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Interview: Exclusive Insights into Broadway's Return Leslie Broecker

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Interview: Exclusive Insights into Broadway's Return Leslie Broecker Dylan and Celeste:

We were lucky enough recently to sit down and (virtually) chat with Leslie Broecker, President of Broadway Across America Midwest. She is a delightful and charismatic woman who brings an obvious enthusiasm to her role. As we spoke with her, we heard some poignant reminders about what makes live theater so special and also some tidbits about what's next for Broadway's return to stages across the U.S.

It started, of course, with the obvious question of how the pandemic has impacted the life of live theater and all its stakeholders. Leslie shared, "In the beginning, we didn't think this was going to last long, and so we kept going and kept carrying, and frankly I was rebooking shows." There was a sense of this being a temporary lull in an otherwise on-track season. But those ideas quickly fell away as the pandemic continued and things stayed closed.

As our conversation continued, Leslie stressed that the theater community is alive and well. Despite some necessary furloughs and wonky timing, things have continued to move forward. "I think the magic word, and I hope I never hear it in a few years, is pivot, right? You've got to be able to shift on the fly." For Leslie and her team, that has translated into adaptations to keep audiences as safe as possible and to keep communication flowing.

First, "It was every important to us that our subscribers, season ticketholders, you know groups, the people that love coming to the series, knew that we're on top of it," and that is precisely what has happened. Next, it has been an essential goal to keep theatergoers informed about what to expect when they return to the theater. This includes everything from mobile ticketing for contactless entry to ventilation systems and ionizers because Leslie wants everyone to know, "We'll take care of them."

Theatergoers have shown their care and love in return by continuing to renew their season passes, and "Across the industry, there's been less than a 3% attrition." In addition, new season ticket packages are being purchased by people who have never subscribed before. Leslie does ask, though, that people have some patience as things get rebooted because "We're rusty."

What's not rusty is the intense devotion to bringing live theater back for audiences. When we started talking about the excitement around the return, Leslie admitted, "If you all talk about this too much, I'll get a little weepy." Those of us who love live theater may all find ourselves a little weepy in the coming months as we watch the curtain rise and get a chance to escape into a world outside our own. Leslie is filled with gratitude for the past 35 years or so that she's been in this business, and "I get goosebumps, I well up, you know, at the right times, and I think the folks that work in our business, we're just that way. We love it."

It truly feels like the right time to get the chance to take that break from reality and jump into some fantasy. As Leslie put it, "People have been working so hard to feed their families, that now this feels like soul feeding." We went on to talk about the touch of escapism that's inherent to any theater production, and she added that we need moments like that because "it redirects what's going on in your head into what's happening, the thinking of the stage."

In a final reflection, Leslie shared how all of the planners around the nation, those special people behind closed doors who bring the magic to you, they have decided, "We must all march together to get this back up and running." And we are so very grateful to them.

As you go to buy tickets and look for that next special show, you should know that there is a bit of a secret formula that goes into choosing shows for each season. We don't want to spill too many secrets, so let's just say that your voices are heard when you give feedback to Broadway Across America and there is a push to bring back the shows that may not have been rescheduled for this season. Be sure to check out the latest theater offerings in your city or in another city. Remember that it's Broadway Across America and consider some road trips to see some iconic and revolutionary shows coming to a stage near you.

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