Tim Dolan is hard at work developing his latest virtual tour. As owner of Broadway Up Close Walking Tours, Dolan works constantly, and he’s adapted his business in the past year in ways he never imagined. He’s a performer. He’s an entrepreneur. But above all else, Dolan is a storyteller.
Currently, Dolan is at work on his new tour, “Broadway Bar Crawl.” “I’m not a foodie. I love Olive Garden,” he says. “Without a passion for food or drinking, I had to find a way to connect with this material. Then I started to notice things. For example, many famous Broadway institutions are named after their owners: Sardi’s, Joe Allen’s, Keens. These owners were just humans taking risks, and their legacy and the buildings that house these restaurants continue to fuel their creations. These places are about the people who drink and dined there. To earn a place in Broadway history as a restaurant it’s about three things: the location, the energy, the ambiance.”
Over the past nine months, Dolan has been hosting a series of virtual experiences for Playbill under the title “At This Theatre.” He’s taken participants along on several of the tours he originally created to lead in-person. Recently, he created two tours specifically for the virtual space.
“My life is narrative focused. If I’m telling those stories eight times a week in a theatre, or if I’m telling these stories through a tour,” Dolan explains.
The process of creating a new tour can take weeks, with much of Dolan’s focus on accuracy around his research and hustling to uncover untold stories.
“When I start to build any tour, it’s a messy Word document of 8,000 ideas. It’s clips from articles, books, oral histories, anything I can get my hands on. After I write all of this, I sculpt and shape it into a tour with places we will “stop,” just like a tour you would do in person. When you are leading a group of people from place to place, you need to think of the distance from one location to the next. But when you do a virtual tour, you can go anywhere. It’s limitless!”
Some deep dives into history may not lead to a single moment in one tour, but could resurface again down the line: “I could spend hours of research learning about two orphans from the Titanic and what they did when they came to Manhattan, but if that story doesn’t connect to the overall narrative, that research goes back in the vault.”
As much as he loves building out the work virtually, Dolan is quick to assert that interacting with audiences in person is what he prefers, “You’re sitting in a theatre, watching it live. Then they film a show, and you’re watching a version of that. We live in this weird hybrid moment. I’m constantly reading the audience when we’re in person; virtually, I can’t do that as well. Reactions can change the show entirely. If there’s a comedy and there are no laughs, it turns into a tragedy instantly.”
What drives Dolan is his passion for an industry currently in the midst of a long intermission, “My love of history comes from my love of Broadway. Broadway feels like its own little thing, but so many people come into this world. Everyone will be in New York once in their life, and Broadway will be a part of that. And I get to run a small business at the crossroads of the world.”
Dolan can’t wait to welcome tourists again to his own personal heaven. Until then, whether you experience Dolan giving a tour online or standing live in Times Square, his spotlight on the industry shines bright to light the way to better days ahead.