I moved to Pennsylvania from Wisconsin in 2006, when I was ten years old. Right before moving, I was at Barnes and Noble buying Summer Reading books for my new school. I had several gift cards, and on my way out of the store I saw the Wicked Grimmerie book sitting on a shelf. Earlier that year, I had begged my parents to buy it for me while we were in New York City, and they didn’t. But I had gift cards. So I grabbed the book, and bought it as well.
By the end of the day, I was obsessed. I had completely re-fallen in love with the look of the show, I had read a ton about Idina Menzel, Stephanie J. Block, Jennifer Laura Thompson and so many of the early actresses who had played Elphaba and Glinda. I was exposed to pictures and information that I had no knowledge of previously. This transformed me from being a simple audience member into someone who was fascinated by not only what was seen onstage, but the people who made it happen offstage.
My sixth grade year was a culture shock. I went from being encouraged to explore things that I liked or felt strongly about, to being made fun of non-stop for my interests. Boys weren’t supposed to like musicals, especially musicals that centered around the story of two women in pretty dresses and green makeup. I was just excited to have this really cool thing that I was interested in, but my classmates weren’t. The number of offensive and rude comments made to me that year was too high to count. I did find supportive people, of course. But I decided at the end of that year to channel some of this enthusiasm onto the internet instead of into my classmates.
I opened up Flying High in June of 2007, as an eleven year old who just really loved Wicked. I would essentially blog anything that came to mind about the show. Random tributes to Eden Espinosa or Kristoffer Cusick were just as likely to appear as an eleven year old’s attempt at a press release regarding a cast change. What I noticed, however, were the growing number of page views. Small at first. But by the end of 2007, my blog had reached 9,000 people. Not a crazy amount, but more than the amount of people that cared about my Wicked ramblings in everyday life.
As I entered 2008, the page not only caught the attention of other fans on the internet, but cast members in various productions of the show as well. Brad Weinstock (Boq on the First National Tour at the time), Donna Vivino (Elphaba standby, 1NT), Julie Reiber (Elphaba standby, LA) and many more cast members that I would correspond with had been to the site and said many nice things about it. By the end of the year, it was somewhat well-known throughout the Wicked fan base, as well as it’s cast.
In 2009, the site was awarded Wicked’s Official Seal of Approval, given to a handful of fan-operated websites dedicated to the show. In 2013, the site was again recognized during Wicked’s ’30 Days of Flight’ fan celebration leading up to the show’s tenth anniversary on Broadway, and given recognition on Wicked’s official social media channels once again, leading to a large jump (from an already good place) in page views and followers.
Beginning in late 2013, I expanded Flying High, opening a Twitter for the site, and tweeting Wicked-related content there. In 2014, I opened a Facebook page for Flying High, and in 2015, an Instagram.
I do believe that Flying High is a not-to-be-overlooked part of the reason that I was able to secure such a phenomenal internship between my Junior and Senior year. I started it as a passion project in 2007. In 2017, it’s something that I keep up with because I am proud of it. I absolutely do love the show and still run the pages with my heart, but it has evolved. I no longer run the website from the standpoint of a starry-eyed fan. It would be very difficult to pinpoint all of the things this website has done for me. While it has by no means made me a master of coding or website design, it has introduced me to the basics in both of those categories.
In other realms, it has introduced me to site traffic analytics. I can see how many page views I get per day, week, month, year and throughout all time. I can see where people are coming from, and the links that lead them to the website. If a tweet is directing a lot of people to the website, I can explore how many people saw the tweet, how many clicked on the link provided and so on. A list of my most popular posts shows up when I enter the administration page for the site, allowing me to see which of my posts are doing well. I use this information to format new posts.
Opening the Facebook page has allowed me to gain some experience with paid ads. Again, nothing terribly extensive, but I have promoted several specific posts as well as the page itself. I have set a time period for which I want the page/post advertised, and I watch engagement go up. It has led to a lot of interest in the page, and it pulls from a lot of the same audience as the ‘Wicked on Broadway’ and ‘Wicked on Tour’ pages that I also run.
Upon moving to New York City and beginning work at Broadway Across America, I no longer update this website. I think it is best to leave the fan blogging in the past as a young professional who occasionally finds himself working on touring engagements of the show, at least for now. But over a decade and 1.5 million hits later, this website will always be what I credit with starting the whole journey.
Something cool that I was able to do on this website was reach out to certain performers and do interviews/Q&A’s with them about their time in the show. Above are three of my favorites with Eden Espinosaa, Tiffany Haas, and Shoshana Bean.
Through Flying High, I learned to write press releases. In 2012, I somehow came into contact with one of the press agents for the show, who added me to the seedlist of recipients for official casting information. These press releases would generally include a headshot and short bio, however, being a teenager, and a gigantic Wicked geek, I would tailor the writing to fit the site a little more specifically. For instance, if this person had been a part of the show before, I’d write about their path with the show leading to the most recent announcement. Performers like Jennifer DiNoia and Alli Mauzey were always fun to re-visit every few years, since their journeys were so intricate. I’d then list other credits, add photos, and add a personal note of congratulations (because why not?). This allowed me to refine my ability to write a concise, yet thorough piece and get it out quickly.
Below are a few examples of the content that has been posted on Flying High’s Facebook page. My goal with Facebook has been not to post too often so as to not put people off, but to post enough to keep fans engaged and interested in the goings on in the world of Wicked. Wicked as a show is in a unique situation, because the longer it runs, the greater the number of fans. And those fans are often young, and very enthusiastic. I like to highlight current cast members that people have seen recently. There are many young fans who were born after the show opened already. I try to keep it fun, light, and interesting. Memes, important moments, anniversaries, pop culture references, understudy/standby debuts, and just generally fun pictures posted by cast/crew members are what I focus on on Facebook.
Since Instagram is strictly for images, I can have a little bit of fun with the visual elements of the show. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a reason (announcement, anniversary etc.) for posting a picture, people gravitate to it anyway. I like to post new press shots as they become available, backstage photos, tributes to fan favorites, and of course many more pop culture references and important announcements/dates.