BroadwayCon returned to an in-person event for the first time in two years and GLAAD had the chance to speak to L Morgan Lee and Anthony Rapp—who originated the role of Mark Cohen in Broadway’s RENT and is currently known as Lt. Paul Stamets in Star Trek: Discovery—about what it means to be back in-person at BroadwayCon.
The highly anticipated event took place at The New Yorker Hotel with vendors back in action at the Broadway Marketplace in the Hammerstein Ballroom at The Manhattan Center. While the event was smaller than what Broadway fans are used to, Broadway stars still made appearances and fans still pooled into the Marketplace to meet each other and their favorite artists.
The New Yorker and Manhattan Center were stacked with panels including, but not limited, to Here’s to the Ladies: Hillary Rodham Clinton Live at BroadwayCon, where Clinton—former Presidential candidate and First Lady—sat down for an “exclusive conversation” with women of Broadway; When Broadway was Black: Celebrating The Black Artists who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way with Caseen Gaines, author and cultural historian; Dreaming the Queer Future: TGNC Representation & Playwrights in American Theatre where Tony award-winning musical A Strange Loop’s L Morgan Lee, Mars Rucker, Antwayn Hopper, Jason Veasey, John-Andrew Morrison, and Jon-Michael Reese, along with Charlie Rosen (Orchestrator) and Cherie B. Tay (Stage Manager), discussed the importance of LGBTQ+ narratives in Broadway and advice for Black performers who feel like theater at this level is still inaccessible, and so many other panels for fans, stars and Marketplace vendors to enjoy, learn and engage in.
“It feels great to be back at BroadwayCon,” said Lee who plays Thought 1 (in Usher’s head) in A Strange Loop (a musical about Usher, a Black, queer, fat theater usher, who attempts to write a musical about a Black, queer, fat man writing a musical about a Black, queer, fat man, etc) among various other roles including a compassionate theater-goer who listens to Usher’s discouragement to Usher’s brother’s on-and-off girlfriend named Rafiki. “It’s great that BroadwayCon is happening with people in the building instead of online, so it’s wonderful.”
Lee made history at the Tony Awards this year by becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an acting category. She is also the first openly transgender actor to originate a role in a Pulitzer-winning piece of theatre also Off-Broadway.
Additionally, the history maker notes that coming back to BroadwayCon gives her a chance to see familiar faces, especially at panels. “I love the panels,” said Lee.
For Lee, BroadwayCon panels are a moment for her to connect with kids that keep returning to the convention, kids Lee has watched grow throughout the years with the Broadway community, she said.
“That’s been very cool to see because [the kids’] parents are keeping them coming and they get to hear from voices that they probably won’t get to hear from wherever they are and I think that’s important,” said Lee.
Like Lee, Anthony Rapp found a similar love for returning to BroadwayCon in-person. For both Broadway stars there is a sense of comfort in the community the weekend brings to them and fans alike. There is something unlike anything else about performing and acting with Broadway fans in the room with you each night for a show’s run, said Rapp. He too reminisced.
“It feels like old home-week,” said Rapp. The first BroadwayCon was six years ago, he said.
The convention, which brought out nearly 5,000 people, overlapped with a huge blizzard that January weekend. This blizzard, Rapp said, was something the city hadn’t seen in years.
“[E]verybody just kind of hunkered down and gathered around the fireplace at BroadwayCon for a weekend, so that spirit—it’s not exactly the same, it’s not a blizzard, you know in the days of Covid—a sense of gathering together takes on a little extra special resonance.” He continued on the thought of togetherness and theater as his true love: “The sense of community—I’m a theater person at core, like that is the purest sense of myself as an artist. And I’ve had the incredible gift of being on a TV show now for a few seasons, which I’m loving doing, and at the same time, home—home… there is that word again. Home. Theater is my home,” said Rapp.