Exeleon Magazine

Bonnie Comley – Taking Broadway to Homes

Bonnie Comley_Exeleon Magazine_Leading Businesswomen

From the early days of cave dwellers to modern times, one thing has remained constant in human kinds’ evolution – Storytelling. Theater, one of the earliest forms of performance, has this aspect ingrained at its core. What has changed is the structure of it—the accouterments. Halls are no longer like the Globe or the Rose of Elizabethan England. Lighting has changed and so have the microphones. Moreover, computers now play a huge role in set designs, making their appearance even more alluring.

Beyond all these changes, there has been one more monumental change – the audience.

With the internet pervading different spheres of our life, the theater now has a better chance of reaching out to more people and expanding its fan base. Bonnie Comley, the Founder and CEO of BroadwayHD, realized this early and is putting in all her efforts to explore these unique opportunities. Her efforts have ushered in substantial changes, wherein more and more young people are now seen subscribing to Broadway performances.

“Digital capture of theater is a natural next step in the business of theater. Streaming musicals and plays into your home are solving the last mile issue.” Someone had to take the initiative to keep the fire going for theater, Bonnie along with Stewart F. Lane, Co-founder of BroadwayHD, just did that effectively and efficiently.

The Idea Behind The Inception

The spark that inspired Bonnie to take such a unique route came from her love for Broadway and live theater. It propelled her to share the feeling with people who live thousands of miles away. From her experience, she knew that it’s not easy for all to get a ticket and watch a live theatre performance. Sometimes it is the price of a ticket and, at other times, it is the physical distance that prevents people from buying tickets.

But her experience also provided her with insights like the problem with the time schedule. In fast-pacing cities, finding time for such an event is often a remote possibility. That is why to keep the interest for theaters, someone had to come up with a solution that could cover all these base points and still manage to reach out to a larger yet niche audience.

Bonnie has the perfect answer to all these factors. Her track has the support of the evolving streaming technology that allows people to watch theater anytime and anywhere. She developed a simple motto for people who were struggling to maintain a balance between the experience of a live performance and the busy, mundane schedules of their offices, “if you can’t get to Broadway, get to BroadwayHD.” With this in mind, she and her team are now more committed to making Broadway accessible to interested people.

Stairway to Success

With three Tony Awards, an Olivier Award, and Drama Desk Awards to adorn her room, Bonnie knows that she is on the right track. In fact, her colleges recognize her as a Distinguished Alumna, which can vouch for what she has achieved today. But the journey to where she is now was never that simple.

Her accomplishments often mask the “thirty years of professional development, studying, mistakes, loss, and sleepless nights” she has spent to become what she is now. To put this forward, she explains her time with a perfect analogy of an alpine skier in the Olympics who enthrall all to win Gold. People see her holding her head up high on the podium but they miss the crashes she has had to endure to reach there.

Risks subdue endeavors, efforts go in vain, leading to the collapse of a company. This is true for around eighty percent of the businesses and this happens within the first five years.

BroadwayHD has successfully passed that litmus test of the five-year anniversary mark and it is still going strong. The reason behind such growth is the repertoire they have built with high-quality digital theater videos that put them miles ahead of other streaming platforms. That reason came from a realization, from knowing who their customers are and how to reach them.

This little bit of information nurtured strong tailwinds. When the world was struck by the pandemic, when theaters were forced to down their curtains, this piece of data helped BroadwayHD bring shows into people’s homes.

What Is The Change?

Absence matters. People who love the experience of the live theater felt this more than ever when governments forced companies to stall their productions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a potential alternative, “digital capture” emerged. It is a way of capturing live stage production with the vast array of emotions displayed by the audience. Watching it is not the exact replication of the experience a person has in a live show, but it surely engages people.

Bonnie feels, “when Broadway reopens, digital captures and other forms of digital engagement with audiences will be a more integral part of the industry.” Live stage producers and theater organizations will take this method in their stride as BroadwayHD is having a significant impact on buying tickets to live shows. The average age has dropped and the fan base has turned more diverse, thereby showcasing a promise of turning Broadway ventures more profitable.

What Motivates Her?

Being “an advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity in the Broadway industry,” Bonnie introduces plans that reflect this ethos. Her act of taking Broadway to diverse strata of the society through an online platform is one such tactical move.

However, Bonnie is also aware of the discrimination women face in the Broadway industry. Women buy almost 68% of the tickets to Broadway shows and yet they are underrepresented in creative roles. When it comes to directing, there are hardly any women directors — hardly any characters voice what women want on the stage.

These figures and studies inspired Bonnie to introduce a Trailblazers rail, “which highlights, celebrates and extends the reach of women and other underrepresented voices in theater.”

When it comes to grooming women for future leadership positions, Bonnie’s advice is simple yet effective. “Don’t spend too much time trying to be likable” is what she would say; rather, she suggests to spend time on becoming competent and skilled.

What It Takes To Be A Leader?

“Get your act together” is a much-repeated expression in theater. This is like bringing order amidst chaos where a person is required to “show up prepared, organized and ready to go.” As Bonnie claims, an effective leader is a person who has this complete grip over their surroundings and themselves; only then can they lead others.

At the same time, aspiring leaders should practice communication skills – an essential skill to build up a rapport and an effective nexus to take the business ahead. Leaders should be receptive as feedback can help in building future prospects. Some take it as a criticism and create a defense mechanism to ward off the impact. But, in the long run, feedback is essential for sustainable results.

As an entrepreneur, Bonnie knows this pretty well that streaming services will evolve and become more pervasive. But people will choose specific sites as per their test. The uniquely positioned BroadwayHD has the potential to explore this consumer behavioral pattern for future benefits. Fans rooting for theaters are in millions. Regions and growth pockets are also substantial in number. The ground is set for a sustainable future and with effective strategic planning, Bonnie has an opportunity to explore it to the fullest.

Read Digital Version.

Visit BroadwayHD Website.

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