The curtains of Broadway have gone up once more, including right here in West Michigan. The excitement can be felt throughout the region, with families already making plans for which shows they'll see from the recently announced '22-'23 Broadway Grand Rapids season lineup. West Michigan Woman caught up with Meghan Distel, President and CEO of Broadway Grand Rapids, to chat about her recent appointment to her current role and to learn more about welcoming back the magic of live theatre.
Talk about your experience with Broadway Grand Rapids! What made you passionate about promoting live theatre and the arts?
I've always had a passion for arts and culture. Since I was a young, I loved attending live theatrical events, often getting moved to tears during a curtain call. While I graduated with a marketing degree from Michigan State, I also studied French language and culture and lived in Paris for a semester in college, which gave me even more appreciation for the arts. I am drawn to theatre and live performances and know they have the power to enrich and transform your life. Working at Broadway Grand Rapids has been a dream come true. I love that having the opportunity to impact the cultural landscape of Grand Rapids and help to bring incredible theatre to our community.
How has your past experience prepared you for this new role?
My role as the Marketing Director the past 10 years at Broadway Grand Rapids was instrumental in giving me first-hand knowledge into the organization and the many pieces and parts that are required to drive a successful program. As Marketing Director, I was able to establish key relationships with sponsors, community organizations, media and industry professionals. I was also fortunate to have worked with Mike Lloyd, who led the organization at a critical time. I learned alongside Mike as the Broadway program incrementally grew over the years, becoming an economic engine and cultural draw for Grand Rapids. This helped make the transition to this new role very seamless.
As audience members are welcomed back to what is perhaps their first live performance experience since the pandemic began, what would you like for them to know? What could they expect to experience this season?
The pandemic shut down Broadway for more than 18 months, the longest time in history, so gathering together again to watch a Broadway show feels even more special. Live theatre is a communal experience, so bringing audience members back safely has been the most important priority. We sit shoulder-to-shoulder and laugh, cry and feel the energy from the stage together, which is what makes it so special. But because of this, taking precautions to be safe is crucial. We will continue to work with health and government officials and make decisions accordingly if the environment changes to keep actors, patrons and staff healthy.
What legacy do you hope to create in your new position?
I hope to seize opportunities that will build our program and provide even more engagement, education and diverse experiences for the community.
What are your goals for the future of Broadway Grand Rapids?
My goals are to make Broadway theatre in Grand Rapids more accessible for everyone. I hope to break down economic, physical, and cultural barriers to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and has the opportunity to enjoy live performing arts. Additionally, I want to continue building community partnerships where we can leverage our programming to help other organizations in the community. Just recently, we partnered with the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives during Ain't Too Proud. And for Dear Evan Hansen, we will be working with i understand to help spread their mission of mental health awareness. I want this to be part of the mission Broadway Grand Rapids, where we not only bring joy to the community with great theatre but also help other organizations with their mission.
If you could only see one musical for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?
That's a tough choice. Some of my favorite musicals are A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Hamilton and Les Misérables. But if I could only choose one, it would be Les Mis. I've seen it countless times, but the storytelling is beautiful and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of injustice and adversity is powerful and profoundly impactful. Additionally, it has a very personal meaning to me and my family after losing someone special to us. So, it will always be the most revered musical for me and one I will see over and over.
Anything additional you'd like to add?
The future of Broadway Grand Rapids is strong and promising with fantastic shows on the horizon. Grand Rapids is on the map for touring Broadway and we are now able to secure blockbuster shows year after year. This will no doubt continue to make an impact for Grand Rapids making it a regional cultural destination.
Learn more about upcoming shows and more by visiting Broadway Grand Rapids.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
Photo courtesy of Broadway Grand Rapids.