BWW Blog: Hillary Reeves of Camp Broadway - Getting Started on Broadway When You Aren't in NYC
One thing that consistently frustrates me about Broadway is that it's exclusionary by nature. Sure, audiences can (and should) be incredibly diverse, as can the communities backstage, on stage, in The Producing Offices and on the creative teams. However, what live theater requires that other media does not is a very specific time and place. In order to consume theater, you have to be in a theater, a space with a limited capacity. And a lot of times you have to be in a major city, often New York.
What's a theater-loving kid in the Des Moines suburbs to do? Or, take me as an example: I grew up on Long Island, only an hour and fifteen minutes' train ride from midtown Manhattan. But going to "the city," especially to see a Broadway show, was still a pretty special event that involved a lot of planning and a pretty hefty price tag.
So if you're feeling stuck, your Broadway aspirations feeling like little more than a distant daydream, take some time to understand the resources that are available to you. Incredible training and opportunities likely aren't far off. Here's how to get started:
Find an expert in your town
There's a wild misconception that theater professionals only live in New York City. Some (gasp!) might choose to make their living elsewhere. Think about your nearest professional theater or performing arts center and all of the incredible people that go in and out of its doors every day. You could also get in touch with a local college's arts department or a performing arts high school nearby. Chances are, there is an expert in one of those places that would be a perfect mentor. Learn his or her path, and ask them to advise you on yours. This is step one in building your professional network and the sooner you start, the better!
Take all the lessons you can
Last week I expounded on how I wish I had sucked up my pride and started taking dance classes as a teen. Don't make the same mistake I did! Working as a performer on Broadway today usually means you're a triple-threat. Or, if you're working on the business side of things, you need to have an understanding of how all of the gears of a Broadway show fit together-- knowing how to read music or knowing what a "fuete" is can really set you apart from your peers. Develop your talents and explore your weaknesses; you won't be sorry you did!
Make a name for yourself
Guess what! The Internet exists! That means you have absolutely no reason to complain about your small town woes (OK, you can complain a little if you must, but not before you put yourself in the shoes of us PRE-TUMBLR small-towners). Use the tools you have at your fingertips to prove your passions. Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube or a great blog are all perfect ways to show-not-tell your theater prowess. Say intelligent things, be kind and show some personality! Establishing your voice and learning how to express your opinions in a meaningful way now will definitely look impressive to future employers.
Take the first step
When/if you do decide to move to New York, what will set you apart from all of the other theater-loving young people? Some genuine experience! There are tons of ways for you to make professional connections from where you're sitting right now. For example, Camp Broadway's blog (updated twice daily) is made up entirely of contributions from teen writers from around the country. Our group of bloggers is extremely tight-knit, all of my writers get first-hand feedback from an editor, their opinions are published and shared with CB's online community, and we develop lasting working relationships. (I even wrote a college recommendation for one of our long-time bloggers!) Tweet at us (or another publication/company you admire) to learn how to contribute in one way or another!
Know who's coming to town
My last tip? Keep an eye out for who's coming in and out of town with travelling theater companies, shows, or special events. If a national tour comes to your local theater or a company like Camp Broadway touches down in your hometown for a week in the summer, get involved! Perhaps you can volunteer for the event, conduct an interview with one of that talented travellers for your blog, or even just introduce yourself at the stage door! It can't hurt, right?
Now go out there and get started! And remember to thank us when you win your Tony Award. ;)