By Jim McCarthy Sep 14, 2012 1 comment

More about TEDxBroadway

With a nudge from our friends at TED, I want to say a couple things about what “Broadway” means to us, the organizers of TEDxBroadway.

Sometimes people use a word metaphorically.  ”Hollywood” is a great example of that.  People say it’s a “Hollywood movie” even when it was filmed in Canada and edited in the San Fernando Valley.  In what sense is such a movie from “Hollywood”?  Well, the company that makes it could be headquartered close to Hollywood, although no one would call a movie made in Studio City a “Sherman Oaks movie” because no one would no what that means.  ”Silicon Valley” is similar.  I’m going to a “Silicon Valley” conference next week, but I’ll never get anywhere near Palo Alto.

Broadway can be used the same way.  ”Broadway” is an industry that not only produces theatre events in mid-town New York City, but it’s also the primary engine and idea factory of American theatre, and arguably, theatre worldwide.  Somebody could be a “Broadway” actor and not have appeared on a stage there for a long time.  So it’s used as a metaphor, much like Hollywood or Silicon Valley. *

But at TEDxBroadway, that’s not really how we mean it.  Yes, we do mean to include the theatre industry and its worldwide cultural influence, but mostly, and where we see ourselves as being different from every other confab about Broadway, we are focused on Broadway as a place, a neighborhood, a part of New York that happens to have a disproportionate influence compared to its size on the culture and the imagination of the nation.

For this reason, TEDxBroadway was last year and will be this year and beyond about all the different disciplines and aspects of Broadway, the place.  We haven’t announced any speakers yet, but as before, they’ll come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and the majority will not be in the theatre business.  They’ll be stakeholders in Broadway as a place–people in government, tourism, academics, and just about anything else you can think of.  But they’ll also be far afield from the usual sorts of folks you see hanging around at League events or checking the grosses on Broadway.com.

As we’ve said all along, TEDxBroadway is not designed for giving you “five practical things you can do to be better at your job marketing theatre tomorrow.”  That’s not say you couldn’t pick up some great ideas to apply right away, but that’s not the goal.  There are a lot of conferences and meetings and seminars and professional development opportunities that will do that better than we ever will.  Instead, our goal with TEDxBroadway is to be consistent with the TED mission, which is to spread powerful ideas, in particular ones that are highly relevant to this particular patch of ground in mid-town and all the stakeholders thereof.  If you don’t walk away with a practical application that makes you 2.1% more efficient tomorrow, I can live with that, because in ten years, something you heard at TEDxBroadway just make change you and that just might change the world.

So that’s what we mean when we talk about Broadway, and that’s what we’re after with TEDxBroadway.  Hope to see you there.

(UPDATE:  Howard Sherman is quite right to say that this is very much a matter of opinion and that Broadway is not “the primary engine and idea factor of American theatre”, but instead, one of many.  I agree and was really more or less trying to characterize how some see it, as distinct from the approach of our event.)

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