Spotlight on Coloring Broadway

After interviewing so many talented stage performers, Broadway Wiz is shining a spotlight on creators and innovators. They may not have their name in a playbill, but all of these people have found ways to share their love for Broadway through their artistry.

This week we are featuring Andrea Koehler, creator of Coloring Broadway and founder of the Broadway Makers Alliance.

Coloring Broadway creates Broadway inspired coloring products that pair mindfulness with musical theatre. They believe that musicals have a “superpower”, they provide opportunities for people to experience different hopes, fears, and dreams from new perspectives and they create space where people can find themselves in the characters and stories on stage. Their mission is to create other opportunities for fans to connect with their favorite musicals and to reconnect with how those musicals make them feel by adding their own creative hand to the lyrics that sing to them.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Before my life was consumed with all things Broadway … WAIT – who am I kidding – it’s always been about all things Broadway. Before Coloring Broadway became my full time focus, I worked in Leadership Development and Training for over 20 years. I have a passion for learning and for working with people to develop their talents and capabilities. My affinity for training isn’t limited to leadership and professional skills – I’ve also been known to teach Salsa Dancing, Zumba, and Mindfulness Coloring Meditations of course!

Where did the idea for Coloring Broadway come from and how did you get the business started?
In 2015, I started The Coloring Project to pair positive/inspirational messages with coloring and mindfulness activities. I wanted to help people create a little Digital DowntimeTM and some space for self-discovery. Learning about ourselves, who we are and how we show up in life, gives us the ability to choose how we create our life.

In 2017 we decided that Coloring and Broadway needed to happen. Because … obviously we needed to color our favorite lyrics while listening to our cast albums. The Broadway stories had positive messages and those lyrics contained wonderful pieces of insight and inspiration. So … Coloring Broadway was born.

But seriously, before we continue, I can’t talk about Coloring Broadway without mentioning that a quintessential part of Coloring Broadway is Ms. Justine Fisher. She was one of the original illustrators for The Coloring Project and she has been the Illustrative power house behind all the Coloring Broadway collections to date! 🙂 She is brilliant, she is full of hustle, and she tolerates me and my continual ideation.

What is the design process like and how do you select which shows to represent?
Selecting the show comes first. Sometimes it is something that’s popular, but we’ve really liked sourcing our collection ideas from the Broadway community and people in our group or who follow our Instagram. We want to do ALL the quotes from ALL the shows – but since that’s not really possible – so knowing what people want to see helps us choose!

Once a show or a theme is chosen, we ask for people to share their favorite quotes with us, we make a list and then we narrow it down to 4. I will share a little secret sauce here – my goal of highlighting the inspirational messages of each musical plays a role here too!

Next comes my favorite part – the illustrating. At this point, Justine and I are a well-oiled machine. We take each quote and create a concept around the meaning of the quote in the context of the show. I gather imagery, she conceptualizes what I share with her, we talk about how complex the design and she does her magic! E` Voila`!

Do you have a favorite design?
There are soooo many to choose from now! I do have to say that my favorite has always been “The Room Where It Happens” because it’s such a brilliant blend of the overall concept and the illustration. Justine hit a high note with it! 🙂 But my favorite to color … now, that’s another question. It really depends on how I feel or on what I want to listen to while I color. A short list of favorites includes – “The Streets are a Little Kinder When You’re Home” (In The Heights), Come From Away, “Love will Steer the Stars” (HAIR), “At the End of the Day” (Les Misérables) … Ok, I’ll stop now!

First Broadway show you ever saw or show that made a deep impact on you?
Because I’ve seen it 12 times (if I’m counting correctly), In the Heights is the top on this list. It spoke to so many parts of me, from so many eras of my life. I’ve been the business owner trying to make ends meet (Carla/UsNavi), I’ve been the girl trying to strike out on her own (Vanessa), I’ve been the guy who wants something more (Benny), I’ve been the girl who doesn’t want to let everyone down (Nina), I’ve felt “inutile” (Mr. Rosario), and I’ve been the guy who just wants to make the world a better place (Sonny). And I’ve danced Salsa for 25+ years – so the music is the music of my life! So many reflections of myself – I still can’t listen without crying.

Other than that – I can’t remember the “first” musical that I saw – but I can remember that they have always had an impact. Although the musicals of my childhood will always be near and dear (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singing in the Rain), the musicals that I’m the most drawn to are those that require me to think and look at the world through new perspectives – Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park, Big River, Evita, Into the Woods and now Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton and The Bands’ Visit.

I’m sure Justine has a different answer … you’ll have to ask her!

What advice would you give those in the theatre community who may want to start their own Broadway themed business?
Oooh – this is a good one – and there are so many things I could say. These are the things that come to mind first:

  • The world IS wide enough: Whatever your idea is, there is room for it.
  • Opinions: Everyone will have an opinion. Listen to your heart and, as Lin said – “Make your own favorite thing”.
  • Patience: Sondheim said it best “Art isn’t Easy”, but it’s worth it. Building something, anything, takes time. And patience. And then more time, and patience.
  • Attitude is everything: It’s amazing what we can create when we come from a place of kindness, and assume others do too! Be kind and assume generosity. People are good. Talk to them, check in, ask questions, communicate. We are all better when we work with each other.

What has been the most rewarding part of your business so far?
There are 2 things. First, my favorite part is hearing from our Coloring Broadway Cast members who’ve colored our illustrations and want to share their experience of coloring with us! My second favorite thing has been connecting with the wonderful and generous people in the Broadway Community. That has been both my favorite and the most rewarding part of my journey as a Broadway adjacent entrepreneur. So many incredible people, so much willingness and help, so much love.

Do you have plans to expand Coloring Broadway, or are there any new projects on the horizon?
Oooh – more secret sauce. I can’t share everything because we’re still working out the specifics – but look out for a subscription service for our coloring cast members, new products like pins, journals, pencil cases, and and and 🙂 . However, we love to hear what people would like to see – If you’re reading this and have an idea – send us an email or a DM on IG!

Anything else you would like to share with us?
Although my heart is in NYC, I currently live in Seattle. I am a dancer – ballet, tap, and jazz were what I grew up with – but Latin partner dancing (Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, Bachata) and Afro-Brazilian are where my soul expresses itself best. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE to travel – 28 countries and counting.

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