The Broadway community is one that holds a very special place in my heart. For 12 years I lived in New York and had the unique opportunity of working with hundreds of the most talented people who've ever grapevined across a stage.
What always amazed me, though, was that these people, who work harder than most people I know, were always willing to give more to help people who needed it. I produced over 200 Broadway concerts while I lived there, and members of the community were always willing to go the extra mile, sparing precious time off and much-needed rest when it came to helping Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the National AIDS Fund, marriage-equality fights, hurricane victims, and whoever else needed their help.
The presidential election is no different for those who believe in social justice. Sister-and-brother Broadway team Celia and Andrew Keenan-Bolger have activated the Broadway community to take part in an election that stands to define at least the next four years.
When not performing eight shows a week in Peter and the Starcatcher or Newsies, the two Tony Award nominees are dedicating their time to "Broadway for Obama." They've started engaging other members of the Broadway community and their fans to make sure they get out the vote for Obama.
As a young gay man, Andrew sees this work as vital, due to the rights he and hundreds of other colleagues are being denied:
We work in an industry that celebrates the contributions of thousands of gay people. Broadway would not be possible without its performers, directors, writers, choreographers, designers, dressers, ushers, crew members, administrators and musicians, a large percentage of whom are gay.
Millions of Americans come to New York every year to share in the art that these people create but many still believe that they shouldn't have the same rights as everyone else. We want them to know where we stand.
Celia, who was married two years ago to fellow Broadway performer John Ellison Conlee, felt she needed to stand up for her LGBT family and friends. Four years ago Celia left New York to campaign in Pennsylvania for then-candidate Barack Obama. Her resolve is made even stronger considering the advancement of LGBT rights made under the Obama administration:
2 years ago my husband John Conlee and I decided to get married in Vermont because gay marriage was legal there and it was not yet in NY. We felt we couldn't stand in front of our dearest friends and family (some of whom are LGBT) and ask them to support and celebrate us in a state where they did not have the same rights as us I want everyone I know and love to enjoy the same rights I do.
Gay marriage is just the beginning. My sister has educated me a lot about LGBT homelessness. I know under a Romney presidency not only would these issues lose forward momentum but we would probably move backwards. I want to do everything I can to make sure this doesn't happen and I believe an Obama administration is better for ALL of us.
Together, they're working on organizing the Broadway community around different small things they can do to help the president get reelected. One of their first actions is to get Broadway performers to make sure they're wearing Obama T-shirts, pins, or whatever they want. Saturday Obama Swag (or #SOS, if you're on the Twitter) will have stars exiting their stage doors hoping to find fans also wearing Obama swag and getting an extra few moments of their favorite performer's time -- with bragging rights to bring home.
Their efforts are already being rewarded with tweets from Evita's Max von Essen and Tony winner Audra McDonald promoting their work.
For more information about Broadway for Obama, visit Facebook.com/BroadwayForObama.
Follow Jamie McGonnigal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mcbenefit