“When the Theatre goes dark:” Andrew Shade talks Broadway Black

If it doesn’t exist, create it. That’s exactly what Andrew Shade did when he realized there wasn’t a place to learn about the contributions of black stage performers. Broadway Black has now become to go-to source for spotlighting the excellence happening on stages from Broadway and beyond.

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What was the impetus for starting Broadway Black?

It was the lack of being able to find information about actors, performances and shows with faces that look like mine. I really couldn’t find all of those people in one place so I thought, why not create it? There was a lack of visibility for people of color, specifically black people. There’s Black Entertainment Television, there are different sources for black people in all other types of entertainment, so why not make one for theatre as well?

Walk me through when you first started Broadway Black. Why did you choose the format you chose?

It started organically, as a hobby. I was still living at home in Indiana and I began putting blog posts together in my spare time, talking about theatre. I designed the website because it was fun for me. Then I started getting responses and I got scared. I actually stopped doing it for a while. I felt like it was too much responsibility, I didn’t live in New York City, and I felt like I didn’t have the resources. I shied away from it until I actually moved here. I started it because I wanted to contribute to this community in my own special way.

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What brought you to New York?

I lost my job. After that, I had tickets to see Kinky Boots in Chicago, this was before it came to Broadway, and I went and saw Billy Porter and was living it up. We waited at the stage door and when Billy greeted us, the first thing he said to us was “Hold on. I knew we had some of us in the audience because I could hear y’all.” He talked to us about our dreams, I told him about Broadway Black and he said, “If that’s what you want to do, then you do it. Get to New York and do it.” So I decided I was moving, even though I didn’t know how I was going to get there.

Not too long after that, I had a ticket to go see Mykal Kilgore in The Book of Mormon in Los Angeles. He and I became friends because of Broadway Black and when I was there that weekend, he kept introducing me as “the founder of Broadway Black,” which was further confirmation that I needed to move and make this happen. The site wasn’t even up at that point, but it pushed me.  Originally, I was moving to the city to audition and be an actor, I wasn’t moving for Broadway Black. But it was a further push to get there. I sold all of my stuff and I moved.

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Where do you want to see Broadway Black move in the foreseeable future?

I think it’s to tighten the ship, to keep trying to deliver what we deliver in the way that only we can and keep getting better at that. It’s about delivering news and content, about staying on top of what’s happening in the theatre, and being opinionated but encouraging. We are showcasing our love for the theatre and love for our community. Also, we’re looking at doing a theatre festival eventually, and having more talkbacks and discussions.

You said you want to be “opinionated yet encouraging.”  How do you tow that line?

When you represent excellence, there’s a way to give constructive criticism and deliver any message.  I think we try to be opinionated but make sure that we are not coming from a place of malice. It’s coming from a genuine, caring for story-telling, caring for the art place.

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What’s the biggest challenge you face, either with content or with concept?

The main hurdle is people trying to figure out what I do. What is Broadway Black?

What’s your answer to that question?

I say, “It’s a digital platform that highlights the successes and achievements of African American theatre artists, on and off the stage.” But in my mind, it’s so much bigger than that. It’s a movement. It’s inspiration with representation. I want young kids to see themselves in the theatre and know it’s a viable place for them to work, succeed and build a life. I want to show people more love.

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Photography by Christopher Boudewyns
Interview by Ryan Brinson
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