Becoming @BroadwayGirlNYC... Again
Have I been a bad BroadwayGirl?
Before November 5, the last show I saw was Sister Act in September, which at the time was the last production I needed to see before I could celebrate the fact that I'd been to every single show on Broadway.
In the weeks since then, not only did I refrain from going back to see my favorites for the umpteenth time, but -- horror of horrors -- SEVERAL new shows began previews and I hadn't lined up to see them. Worse, Chinglish and Relatively Speaking actually OPENED before I saw them; usually I do all I can to attend a preview of every show, not only so I can report back early, but also so I can compare later incarnations of the show to the version(s) put up early on. I can't remember the last time multiple Broadway shows got through their opening nights without me having attended at least once. (I saw The Book of Mormon twice in previews and Priscilla at least three times!) This was my longest dry spell since I began tweeting about Broadway. I'm happy to report that I've already done better in the first week of November than I did in all of October (I saw Bonnie & Clyde and Godspell on November 5 alone!). Even so, I feel I must explain...
In my life there has been nothing I've loved the way I love Broadway plays & musicals. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be surrounded by the music, the lights, the energy and the magic of the theatre. I moved to New York in the mid-2000s, and a shortly thereafter it became easier to count the shows I hadn't seen then to list off every production I'd been to. Years before I started blogging or knew anything about Twitter, I was lining my bookshelves with packed Archival Playbill Binders, collecting ticket stubs and window cards, and lining up at stage doors to make a moment of eye contact with the performers who moved me so much.
My experiences were all so lovely. I lost myself in the stories on-stage, and afterward I'd get to brush shoulders with the performers who seemed nearly supernatural to me. In 2007 I moved to Hells Kitchen and began having Broadway encounters nearly every day -- from running into Jon Groff at Starbucks, to overhearing two of the Jersey Boys as they orderEd Salads at the Amish Market, to finding myself in line behind Raul Esparza at the Times Square Jamba Juice, it felt like I was attracting Broadway as much as it was attracting me. I had a few friends who I would call or email whenever something like this happened -- the ones who were fully geeked out on Broadway just like I was. It was they who suggested I start writing about my experiences, and it was they who first dubbed me BroadwayGirlNYC.
One night in mid-March, I had tickets to see Blithe Spirit starring Christine Ebersole, Angela Lansbury, and Rupert Everett at the Shubert Theatre. I was getting ready to leave when, on a whim, I decided to create an account on Twitter (which I had never used). My first tweet was something about heading out to see the show, and a promise to report back when I returned. Three hours later, when I got back to my computer, my follower number had jumped from zero to ten, based only on that one tweet and a descriptive 140-character introduction on my profile page. Not only was I elated -- I was hooked.
Now, for the first time, I began to share my experiences with a self-selected audience of like-minded fan-girls (and boys), who responded with recognizable passion and glee about showtunes, cast albums, and close encounters Broadway stars. A small group of show-going friends had turned into an online community. My Twitter subscriber list grew to 100, 500, 1000 -- it seemed nearly exponential. I knew I had "made it" when Broadway actors started following me and engaging me in conversation. In a small way I'd never imagined, I was becoming a part of the Broadway family. I found I loved that almost as I loved the medium of Broadway itself.
As Twitter, and the associated community I'd found, grew to be a bigger part of my life, I found myself watching theatre in a different way from before. Thoughts of what was "tweetable" mixed in with my usual swooning at romantic storylines, and my observations about technical marvels. At some performances I scrawled notes to myself during intermission so I wouldn't forget what I wanted to later share. I took care to remember questions I'd been asked and to figure out out their answers during my viewing of the applicable scene or number. And I made sure to see everything as early as possible, in case I'd be asked for a recommendation that I wouldn't be able to give.
Soon, I found myself losing sleep, worried that I wouldn't be as strong a resource as I wanted to be. Crossing the 10,000 follower mark brought with it some self-imposed pressure, and my head would spin when I thought about it. Here I'd been in early '09, just a girl who loved Broadway but certainly wasn't trying to pass herself off as an expert. And now, after only two short years, I was getting hate-tweets when I couldn't answer a question intellectually enough, or when my "scoop" came after a story was posted on Playbill.com. More importantly, people from all over the world were calling me their ambassador, depending on me to share the experiences of Broadway since they couldn't be here themselves. I took it seriously. I became really afraid of letting everyone down.
In September, when I crossed "Sister Act" off my list and proudly tweeted "I can now say that I've seen every show on Broadway!", I found myself with a sense of relief. It felt like I had beat the clock in a way, and could now safely Q&A with everyone in Twitter-land without ever having to say "I don't know".
But the truth is there's a lot I don't know. I'm still reading all the time to educate myself on everything that came before I started going to shows, and there are lots of cast albums I still don't have. This summer I gave myself reading assignments so I'd know more about the history of musical theatre, and I immersed myself in a "cast album of the week" to make sure I'd always understand the reference if a friend (online or off) quoted a Broadway lyric. I exhausted myself trying to be a better resource... and in the process, I lost sight of what it was I actually loved -- the Broadway performances themselves.
I spent a lot of October NOT going to shows, and thinking about who BroadwayGirlNYC really is. I'm not a scholar or an academic; I'm a girl who lucked into a life near Broadway, who randomly signed up for a Twitter account so she could talk to people about what she saw. I remember being twelve and seeing Crazy For You and then having to leave New York City; it felt like I was leaving behind true love. Now that I live here, I want to appreciate (and remember) all of the magic moments. My experience with Twitter began that way, as a storytelling adventure for myself. Somewhere along the line, I lost that in favor of becoming an encyclopedia and the Associated Press. Broadway, which used to be my favorite outlet, had become a source of stress. So I took October and rested, contemplated. And now the original BroadwayGirlNYC is back.
Yes, I'll still tweet Broadway news as soon as I hear it. Yes, I'll still help my Twitter friends decide which shows to see! I'll answer questions as best I can and tell stories I hope the 10,000+ will enjoy reading. As I do those things, I vow to circle back to where BroadwayGirlNYC began: in the mezzanine, at the gift shop, and at the stage door. I'm no trivia whiz; I'm just a really passionate fan with a geographic advantage.
There are 28 show currently running on Broadway. I've seen 23 of them, and I hope to see the other five -- though I promise not to beat myself up if it doesn't happen. Either way, I hope you'll join me as my BroadwayGirl adventure continues.