Kristoffer Diaz, the playwright of the Pulitzer Prize finalist ‘‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,’’ urged producers to embrace different voices, as they did with ‘‘In the Heights’’ and ‘‘Rent.’’
‘‘Women, writers of color, transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual — we need to keep hearing these stories. We need to hear them on Broadway,’’ he said. ‘‘It becomes a lot harder to dismiss somebody out of hand if you've spent a couple of hours investing in their story.’’
Two speakers with specialty knowledge outside Broadway urged the community to not just focus on putting on a great show.
Susan Reilly Salgado, who has worked with famed restaurant owner Danny Meyer, said his success is not only about creating tasty dishes. Meyer, she said, makes the whole evening fun.
‘‘To say that, in a restaurant, it’s all about the food discounts everyone else who touches the customer experience,’’ she said. ‘‘The best way to get people to come back to you over and over is to create an all-encompassing experience.’’
Erin Hoover, the vice president of design for Westin and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, said Broadway theaters could take a page out of the innovations brought to hotel lobbies, which are now comfortable, inviting and offer new sources of revenue. ‘‘The experience for the show really starts at the door.’’
Customer service was also a theme touched on by Zachary A. Schmahl, an actor-turned-baker who created Schmackary’s Cookies in his apartment and has watched it grow into a thriving business.
‘‘Customer service is something that people are missing in New York,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s so important in our single-serving culture to be that business that has a heart and a soul alongside a quality product.’’
One returning speaker was Vincent Gassetto, the principal of a high-performing public middle school in a tough area of the Bronx, who urged those in attendance to make sure Broadway was on the radar of his best and brightest students.
‘‘It’s in everybody in this room’s best interest that they have an awareness of this industry or we’re never going to win that talent war,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re all going to be competing for them.’’
Though the speakers came from different backgrounds and emphasized different prescriptions, they did seem to agree with Daryl Roth, the Pulitzer Prize-winning producer of seven plays, including ‘‘Clybourne Park.’’ She challenged the crowd to think of Broadway in more than just dollars and cents.
‘‘If we share the deep belief that theater matters, that theater can change us and ultimately change the world, then isn’t that the best Broadway can be?’’ Roth asked.
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