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Comley, MA ’94 Stresses Resilience, Versatility in Performing Arts Masterclass  

Maria Koundoura and Bonnie Conley smile while sitting on stage during the masterclass
School of the Arts Interim Dean and Assistant Provost Maria Koundoura, left, with Bonnie Comley MA ’94. (Photo by Juan Gracia MFA ’25)

Three-time Tony Award-winning producer and Emerson Board of Advisors member Bonnie Comley, MA ’94, emphasized the importance of fortitude to Performing Arts students in a masterclass held on April 9.

“Hollywood is littered with people who were second choices, you cannot take it personally,” said Comley. “I cannot tell you how many jobs I got because someone did not show up, or they showed up and forgot something, or they wanted more money, so I would take those jobs, and if I took them personally I would not be where I am today.” 

Comley is the founder and CEO of Broadway HD, an on-demand streaming site that records live theater performances and previously recorded theatrical productions.

The masterclass was sponsored by the Department of Performing Arts and School of the Arts and moderated by Maria Koundoura, Assistant Provost and Interim Dean for School of the Arts.

Maria Koundoura, lwith Bonnie Comley sitting on stage while Comley speaks
School of the Arts Interim Dean and Assistant Provost Maria Koundoura, left, moderated a masterclass with Bonnie Comley MA ’94 on April 9, 2024. (Photo by Juan Gracia MFA ’25)

Comley stressed the importance of being versatile, and highlighted her ability to perform various tasks on the set.

“I knew how to talk to everyone on the crew as I was able to do everything on set,” said Comely. “I could stay in show business because I could say, ‘I can do that.’” 

She suggested that every experience, whether it be as an artist or in other roles within the industry, contributes to one’s understanding and approach to storytelling. These experiences inform the way stories are told and the decisions made during the production process. 

“All of the details, when you are an artist, come into play, especially when you come into producing,” said Comley. “In producing, all of those experiences as an artist, all of those experiences are valid, they all inform who you are and how you tell those stories.” 

She explained that BroadwayHD serves both theatre enthusiasts seeking more content, as well as those who have not had the opportunity to experience a Broadway show.

“Broadway HD serves people who go to the theater all the time, and it is just another way to see another show,” said Comley. “For those who never got to experience Broadway,[BroadwayHD] is another way to engage with this art form.”

Comley discussed various ways a theatrical production can be experienced differently through digital platforms than from live theatre. She said  digital platforms offer multiple options for experiencing a show, such as a live performance, listening to a cast recording, or viewing a filmed adaptation of the production.

“Ultimately if you ask me, would I prefer to sit in the audience and see the show live or would I prefer the digital, I would prefer to sit there,” said Comley. “But I do not always have that opportunity either. For me, I get to watch Shakespeare for breakfast.”

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