Back On Broadway: Cody Renard Richard Talks FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME, ANNIE LIVE! & More

Cody shared details about reopening Broadway with Pass Over, working on Freestyle Love Supreme, becoming a producer for Thoughts of a Colored Man and more.

By: Dec. 18, 2021

BroadwayWorld's new interview series Back on Broadway is taking readers on the exciting journey of Broadway's return to the stage! Featuring interviews with cast and creative team members of Broadway's returning shows, Back on Broadway will highlight how members of Broadway shows are preparing for live performances, what they've learned from the last year and half, what is most exciting to them about Broadway's long-awaited return, and much more!

Next up in the series is Cody Renard Richard, who shared details about reopening Broadway as the stage manager for Pass Over, his current role as production stage manager and associate director for Freestyle Love Supreme, being a producer on Thoughts of a Colored Man, working on Annie Live! and much more.

Freestyle Love Supreme

You made an incredible impact on the theatre industry as an activist and one of the leading voices for change during the Broadway shutdown. Do you feel that you have seen changes being made within the industry since the shutdown?

First of all, thank you for that, I really appreciate that. I will say that I do feel that I've seen changes. There have been small changes, but I do feel like I've seen changes, especially coming out of the pandemic and being engrossed in many conversations. I think the biggest change I've seen with people that I work with is really just awareness. More people are aware of what they bring to a space, and what others may be going through. So it feels like, at least in a very small sense of change, people are more aware of what kind of spaces we're trying to cultivate, and they're more aware of their actions. And I think that is feeding into the larger system, which I think has been good. There have been some other changes as well, but that's one of the biggest things I've noticed. Each show that I've done, or each concert, just being in a space with people, it seems like people are a little bit more aware. They're a little bit more alive and open to talk, and to hear, and learn. So, that's been one of the beautiful things I feel like we've grown from through the pandemic.

With that being said, what would you like to see more of in the way of change in the theatre industry? What do you feel people can be doing to help enact that change?

To keep going. Not to feel like we've done enough, because it's never enough, you know what I mean? I think continuing to listen to folks who are still not necessarily being heard on certain things, being open to hear other perspectives, really just leaning in on that and providing platforms for folks who are thinking differently than the way that we've been working. So, my biggest thing is for us to keep going, and keep asking for more, and to continue to analyze some of these structures that we all know so well. Analyze them and see who its serving. And if it feels like it's not serving what we're all trying to go after, then restructuring that.

So I think, for me, the biggest thing right now is to not let up. It's to remember the conversation that we had last summer and to remember some of the things that we all were surprised about, some of the things we said we would never do again, all of those things. I think it's important to continue to move through them and continue to go forward and not just be like, "We've done enough,", "We hired so and so," or "We're doing this certain play." I think it's important to push forward.

You returned to Broadway as the stage manager for Pass Over, which was the first play to open on Broadway since the shutdown. What was that experience like for you?

It's wild being in December and to think that we started rehearsals for Pass Over in July. I'm now on my third Broadway show, which is bizarre! To think back on that time, it was crazy. It happened, and we were all kind of like, "Okay, we don't know what we're going to do but we're going to band together and figure this out." So, it was kind of beautiful that we were all stepping into it with this sense of community, I think. For most of us it was our first time being back in a theater. Knowing that there was so much to figure out and to come together on was kind of magical. So, that whole experience, I didn't really get to soak it up or reflect on it until the show closed, because it was just a whirlwind. Rehearsals happened and we were trying to figure that out, then we moved into the theater. Every step was, "Okay, this is new, but let's do it!". It was exciting. A little daunting at times. But it was great.

I can't even imagine how you must have felt to have been the first show back! The energy must have been insane on opening night.

There are so many moments of that particular show that I feel like I'll carry with me forever, just because it was the first for a lot of things. Experiencing that after growing so much and wanting to do a certain type of work with a certain type of people, it all just came together at the right time. That entire experience is something that I'll probably carry with me for a while.

You are currently the production stage manager and associate director for Freestyle Love Supreme, how has that experience been so far?

I couldn't have asked for a better job. I did Freestyle Love Supreme for its first Broadway run, so getting to do it again is like coming back home. We're in the same theater, it's mostly the same cast. It's been amazing. I added the title of associate director this time, which has also been really great for me to dig into a little bit more of the creative side of the show. Getting to work with Tommy Kale a little bit more, and getting to work with the actors a little bit differently has been really amazing.

Tommy said during one of my first rehearsals, "Freestyle Love Supreme is one of the only shows that can speak to the current moment that we're in." Our show changes every night, so whatever energy the audience brings in, whatever suggestions they bring in, that's what we speak on. So, it's been really beautiful to meet the audience where they are. And in return, they meet us where we are. Sometimes stuff happens in the world and it's hard! So we infuse that into the show. It's been really amazing getting to live that again, especially during this time.

Another title you've added to your resume is Producer- you are a producer on Thoughts of a Colored Man. What does it mean for you to be a producer on that show?

That is also something that is also very new and exciting! It means a lot. As a stage manager, I'm not typically in on some of the conversations that producers are in on. It's been great. I've always wanted to produce, and this felt like the right opportunity. I was the stage manager for the workshop in 2017. And then when they announced it was coming to Broadway, we started having initial conversations, and the opportunity presented itself.

I always said, "It's not the right time for me to do this because I'm a stage manager..." thinking about how our industry puts people in boxes. Actors talk about it all the time, but when you're a stage manager and you do a certain show, you're only perceived as that. So, I was afraid to dip my toe into other things. When this show came up it felt like the right time. And I felt like I'd been able to cultivate that part of my life, my journey. So, to answer the question that you asked, it means a lot to me to be accepted by Brian Moreland and the other producers and co-producers, and to step into that world, and expand. It means a lot to be given access in that way.

It's such a special production.

Yeah, I remember watching on opening night, and I've never seen a show like that on Broadway. And to be in that space and to listen to Keenan [Scott II], the playwright, speak on his journey, and to watch these men say these words, and to be embraced on Broadway was pretty special. So, this entire experience, and getting to learn and grow and expand in that way has been pretty special for me.

What is your favorite part about being back on Broadway, and Broadway being back in general?

I guess my favorite part is I missed the people! I love collaborating. I love people. I love getting to problem-solve, I love getting to share space with people, and I love the community that a show breeds. So that's my favorite part, being back with the people, and the audience included! They're a huge part of the people, of the community. So, it's been really amazing getting to be back in actual space with folks. I did a couple Zoom workshops and readings and it wasn't the same. It's been really amazing being back in space and sharing energy and getting to connect all over again. That's my favorite part. With Freestyle, I'm in the house calling the show, so it's great to see the audience reactions live, we don't normally get to do that. That's another beautiful part about Freestyle is that we get to soak up their energy. I think that's been great.

Speaking about live audiences, you worked on Annie Live!. Can you tell me what it was like working on that?

Annie was insane! But in the best possible way. This was my fourth live musical production with NBC. I worked on Hairspray, The Wiz, and Jesus Christ Superstar Live, so I've had a little bit of experience with them. And I love doing them, it's like the best of both worlds. I come from the theater. I don't necessarily work in TV, but getting to dabble in TV with bringing a musical to life is always exciting for me. Annie was a little bit more challenging than the others because it's a big Broadway musical! And I think that a lot of us hadn't done that in a while. Being focused to bring all of the moving pieces together was a lot! But, it really came together in the end, and it was a beautiful production. I'm glad we had a live audience because it really helped us tell the story, and it was great!

What would you say that you learned during the pandemic that you'll take with you going forward?

I've learned so much. I've learned to offer up a little big more grace. I do feel that I've always been a patient person, but I've learned to offer up more grace in any situation, because I never know what someone is bringing to the rehearsal room, I don't know what people are bringing to the show. If I'm in a good place today, it doesn't mean that they're in a good place today. So, trying to meet people where they are, and going through the situation that way. I think that has been very important. Especially stepping back into the theater, being the first show back, people needed time to reacclimate themselves to doing rehearsals six days a week. So, offering people grace and knowing that it's not going to be the way that it used to be. People need time to figure things out. I learned that that was very important.

And also owning more of who I am. The pandemic gave me a lot of time to think about who I am as a person, and what type of work I wanted to do and the type of people I wanted to work with, and the type of energy that I want to put into the world. I learned to be more aware of those decisions that I make and the things I say to people, and the certain jobs that take. And not feeling bad for not doing everything for everybody. Taking my power back to know that it's okay to say no to things, it's okay to show up as I am. And also that we can't do this alone. That's the big one. This whole thing is about teamwork and trust and all of that. I think that's one of the things that I've been missing, working with people. It's what I was saying earlier about coming together, and community, I was reminded of the power of people, of people coming together. So, those are things that I brought with me as I returned back to work.

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BroadwayWorld's new interview series Back on Broadway is taking readers on a journey of Broadway's return to the stage! Next up in the series is Cody Renard Richard, who shared details about reopening Broadway as the stage manager for Pass Over, his current role as production stage manager and associate director for Freestyle Love Supreme and more.

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