By Will Barrios
Andrea Koehler is the creative brain behind Coloring Broadway, blending the transformative experience of theater with the calming effects of coloring. Her passion for theater and her mission of self-awareness is evident as she combines Broadway’s most inspiring quotes with the artwork of her featured artist, Justine Fisher. By “Coloring Broadway”, Andrea gives us the opportunity to reflect on our experiences, especially those at the theater, and reminds us to use the digital downtime to stop and smell the roses. Or rather, color them.
A: My background is in professional development and leadership training and coaching.
In April of 2015 I picked up a coloring book and after about 2 weeks of a lot of creative fun I was hooked. It was great digital down time. I felt relaxed like I had created some moment of space. I really saw the opportunity to use coloring as a tool for creating some time for self-discovery.
So taking all of that wonderful corporate training knowledge I saw how to use it in a different way and I created The Coloring Project. One of the things we don’t let ourselves do often is make time for self-reflection and coloring lets us do just that. So, I wrote a coloring book called The Power of Positive Coloring. I had a wonderful community of artists (11 different artists from 6 different countries) who illustrated the different phrases and words and I wrote a mindfulness activity that reflects on the message of the illustration. As you color you reflect, whether it’s actively or passively, and you get a break from the busy! So I did that. And then people said, “Can we have a page? Can we have a notecard? Can we have a postcard?” and all of a sudden I had a product-based business and a line of coloring products.
The great thing about coloring is that it allows us to be artists when maybe we don’t think of ourselves as an artist. Coloring quiets the inner critic that quiets the inner artist. This is especially true for adults. Kids don’t quite have that inner critic yet.
The key to becoming a better human is to understand who we are. If we don’t understand who we are, and how we operate, we can’t show up to life fully.
A: Coloring Broadway was born from The Coloring Project, my first entrepreneurial venture. One day in April of this year, I was chatting with Justine Fisher, one of my illustrators for The Coloring Project and now the Featured Artist for Coloring Broadway, and we said “we’ve wanted to do some Broadway related coloring, let’s do it”. So, we did. And it’s just picked up from there! We have note cards, postcards and coloring pages … oh my! And yes, a coloring book is in the works.
Coloring Broadway takes inspiration from Broadway phrases and pairs them with illustrations as a way to connect with your favorite Broadway shows and extend your theater experience. It allows coloring as a tool to become part of your life. To highlight those transformational moments in theater in a way that brings them home with you a little bit more poignantly. It gives you an opportunity to listen to the cast album again and spend more time with that experience like how you felt watching the show and just really connect with the theater.
April 4th we launched our Instagram for Coloring Broadway and by May 5th something amazing happened. Over that weekend alone we suddenly had a whole bunch of orders. We didn’t know what happened. Someone that followed us on social media sent us a screen shot. We found out that Hamilton Musical shared a post of one of their actors with a Coloring Broadway sheet…and we’ve just kept going from there!!
A: So there are a couple sides to this coin. The first is the artistic expression you get from coloring and creating through a visual medium. The other is creating conversation around the quotes that are featured in the illustrations. So say it’s a quote from The Lion King, using that illustration you can actually talk about what you learned from watching the show, from watching the characters and the experiences they had and why you related to them. You can have this whole conversation with kids or adults or both about how they saw themselves in these musicals, how it applied to them, and what resonated.
And all of these things can come up just from a simple illustration. Using coloring as an activity the conversation is not the main focus. The conversation just flows. It doesn’t have to go in a certain direction. The conversation just evolves. You get to have open conversations that might not happen otherwise. They just get to converse and it opens the lines of communication and lowers the barrier of entry to the conversation.
A: Parents get a cool way to interact with their kids and access conversation. Being a step-parent, I am always trying to access conversation with my stepson. Coloring gives me a way to come down and meet him on his level. If we’re both sitting down and coloring the same quote from a show we’ve seen, we can both talk about his experience with the show in a way that may be more relatable to him. I can also ask him questions while coloring and he can have more time to process his thoughts. As adults we are very quick to process. Somebody can ask you, “hey, how did that resonate with you? How did you relate to those characters?” and adults will quickly go, “Eponine, she was my jam” and yada yada, giving you all the reasons why. Kids may get that they liked a character but not why. So it’s a really cool way to have a deeper conversation with kids and find out the “why”.
You can also use coloring with kids as a tool for critical thinking. My stepson will often say, “why is it this way” or “why is it that way”, “why is that happening”. I’ve had to learn as a parent not to respond with an answer but respond with a question: “well why do you think that’s happening?”.
So coloring and critical thinking, two words I never thought I would say in the same sentence, come together as a tool to build on conversations.
Other than my crazy love of musicals and the need to listen to show tunes every day?! What really keeps me going is that musicals provide us the time and space to reflect. So when you watch a musical you have 2 hours where you’re transported to a different world. In that world you’re shown different experiences. You’re shown different characters and ways of life, a whole new world. I’m trying not to quote Aladdin now! In theater you’re shown this huge world that you wouldn’t have otherwise known. With the singing and dancing it uplifts and touches your soul.
In high school I knew I related to Eponine in Les Miserables. I would say, “oh I relate to Eponine. But why do I relate to Eponine?”. Through self-awareness I’ve gained through Coloring Broadway I now know why. It was about the status of a girl and how she had to prostrate herself for the boy. And the girl always had to give up herself so the boy she liked could get what he wanted, which was another girl. I think if I hadn’t started Coloring Broadway I don’t know if I would have revisited my understanding of my high school Les Miserables fascination.
When the show is over you remember those songs and those songs take you back to that experience and feeling. Then coloring allows you to express that experience. Ultimately, with each experience we learn new things about ourselves and build a new self-awareness.
After talking with Andrea I’m amazed at the connection she’s drawn with Coloring Broadway. Through theater and coloring we learn about ourselves. Coloring helps to quiet the inner critic that quiets the inner artist. When we let that inner artist out we better understand who we are as human beings. We think critically and ask questions to gain a better understanding of our world. We can build conversations with others that flow and use critical thinking to understanding each other. Once we learn who we are we can make clear decisions about how we show up in life. We can then make choices rooted in our new self-awareness.
For more info on Coloring Broadway please visit www.coloringbroadway.com or order products directly through Etsy HERE.
Coloring Broadway is also on Instagram: @ColoringBroadway, Twitter: @ColoringBWAY, and Facebook: /ColoringBroadway.
For more theater play pre-order Tatro: A Magnetic World of Play HERE.