A Broadway Hit

Miles Wilkin readily admits he wasn’t a stellar student while at the University of Florida. The academic stage wasn’t his strength.

But the opportunities Wilkin sought at UF prepared him for another stage: Broadway. The theatre community is grateful for his exploits, and honored Wilkin (BSBA ’70) at the American Theatre Wing’s 70th Annual Tony Awards on June 12 in New York City.

Wilkin, 68, is credited as one of the creators of the modern Broadway touring system, paving the way for Broadway smashes like “Cabaret,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Mamma Mia!,” “The Producers,” and “Rent” to be performed in theatres across North America. His success in bringing Broadway’s best to the masses was recognized with a 2016 Special Tony Award—his seventh Tony in an exemplary producing career spanning more than 30 years.

Wilkin’s vision for Broadway touring began in 1982 in Houston as Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pace Theatrical Group. Pace eventually became Broadway Across America, now a subsidiary of the John Gore Organization, which presents touring Broadway shows in 40 regional markets across the United States and Canada.

The infrastructure that must be created for an initiative like Broadway Across America to succeed is massive. Wilkin built and renovated theaters, developed a subscription ticket base, and, most importantly, convinced Broadway productions to take their shows on the road.

“We had these plans, but we didn’t know if it was going to work,” Wilkin said. “We had a lot of ups and downs our first year; we didn’t make any money. But, from there, [growth] was an upward hockey stick. We took something that didn’t exist and made it into the largest commercial theatre organization in North America.”

When major hits like “Hamilton” captivate Broadway audiences, it’s easier to carry that momentum into a national tour. But in years where Broadway doesn’t manufacture that transcendent production, there’s a potential that the tour could suffer.

To maintain growth, Wilkin said Broadway Across America had to be “nimble.” He ensured that Broadway Across America’s tour had six to seven quality productions, providing patrons more options. And by consistently satisfying theater-goers with these productions, it developed a broad and loyal customer base that would routinely see these shows—even in years when Broadway lacked a major breakthrough.

“What we created was a community and social experience,” Wilkin said.

Wilkin’s penchant for producing began at UF. He was extremely active in extracurricular activities—notably Florida Blue Key, the Interfraternity Council, and Student Government—and played significant roles in the planning of major events like Gator Growl. After graduating, he worked at UF in various capacities for the Dean of Students with a focus on event production. A few years later, he got his first taste of theatre when he worked for the Office of the Mayor in Orlando directing art and performing venues.

Initially, Wilkin wanted to major in applied sciences and medicine at UF, but he said “that didn’t last long.” With an interest in business and a wide sampling of courses to choose from, Wilkin settled on a business major. He said the blend of academics and extracurricular activities was impactful.

“There’s the academic side that teaches you the practical things, but the extracurricular activities were an opportunity to participate on the entrepreneurial side,” Wilkin said. “It allowed you to run something, and develop a vision of what it could be.”

Wilkin’s training 35 years ago at UF has certainly paid off. His vision has touched the hearts of theatre-lovers across an entire continent, making his most recent Tony Award a truly memorable one.

“It was a special night,” Wilkin said. “It’s great to be recognized for what you’ve accomplished.”