term “ensemble”) with fellow performers, you also build an entire community with your directors, choreographers, musical directors, stage management, stage crew, designers, run crews, pit members, etc.
And just like sports, theatre pushes the mind and the body to constantly learn and grow - to do more than you previously could.
From an educational standpoint, I cannot count the number of times I have heard the parents of my students say “Theatre is our sport” or “My son has soccer, but my daughter has theatre”. Theatre people understand this concept, but I think that the majority of people who are not directly involved in theatre don’t see it as a community-building venture the way we see sports.
Some of this may be due to the lack of mainstream media and commercial attention in comparison with sports, though I think it’s mostly due to an undervaluing and under-appreciation of the arts in our culture. When you aren’t taught to look up to something, you won’t be highlighting its positive aspects moving forward.
But I cannot emphasize enough how important the ensemble and community nature of theatre is. It permeates every level - from elementary school pageants all the way up through Broadway blockbusters. Theatre folks are a particular subset of good humans who you can learn from, come to know, and to count on, just by their nature as fellow theatrical people.
People often say that theatre is family.
And thus far in my life and career, I’ve only seen mounting evidence to support this.
Theatre people are the best people.
So Big, So Small
One of the most confusing things to me about theatre is how - whether you’re talking about a specific show or the entire community at large - you can simultaneously feel like a small droplet in an ocean of people and like you know everyone personally.
For instance, on my current contract at Bristol Valley Theater we have dozens of people in the company working constantly (and often separately) to piece together each production. Most of the time I spend during the days is with the cast, director, and stage management, whom I know intimately at this point. In relative terms to the time I spend here, I rarely see the production or build crew.
However! In those rare moments where we are all eating lunch in the lobby, or on a quick break, or see each other in town after work hours, there’s an immediate connection. We may have all worked in separate areas throughout the day, but it’s all to the same end and in the same place. There’s an innate understanding of the work and the people, and it’s always delightful to spend that time with one another.
The same is true of the theatrical community as a whole.
A common saying in life - but that gets particular play in the theatre - is “it’s a small world.” Never does that feel so true as when meeting someone new in this business. Give it a few minutes, and chances are that you will have figured out ten people and five theaters that you know in common.
Everyone knows everyone, and we are all connected in a million ways. And it’s wonderful.
Why is that wonderful?
Because we have all had that teamwork/ensemble way of life instilled in us throughout our educations and careers. We support each other. We want to work with each other. We want to succeed, yes, but we want others to succeed as well.
Success in one area of the theatre breeds success for everyone at all levels, and we are aware of that.
The only way to continue moving forward is to do so together.
There’s No People Like Show People
Seriously. Theatre people are the best.
One of the things I love most about working in theatre is meeting wonderful people and making fantastic new friends.
New friends mean both enrichment for my life, but also enrichment for my chosen field of work. Where else can you - on a consistent basis at least - do your work and further your career, all while having a blast and loving the humans you are surrounded with?
Doing So Happy Together at BVT has given me wonderful new friends that I already cherish more than I consciously know. And their departure after Sunday will be a tearful one. However, I know that we will be seeing one another and working together again. I can almost guarantee it.
And this is the meat and bones of the “Broadway community”: People of all ages across the country, doing theatre in schools, at community houses, non-equity houses, large regional houses, and yes, on Broadway, all learning and growing together to create their art.
There is nothing like it, and it’s truly the best.