On Broadway: PSU student changing theatre world platform
UNIVERSITY PARK – At 5 years old, Alexander Baron had the spotlight in the countless shows and plays he performed at.
During his sophomore year of high school, Baron ventured somewhere away from the stage lights, finding something special in the backstage production and work.
In an interview Baron had with Forbes, the junior at Penn State University revealed that he wrote a one-act play which he then submitted to the Manhattan Repertory Theatre.
That year, 2013, the play, “Love Behind Bars” ran for five performances, with Baron having been both the writer and producer.
It was then that realized his love and passion for working on the business side of theatre, moving on to produce his first off-Broadway show, “Vote for Me: A Musical Debate,” at the Roy Arias Theater the summer after.
Baron hadn’t even reached college yet — he enrolled at Penn State University in 2015, with a major in State Management at the School of Theater. Just a year later, something started brewing in the theatrical heart of Baron.
“Being away from New York, you realize there’s lack of transparency in theatre,” Baron (junior-stage management) said. “I was inspired to create a product where information can be accessible. With theatre, it’s here today and gone tomorrow — it’s a blessing and a curse to just take the playbill and then leave the performance, leaving that connection.”
Baron wanted to do something about the transparency, so he did.
“I began working on Broadway Connected in the fall of 2016, but the work for the app began in February of 2017,” Baron said. “That’s when the corporation was made and the true development began.”
Broadway Connected is the app that Baron developed in order for users and fans of theatre to have the ability to tap into theatre biz with a literal tap of the finger.
“Right now, our users are able to share original articles and events, have access to the calendar, participate in the app’s Geek or Genius feature — where ‘Geeks’ answer daily questions about theatre trivia and ‘Geniuses’ answer daily but get it correct) and add events that people who follow their accounts are able to see,” Baron said.
The app, in this way, allows people to have a voice, network with others in the industry and be in tune with all things theatre.
“We do cover beyond Broadway — we cover national, regional and university shows,” Baron said. “When it comes to our industry calendar, we want to give opportunities for anyone who would like to see what’s going on in the university circuit as well as the Broadway circuit. That’s why we include profiles on major college actors or actresses to give them their earned spotlight.”
Baron’s time with Penn State’s School of Theater gave him the experience he needed to see the university industry of theatre is worthy of attention.
“I was involved with the marketing of shows my first two years here as well as stage management, but Broadway Connected definitely took my full time and attention after that,” Baron began to explain. “The talent that goes through these doors, though, I knew with Broadway Connected that I wanted to highlight those students who go above and beyond. With our university student spotlight, we give college students from different universities Natalia that exposure.”
Baron wants to create a platform for theatre students, so that they can be the voices of tomorrow.
“I’m producer and entrepreneur — I’m all about improving collaboration and efficiency in the theatre world,” Baron said. “I want to inspire the next generation of theatre — the leaders of tomorrow — and give them the access to info they need to break into the industry.”
The Penn State student is currently a part of World Campus, as he is based in New York to have time to work on the app.
“We have been expanding our team since the beginning and right now, we are getting ready for our next steps, creating the foundation from the company,” Baron said. “So much is out there but I am trying to be innovative — I want to create something that people will love and use, no matter how old— something my 13-year-old self would find cool.”
Penn State’s School of Theater supported Baron throughout the whole process, even now as he joined World Campus.
“When I first ideated the concept, I bought it to a bunch of different faculty members. They all loved the idea and soon enough, I started comprising a team of individuals,” Baron said. “I want to incorporate Penn Staters, as a lot of connections have been created throughout my time there. It became clear to me, though, that I needed to make the move to New York City and work on this fulltime. I’m really happy I’m here and that I can take classes on world campus.”
Baron is truly thankful for the faculty that have helped him throughout the process, especially Travis DeCastro, the Associate Director of Production and the head of the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Stage Management program, who has served as his mentor.
“My theatre experience has been viciously supported by DeCastro, but in a positive way,” Baron said, smiling. “He’s extremely supportive and someone I am so thankful to know and learn from.”
But working in entertainment is a learning experience all on its own.
“Working in theatre has been a great learning process — things pop up that you can’t control, you got to roll with the punches,” Baron said. “You learn to control what’s in your control and not get fed up with what isn’t. You learn patience — especially with tech, as a lot goes wrong there.”
Nonetheless, Baron is excited to be a part of a world where music, song, sound and performance is bountiful.
“We’re at a crucial time in our industry, where the landscape is just always changing. My big part about theatre — and why I feel the app is needed — is that shows can come and go, left unseen,” Baron said. “With the app, though, we’re tracking the theatrical footprint. 25 years from now, we’ll look at a different theatrical scene, but be able to see all the shows that got us there.”
Baron is coming back to the University Park campus next fall, to spend his senior year here in Happy Valley.
If his story could inspire any message for students, it’s this:
“It’s important to go after what you feel is right for you,” Baron said. “People can say it’s unrealistic to want a job in the theatre world, but it’s also not realistic to never try, to never do what makes you happy.”
Baron is passionate about Broadway Connected and has his own aspirations for the app and his role within it, as well as make his mark on the theatre industry.
“Hamilton put Broadway on the map nationally these past few years and Dear Hansen got the piece of sticky tack to put it up there,” Baron said. “Now, what I want to do is take a hammer and nail it in, so theatre can never fall. Those shows were two huge game changers — beautiful disruptions — and from now on, I want to be alongside that.”