“Back in the day, when I was in college, (ok, so it wasn’t that long ago, but long enough…) I remember very fondly my academic performance career. At that time in my life, I learned what it was like to be a performer, to share the stage, and what it was really like to be an actor. I also learned what it’s like to create a sense of community because of and through the arts.
Where I went to college, deep within the mountains of western North Carolina, my school was very lucky to be surrounded by a truly amazing and incredibly supportive community. Most interesting, however, was that this collection of people was an odd conglomeration of all backgrounds. From the Jewish culture, to full fledge country ‘folk’, to Floridians who venture to the mountains for the summer season—all of these people came to see our shows, and by the end of my college career, I had people by my side who knew me and I knew them by name.
Of all of these people, though, the person I remember most fondly was a woman by the name of Rue. An elderly Jewish woman who transplanted her life from New York City to the mountains, obviously never lost her sense of humor or love for life, and would venture with her husband to see every single college show. Soon, we became friends, and after every production, Rue would pull me into her ear and her very thick accent would say something to the effect of,
You’re betta than Broadway. I tell ya, I saw this show on Broadway in ’76 and it doesn’t compare. You were betta, my dear, betta.
And with a way of her hand, a slight smile, and she would give me a slight tap on my back and off she went—totting off to find her husband and complement other young actors like myself.
Now, I will admit. At the time, I found this hysterical. And even now, as a grown adult, I still chuckle when I think of her intent delivery to tell me that I was better than Broadway. As much as I dismissed her comment then, I still couldn’t help but think, was I better than Broadway? And even now, could I be better than Broadway? Whether or not I technically may be “better than Broadway” (because, let’s face it—in reality, what does that mean?) but if I have that mindset in my life, better than Broadway could and would impact my entire life—whether it be how I feel as a person one day or how I want and do perform on stage the next.
I have made better than Broadway my mantra and since I began teaching over a year ago, I began to instill in my students. When I ask how the children are doing, they learn that their response is and will always be (with me anyway), “Better than Broadway!” I feel that if they say it enough and say it with the smile that is somehow always magically on their lips when the words leave their mouths, maybe one day they will realize what it really means and they too will carry it on to be their mantra as well.
And with that, I am happy to pass on my phrase to Ms. Natalie McKnight. I know that with her new studio, Better Than Broadway, will be a creative space where children can yell it from the rooftops (which I hope they do) and mantra for everyone. I couldn’t be prouder or beam with more pride that “Better Than Broadway” is now not just a saying, or a mantra, or a fun response–but a place. An actual place for young artists to grow and learn and make mistakes and to have fun.
And for that, I thank Ms. Rue in North Carolina, I thank Ms. McKnight for carrying on my tradition, and I know that Better Than Broadway Studios will be successful forever striving for and achieving Broadway.”
Adrienne J. Bergeron