‘Be Brave’: Behind-the-Scenes Broadway Star Morgan Steward’s New York Mindset

Associate producer with the company behind ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ reflects on her time at Fordham and the connections she has made along the way



Morgan Steward stands in front of the Tonys sign at her first awards in 2018.


You can’t live in “The City That Never Sleeps” without being imbued with hustle culture. From pedestrians who could qualify for speed walking in the Olympics to the grid of apartment lights that glow well into the night, New Yorkers share a certain, undeniable grit for survival in this competitive city. Anyone who shows an ounce of hesitancy to cross the street before the signal changes in their favor is easily identified as “outsider.” 

But Morgan Steward, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’19, blended seamlessly into the New York City scene even before she stepped off her Dallas-Lovefield-incoming plane and into the LaGuardia International Airport her first year at Fordham. 

“I truly feel like I was made to be here. I like the culture. I love the environment,” Steward exclaimed. 

Steward, who is now the associate producer at the production company responsible for “Hamilton,” Jill Furman Productions, possessed many qualities that prepared her for city life — ambition, drive and perhaps a little stubbornness. She wasn’t satisfied with leaving any stone unturned. Her life philosophy is to “be brave,” a motto she applied to everything from day-to-day living in NYC to her career prospects.

“If I don’t like something, I’m just going to change it.” Morgan Steward, FCLC ’19

 “I never had a moment where I thought, ‘I can’t do this, I have to go back to Texas,’” Steward said. “And I really do attribute a lot of that to the fact that I’m not satisfied being unhappy: I’m not someone who’s just going to accept that I don’t like my surroundings or that things are bad and dwell in that. If I don’t like something, I’m just going to change it.” 

During the second semester of her senior year of high school, an 18-wheeler ran over Steward’s car with her inside, landing her in the hospital for several weeks. Yet, Steward didn’t let that accident or months of recovery in a wheelchair stop her from getting on an NYC-bound plane at the end of the summer. 

Overflowing with enthusiasm to explore her new home, Steward contended with a challenge many Fordham first-years didn’t face: navigating the city with a cane, which limited her both in distance and energy. “But then I got stronger, I got better, and now I’m training for a half marathon,” Steward smiled. “There really was nothing that was going to stop me from coming here and stop me from liking it.”

As for what drew her to the city in the first place, Steward came for Broadway. Though she was originally inclined toward STEM-based careers as a child — once aspiring to be a forensic scientist — she quickly changed tracks when she found that, “one day, math and science became hard. And when they became hard,” she continued, “I was suddenly very disinterested.” 

“It didn’t help that, because I was in Texas, all my science teachers were (coaches),” Steward added. “I love my school, but science wasn’t our forte.” 

Steward knew she was going to end up on Broadway.

Despite the arts also being quite neglected in her corner of football-centric Texas, Steward took a drama class in eighth grade where she and her peers put on a production of “a very illegal, a very unlicensed version of Grease.” Steward explained how she “was at a very conservative Catholic school,” and the teacher had to modify the script to make it acceptable for the Catholic school.

Her initial drama class was followed by a lackluster theater class her first year of high school, which precluded her from taking any other drama classes at her high school. Steward sought theater experiences in her local community, but even those options were limited due to travel, time and availability constraints. 

But Steward knew she was going to end up on Broadway. “I didn’t know how, but that was where I was going to be,” she said. 

Though dynamic and vivacious, Steward was adamant about preferring the behind-the-scenes side of Broadway rather than the spotlight. 

“I was always looking for ways to incorporate theater whichever which way I could into my communications major.” Morgan Steward

As a compromise, she pivoted to media studies — a field she later identified as her path for infiltrating Broadway one day. Instead of theater, she participated in the debate team, led her school’s service club, and traded off the class presidency and vice presidency with her best friend every year, both of which helped her to hone her public speaking and leadership skills. 

Steward’s high school interests set the stage for her debut at Fordham as a ​​communications and new media and digital design double major. Attending Fordham itself was a bit of a strategic choice, Steward explained: “Fordham, especially Lincoln Center being right there, so close to Broadway, I just knew that there was going to be such a wealth of resources. So I was always looking for ways to incorporate theater whichever which way I could into my communications major.” 

One of the ways in which she did that was through Frank DiLella’s class on theater journalism, which she took in the spring of her sophomore year. DiLella’s class was a choice as much out of interest as strategy — DiLella is an Emmy Award-winning host of “On Stage” on Spectrum News NY1, a company that would be every theater journalist’s dream. 

steward with the cast and writer of the boys in the band during a shoot for on stage
Steward stands with the cast and writer of “The Boys in the Band” during a shoot for “On Stage.” (COURTESY OF MORGAN STEWARD)

Steward took this opportunity to make an impression, one that first landed her an internship and later a lifelong friend, mentor and neighbor. Now, she and DiLella regularly meet up in their neighborhood to walk to their local CrossFit together. 

It was through DiLella that Steward got her first internship at NY1’s “On Stage,” and that experience helped launch her later success at internships and jobs with companies like ABC News, Broadway News and Broadway Direct. Steward even assisted with two Tony Awards shows, helping with live and video production for NY1’s “On Stage” in 2018 and print media for Broadway News in 2019. 

It was also DiLella who walked her through a difficult decision second semester of her senior year, when Steward was choosing between a paid internship with theater-owner company Jujamcyn Theaters that DiLella had connected her to, or getting her name out as a theater journalist for Broadway Brands, an unpaid internship. Wrestling with possibly disrespecting DiLella and following her own aspirations, Steward chose the less secure — but more appealing — job with Broadway Brands. DiLella reassured her that she was making a good decision.

Steward’s trajectory is unabashedly a success story: At just 25, she is living the life many her age, and older, dream of.

Though decidedly on the theater journalism track, Steward switched gears when she was introduced to and offered a position with Jill Furman, the woman behind productions like “Hamilton,” “In the Heights,” “West Side Story,” “Freestyle Love Supreme,” and many more. Now a two-women team, Steward was recently promoted from assistant to associate producer at Jill Furman Productions and is helping usher more shows, like “Suffs,” out of development and onto the stage. 

Steward’s trajectory is unabashedly a success story: At just 25, she is living the life many her age, and older, dream of. Her days consist of reading scripts and networking with clients, while her evenings often involve her sitting down to enjoy a show, as much for research on actors’ and directors’ styles as for her own entertainment. 

When asked if she can consider herself successful, Steward responded, “Objectively, yes.” 

morgan smiles with two cast members of freestyle love supreme on opening night in nice clothes
Morgan Steward, left, poses with two members of “Freestyle Love Supreme” on the show’s Broadway opening night in 2019. (COURTESY OF MORGAN STEWARD)

“I’ve worked very, very hard to put myself in this position that I am,” Steward explained. “But more than that, I consider it a true sign of success when you like what you do … For me, success is driven by an emotional thing. Like, am I happy where I’m at?” she pondered. “Yes, I am very happy, and that’s what I consider my greatest marker of success.” 

And Steward’s advice for approaching life? “Be brave, you can do it, and just do it.” That’s largely how she got to where she is now, along with lots of emails and honing time management and prioritization skills. 

“I just think, as a whole, people don’t tend to give others enough credit for their generosity and their willingness to want to help the next generation,” Steward explained. “And, I do understand, it’s really hard. It’s very frightening to reach out to someone that you admire or to even ask, but you just have to be brave if you can, even if it’s over email.” 

This is the kind of mentality that New Yorkers embody, one in which bravery and grit permeate their every action. Though once an outsider, Steward exemplifies these qualities, and her trajectory is indicative of how anyone, with the right mindset, can be a New Yorker too.