How to Produce a Museum of Broadway

The new Museum of Broadway, which opened recently in Manhattan’s theater district, has a list of producer credits just like it’s a Broadway show. At the top of the list are co-founders Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti, who appeared on the new episode of Variety‘s theater podcast, “Stagecraft,” to reveal the steps they took to make it all happen.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

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Step one: Get the whole Broadway community involved.

Early on in the process, Boardman said, “we went to the major stakeholders — the theater owners, the American Theatre Wing, the Broadway League, Playbill, Broadway Cares, the licensing companies — and met with the heads of each of them.” Boardman, a Broadway producer who’s backed shows including “Funny Girl” and “Company,” and Nicoletti, the head of an experiential marketing agency, also worked with a number of individual artists, creators and producers to secure many of the costumes, set models and other artifacts that are on display. “Most items are on loan from people in the community,” Boardman said.

Step two: Don’t play favorites.

“From the beginning, we have very much wanted to create Switzerland as much as we can,” Boardman said. Which is to say: If the Broadway community is like the European Union — a generally collaborative, occasionally fractious group of independent organizations sharing a collective infrastructure — then the Museum wanted to make its neutrality apparent from the get-go.

“We have a room [in the museum] that has everything that’s currently running on Broadway today, and we wanted to make sure that every show gets the same amount of space and real estate and everyone’s treated equally,” Boardman explained.

Step three: Tell the right story.

Boardman and Nicoletti said that one of the most important elements in the museum’s development was figuring out, in collaboration with a team of curators and historians, exactly how to tell the story of Broadway and whose stories to tell. A central attraction in the museum is a timeline that highlights groundbreaking plays, musicals and people throughout the years, while also including a lot of overlooked history.

“The core of the museum is this idea that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” Boardman said. “Had all these people not pioneered and broken ground and taken risks, we would never have the art that we have today. And the art form is ever-evolving, as people continue to write and take risks, and reflect society in the moment as they’re writing.”

The museum found its home in what used to be an Irish pub (and the office space above it) on West 45th Street, adjacent to the Lyceum Theater — and moving in involved some real estate concerns that Broadway producers don’t typically have a hand in. “We’ve had to do all the construction and everything like that, in addition to putting on the exhibits,” Nicoletti said. “It’s like being the theater owner and producing the show at the same time.”

To hear the full conversations, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and the Broadway Podcast NetworkNew episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

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