If you’ve ever been to Broadway, you have a story to tell. There’s nothing else in the world like the experience of watching live theatre on Broadway. It’s not like watching a movie: the actors and the audience come together to share an experience that will never happen the same way twice. A Broadway performance is a singular, powerful experience, and it’s that power that can change lives.
We spent last year collecting your stories about the life-changing power of Broadway. Last month, we shared with you our winner of the My B’way Story essay contest, but it wasn’t an easy choice. We had so many other incredible entries, and we will be sharing some of our favorites over the next weeks, starting today with Christina Gonzalez. Read her story below.
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As a young teen growing up in small-town Central Florida, theater was my escape, as it is for so many millions of us who make our way to the Big Apple. RENT in particular was the show that changed my life. After my older sister saw the tour, she brought home the cast recording, and the rest was history. To say it became an obsession is an understatement - kids at school who didn't know me would call out "HEY, MIMI!" because everyone knew me as the "RENT girl."
In August of 2001, when I was 16, I found an online contest where the grand prize was a trip to NYC to see RENT and go backstage! I HAD to win! Since our family computer was broken, I walked a mile every day to the library to enter. I must have submitted over 300 entries! Finally, at the end of August, I got an e-mail: I had actually won! My skeptical mom made the call and confirmed my prize. We were heading to NYC! I was over the moon. My first real Broadway show and my first time seeing the city I knew I already loved!
Little did I know that New York and our whole nation would change just a few short weeks later on September 11th. Instead of our original plan to visit in October, our trip was pushed back to the following April. The minute I stepped off the plane, I knew I was home. The whole trip was a whirlwind, seeing all the sights, absorbing all this amazing energy I had never experienced before. The night we were seeing RENT, I was in a daze. I could barely focus, and couldn't touch my steak dinner at Frankie and Johnnie's. When we were finally escorted to our center orchestra seats, I felt a peace I had never felt before in my entire life. I had seen RENT on tour, but this was a whole new level. This was Broadway! The show was, of course, phenomenal. The fact that my conservative, middle-aged father turned to me at Intermission and said "wow, what a show!" proves that the message of RENT really is transforming and universal.
Afterwards, we were escorted backstage to wait for the cast to come out. I even got to walk out on the stage and stand where Mimi does during Seasons of Love! The cast couldn't have been kinder to this ecstatic, awkward teenage girl. The next day, I got a private audition at the Telsey agency, where I got to feel like a real star while I sang some of Mimi's songs. It was truly a dream come true. When the time finally came to check out of the Crowne Plaza and fly home, I couldn't stop the tears from coming.
RENT has changed me as a person, not only introducing me to many friends I never would have met otherwise, but it has made me a kinder, more open person and is the reason I finally moved to New York for college. New York changed me, too. The city has toughened me up in a good way, while RENT reminds me to be soft. I have my RENT tattoo as a symbol of the gift Jonathan Larson gave me. To quote a different musical, I have been changed for good.
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Keep an eye out for other great Broadway stories that we’ll share in the coming weeks, and make your own Broadway story by booking tickets to a show today. A Broadway story is something to be shared, and we’re here to help you book a group of tickets for your family and friends. Click here to see the many thrilling productions that are playing today.