Anthony Rapp talks about making BroadwayCon, his favorite moments and ideas for future events
Anthony Rapp is a legendary performer in the theater industry, and fans are inspired by the iconic roles he created on popular shows like RENT, you’re a good man Charlie Brown, and If so. In 2016, Anthony helped his longtime friend and CEO and founder of Mischief Management, Melissa Anelli, launch the first-ever BroadwayCon theater convention as a co-creator. The annual three-day event is in its seventh year and was held in person for the first time since the pandemic July 8-10, 2022 at the New Yorker Hotel and Manhattan Center.
BroadwayCon’s lineup includes panels, performances, workshops, and autograph and photoshoots with Broadway’s biggest names. There is also a full-service Vendor Market where fans can purchase rare theater-related treasures to take home. The convention gives theater fans around the world the opportunity to connect with each other through a common interest and build community. Anthony attended this year’s BroadwayCon for a single day on Saturday, July 9. He performed at BroadwayCon Cabaret and participated in his own one-on-one autograph and photograph meet.
Anthony Rapp has been playing and singing professionally since the age of nine. He is best known for originating the role of Mark Cohen in Jonathan Larson’s Tony Award-winning rock opera, Lease, for which he shared an OBIE Award with the rest of the cast. Films include Adventures in Babysitting, Dazed and Confused, A Beautiful Mind and RENT. Also a writer, Anthony wrote the NY Times bestseller Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Musical Hire (Simon & Schuster). He can currently be seen as Lt. Cmdr Paul Stamets on Star Trek: Discovery on Paramount Plus.
BroadwayWorld had the incredible opportunity to interview Anthony Rapp at BroadwayCon. Anthony talked about how BroadwayCon came to be, his favorite moments from years past, and ideas for panels that should be added to future programming schedules.
How did the idea for BroadwayCon come about?
Melissa Anelli and I have known each other for 26 years since running Rent, and we got closer a few years later. When she started hosting events with Mischief Management, her company, I attended LeakyCon (the Harry Potter themed conventions) and was really impressed. We were watching the Tonys one year, and Melissa was like, “What do you think of TheaterCon?” I said, “Sure, yeah, why not? Sure!” And then we had a formal lunch where we talked about really trying to do it. I did If so at the time (in 2014), and I started sharing this with my colleagues and friends on the show. I promised them that my friend Melissa and her company would do it the right way and it would really feel like a community and a celebration. In the first year, even with the blizzard, the feeling was still wonderful and strong.
How does BroadwayCon differ from other fan conventions, like LeakyCon or Comic-Con?
I can speak now being in the star trek universe, I’ve been to quite a few conventions. There’s a sense to the very specific Star Trek convention that there’s a certain similarity, that the sense of community within that fandom is very strong. But when you attend other more general Comic-Con events, it’s much more diffuse. It’s more like a big handbag. It’s fun and cool to see cosplay and stuff, but you don’t get that sense of community. I think what’s really special about BroadwayCon is the fans. To be a theater fan is to be someone who enjoys being in the play with other people, witnessing the work in front of you and celebrating it all together. And I really think BroadwayCon embodies that.
What is your role as co-creator of BroadwayCon?
Melissa and her team at Mischief Management handle all the logistics and planning, so I don’t do any of that. Sometimes I may pitch an idea for a panel, but I still try to be an ambassador to the community and an advocate to make sure we have strong guest quality, ie the people in the panels. Mischief Management is also very committed to ensuring that we have a very diverse representation of people speaking and participating in panels and performances. It’s very important in their minds, I promise you. As much as anything else, my role is to be a public face and to help continue spreading the good word of BroadwayCon as a liaison.
How has BroadwayCon evolved over the years since the very first in 2016?
I think some things probably got easier with programming. We have proven that this is a quality event, so it is important to continue to maintain this quality and then to progress to continue to improve this quality.
How is this year’s BroadwayCon different from past ones? It’s the first in-person post-pandemic and Broadway closure, and is being held this summer.
I mean, I think all of those things make a big difference. Additionally, the protocols in place for people currently working in are showing effects or limiting some of their opportunities to participate. There’s a lot of repetition and stuff that makes it a little harder for these people to engage in the same way they were in the past. This is one of the logistical things that makes it a little harder to pull off.
What have been some of your favorite BroadwayCon events?
The iconic first-year Blizzard Party Line is one I will always remember with deep affection. Being able to help moderate and set up the 20th Anniversary RENT Panel has been really special the first year for me personally. Being on the Hamilton panel was really super exciting and being able to show that these are really really high quality conversations about theatre. It’s exciting and fun, but it’s also a deeply thoughtful engagement.
What types of events or signs do you hope will be added to future conventions that have not yet been done?
Anytime we can have captions, that’s always a pretty cool thing. Like Joel Grey, Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone. It would be great to have the opportunity for them to experience that, I really believe that. I think they would have a wonderful community experience embracing them for their legacy and being able to have an in-depth conversation with someone (a moderator or fellow artist). It’s the kind of thing that I think is really, really special.
To follow Anthony, follow him on Twitter and Instagram. He currently plays the role of Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets in Star Trek: Discovery. Seasons 1-4 are now streaming on Paramount+.
For more information on BroadwayCon, please follow them on Twitterinstagram and Facebookor visit their website at https://www.broadwaycon.com.
Photo credit: David Urbanke