Hillary Clinton Helps Kick Off BroadwayCons In-Person Return

“I’m looking forward to a play with a character urging us to drink bleach,” Hillary Clinton joked in front of an audience of New York theatergoers July 8, flanked by Vanessa Williams, who currently stars in the Broadway farce, “POTUS.”

At the Manhattan Center, Secretary Clinton was in town to kick off BroadwayCon, a three-day for-profit fan convention which returns in-person this year for the first time since 2019.

“Just this week I saw ‘Plaza Suite’ and ‘POTUS,’” said Clinton, “and I’m looking forward to seeing more shows in the weeks to come.”

Like the other Cons—comics, drag, all the rest—BroadwayCon isn’t so much for those who move in and out of New York theater, but for the Broadway fan. BroadwayCon, instead, is for the ravenous consumer of Broadway theater, media and lore, a breadbasket of fandom that pays the bills and extends Broadway’s popular influence across the country and world.

On Friday—and in a show of good faith to the theater community—Clinton began the convention with a talk centered on women in the industry. She was joined onstage by legendary actors Williams, Julie White, Donna Murphy, and LaChanze. 

“No matter what kind of work you do, no matter what your family challenges might be, those things are likely to be more difficult when you have to get up every day and play someone else on stage,” Clinton began, prompting the others to share stories about their experiences as women working in theater.

“I had the responsibility of being the first, which was enormous at 20 years old” Williams recounted of her experience as the first African American Miss America. “I look at my kids today, and I think ‘What did I go through? What were my beliefs?’ I know that I felt strongly about ERA. I felt strongly about women’s choices. And I was a Miss America already bucking the system.”

Many of the other actresses shared memories about navigating motherhood while acting in a show, eight performances a week.

“The theater has been especially welcoming to me as a mom,” said White. “Oh my god, I’ve left my daughter backstage with the Cagelles [from “La Cage Aux Folles”] to go to a commercial audition. ‘Here, you guys watch her.’ So many times my daughter has come to the theater with me, been there in the dressing room. It’s been such an embracing community, and so many women don’t have that luxury.”

LaChanze, who won a Tony Award in 2006 for originating the role of Celie in “The Color Purple,” shared a personal story about her decision to return to theater after her husband was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“There was a time when I thought, I can’t go back to the stage. I have to stay and take care of my young daughters,” she said. “It was V Ensler who called me out of the blue and said, ‘You have to get back on stage. I have a show that I’m doing called ‘Vagina Monologues.’ All you have to do is sit on stage and fake orgasms.’ I credit her as being my angel, because getting back to the theater after that experience reminded me where my true power is.”

Clinton also shared about her time as a lawyer breaking into a male-dominated field, particularly how women tend to leave more balanced professional lives.

“Obviously, I’m a recovering lawyer, and I remember one of the slightly older male lawyers telling me, If you go out to dinner, leave your door closed. They won’t know you went. And when you get back from dinner, walk around the office and loudly announce to people, ‘What are you all doing?’,” Clinton laughed. “I thought, Oh my God. Get your work done and go home.”

Clinton also discussed the scarcity of female directors, the creative space given to women in female-led productions, and the role that influential theater makers like Stephen Sondheim played in the women’s lives and careers. She ended the conversation by asking the actors a question. ‘What haven’t you done that you want to do?’

“Besides the show where you and I solve crimes?,” asked White, jokingly. “I want to play President of the United States,” she resolved.

“Well,” said Secretary Clinton, “I can give you lots of notes on that.”

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