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Another Broadway Across America Theatrical Conference ended its short, but sweet run this past Thursday night in warm (thank goodness!) and wonderful Key West, FL. This year’s conference ran from February 10-13 on the theme of “catching waves and driving change,” the aquatically inspired metaphor being that not unlike that of a surfer, theatre industry professionals must continually “experience, create and innovate” by taking risks to keep up with changing times, while also maintaining a sense of balance and tradition.

For those of you not familiar, BAA’s biennial theatre conference is where all the top presenters, producers, general managers, booking agents, and ticketing and technology experts associated with the commercial theatre industry converge for several days for panels, creative presentations, business, networking and some fun. Well…er…a lot of fun.

To kick things off, popular humorist, Mo Rocca and acclaimed director, Jack O’Brien delivered charming and meaningful keynote addresses, with Rocca describing various theatre memories from his childhood, and O’Brien instructing those on the business side of the theatre to “play” more. He reminded attendees that gathering in Key West in this relaxed and fun way was important, because despite having become very much a business, theatre has been, and always will be, first and foremost about play.

With regard to the panels, the overarching takeaway for me was about how ticket sales are “riding the wave of technology” with trends showing that more and more people are purchasing tickets through their smart phones and tablets. In order to capture those sales more effectively, the industry is reaching out to experts in digital for support, and, in some cases, bringing digital experts on to their own staffs. A small sampling of the ticketing and digital leaders who spoke on this topic included David Andrews, SVP, Shubert Ticketing, Damian Bazadona, Founder, Situation Interactive, Stan Deak, VP New Business Development, Experience, which is based in an app that allows you to upgrade your seat, or add on an experience right from your mobile device, and Julia Vander Ploeg, GM & SVP, Ticketmaster Resale, who discussed the new TM+ website.

Cast members of GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER perform at the BAA Theatrical Conference in Key West.

Cast members of GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER perform at the BAA Theatrical Conference in Key West.

But the conference went way beyond panels! There were also a number of special performances, as well as exciting creative presentations of both new and established works! These included Cyndi Lauper (KINKY BOOTS), Sheryl Crow (DINER), and the lovely Jessie Mueller performed songs from the hit Broadway show, BEAUTIFUL. I was particularly enamored by the presentation of AMELIE, and will be rooting for the show as it continues in its development and journey toward Broadway. Other shows represented at the conference were GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, WE FOXES, THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD, MOTOWN THE MUSICAL and DIRTY DANCING.

The energy at the conference was inspiring, and by the close it was clear that The Road has never been stronger. It’s heartening to know how alive and well theatre remains despite all the various entertainment choices out there. And I truly believe that The Road, by bringing theatre beyond New York, Chicago and other major cities, directly and indirectly helps theatre at every level thrive all across the country. By maintaining and building new audiences, fans and supporters on The Road, theatre remains highly visible, as well as culturally and economically relevant. And no matter how technologically advanced this world gets, at the end of the day there will never be anything that could ever duplicate the kind of magical experience that only live theatre can offer.

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Closing night fireworks on the beach of the Casa Marina Hotel, Key West.

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