Aspen Ideas Festival 2017

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All I can say is wow! Thank you Aspen Ideas Festival for the remarkable, thought-provoking week. Since 2005, the festival has served as the nation’s premier public gathering place for leaders from around the globe, and across many disciplines, to engage in deep and inquisitive discussions of the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times. This year was no different. With over 350 presenters, 200 sessions, and 3,000 attendees, one was truly exposed to and captivated by some of the foremost thought leaders in the world today.

Aspen Ideas Festival
Aspen Ideas Festival 2017

Jeffrey Seller, Owner, and Producer at Adventureland, delivered a moving presentation. Jeffrey is an award-winning theatrical producer. Four of his productions have won Tony Awards for Best Musical: Hamilton (2015) and Rent (1996), both of which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Avenue Q (2003), and In the Heights (2008). He delved into the behind the scenes story of producing Hamilton. Some of the topics he touched upon were: what it means to be successful, scouting talent, courting and retaining investors, selling the show to theatres, and grappling with ticket availability.

Aspen Ideas Festival
Jeffrey Seller

The following is an excerpt from Jeffrey’s session:

Q:  Do you resent the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, gets all the credit for being a genius even though you are the producer and the one putting it together?

Jeffrey: (lets out a boisterous laugh) I reserve the word genius for few men and woman who have lived through history. Mozart was a genius, I don’t know that there are that many geniuses. I am not a genius. Thomas Edison was a genius and I think Lin-Manuel is absolutely stepping up at bat and showing he might be a genius. But I’m a nurturer, I’m a cheerleader, I’m a critic, I’m a guy who says you can do better, but I am not the kind of creator manifested by William Shakespeare, Mozart, or Lin-Manuel.”

Everyone in the crowd, including myself, laughed with Jeffrey and felt the resonating authenticity of his words. His ability to remain so humble and grounded even after such success on Broadway is truly inspiring.

Another outstanding presentation was delivered by Chicago’s revered Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. Jeanne is internationally renowned for her design method that focuses on the relationships between individuals, communities, and environments. In her 2017 session at The Ideas Festival, she shared her philosophy and approach to the opportunities for architecture in a world increasingly challenged by nature.

The last day of the festival concluded in the Greenwald Pavilion on The Aspen Institute’s campus. Attendees listened to notable speakers such as American journalist and author Katie Couric, New York Times political and cultural commentator David Brooks, and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman. They delivered inspiring approaches to philanthropy and leadership that is sure to enrich our conversations long after the festival.

You can catch up on the rest of Idea Festival’s 2017 Sessions on Youtube and follow everything that’s happening on social media:

Twitter: Follow @AspenIdeas and tweet your thoughts using #AspenIdeas and

About Irene Michaels

Over the past 25 years I have taken on the roles of a producer, publisher, insider journalist and fundraiser. My artistic interests began early in my teens working as a model and a dancer throughout the U.S. I formed my first modeling agency before I was twenty. While modeling I secured a re-occurring role in the popular daytime TV series General Hospital. Read more...