- New York Columnist
There’s no denying we theater fans feel a rush of excitement when a performer responds to our tweets, Instagram posts or letters. Cast recordings, social media, and old YouTube videos are the only links we have to the artists we adore but can’t always see live. AOL’s BUILD Series strengthens that connection between the artists that enrich New York City with their talent and the fans that can’t travel there.
This live interview series is broadcast from the AOL headquarters in New York City to viewers worldwide. I found out about it through theater personality Laura “BroadwayGirlNYC” Heywood. She’s the perfect person to lead this initiative since she started out as a fan, just like me, and now interviews Broadway performers.
Thanks to the social media platforms that garnered her such a loyal following, I found myself watching her interviews with Tony winners Lena Hall and Nikki M. James after a long day at the office. Listening to Ms. Hall talk about her upcoming challenges as Hedwig and Yitzhak on tour and Ms. James chat about her new TV show “BrainDead” allowed me to discover and enjoy new aspects of their careers distant from the characters that drew me to them. It wasn’t until I took part in two of Ms. Heywood’s tapings that I fully grasped how beneficial the BUILD Series is for theater lovers and the Broadway community.
To my surprise, the multi-talented Kristin Chenoweth was scheduled to promote her new album, “The Art of Elegance,” on September 26. We were encouraged to tweet, post on Facebook and Instagram or share stories on Snapchat. The BUILD Series’ social media team also live-tweeted the event and urged remote viewers to partake in the conversation and submit questions for Ms. Chenoweth. On November 1st, I had the privilege of attending two-time Tony winner Christian Borle’s taping where he discussed “Falsettos” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It was my job to use my social channels to make these experiences as memorable as possible for those who weren’t there.
Ms. Heywood mapped out the course of the interviews, but the viewers’ questions certainly altered their outcomes often mirroring the allure of live theater. Would you ever think that your favorite performer would take the time to answer your questions and perhaps share insights you didn’t know about him/her/them?
The BUILD Series highlights a major issue — not everyone can travel to New York City or to the AOL headquarters mid-afternoon. As theatergoers, we have to share our thoughts on the glorious performances we witness to foster new talent and keep productions running. Social media has made it possible for us to learn more about the Broadway community and its shows, but it doesn’t always provide a peek into the minds of these performers like face-to-face interviews do. AOL goes one step further and humanizes our contact with them through these immersive experiences. This was most notable during Mr. Borle’s interview due to the fact he’s not on social media. Seeing him react to Ms. Heywood’s question about what comic book musical he would like to star in and engage with the spectators laughing and cheering by his side was very gratifying.
Hopefully, with Ms. Heywood’s help, BUILD Series' audience everywhere accept this call to action and nurture this facet of our culture. Efforts like these are what motivate viewers to see ANY show — Broadway, Off-Broadway or community theater production and instill an appreciation for the theater in others. The next generation of performers, playwrights, producers, press agents, and most importantly, fans are out there online and this may be the push they need to pursue something extraordinary in the arts.