by Mo Brady
“Community” is a word that goes thrown around often in conversation, particularly around Broadway. By definition, a community is a group of people who interact socially. And nobody loves social interaction more than a theatre person.
But a community is not a group of friends, or even a group of acquaintances. I’d argue that many members of the Broadway community don’t even know each other. What makes a community special is their shared ideas. What we all share is a love for live performance and a valuation of the way that arts can change people.
Yes, the Broadway community is one that shares a geographic area. (Namely, the blocks between 41st and 54th Streets and between 6th and 9th Avenues.) But it takes more than physical proximity to make a neighborhood into a community.
A community doesn’t always agree on tactics. But we do the important things together. We celebrate together, we fight together and we mourn together.
Community is hard to find when you’re an adult. When you’re young, you can find a community is your school or your soccer team. One of the biggest gifts of an organized religion is the built-in community of a congregation. But if you’re not a young person or a religious person, finding a community of adults is rare in this day and age.
As members of the Broadway community, we’ve been given a unique gift: the chance to be something part of something bigger than ourselves. But being part of a community not only comes with benefits, but also with the responsibility of participation.
Nobody likes to think of themselves more than a theatre person. In order to be successful in the theatre industry, you’re required to hustle, to brand yourself and to promote your brand. But an individual’s success in theatre means nothing if the community as a whole isn’t valued first and foremost.
When you’re invited into the Broadway community, it comes with an opportunity to participate in our community’s traditions and celebrations. But if we don’t take those chances to participate, those traditions lose their value. The way a community lasts is through participation beyond just words. It takes exercise. It takes practice. It takes a willingness to take a stand and even to occasionally make an enemy.
As a American artform, the Broadway community has a unique opportunity. We are the changemakers in our industry. We have the opportunity to entertain, to inspire and to create change through our participation, onstage and off. Not just in the the causes or traditions that promote our individual desires and careers, but in those that promote our community as a whole.
When we participate, we become more important than just ourselves and our brand. We become part of a movement.