Monday, April 10, 2017

A Family Business

This January, there was nothing I was looking forward to more than going to New York City for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ 2017 Conference. I have known about this conference and all it does for the Stockbridge and Pinkerton for quite a long time, as my dad has attended it for many years as a part of his job. However, I had never been a part of the conference myself and I couldn’t wait to return to the city to be involved. And, right I was to be excited.  

Mr. Cahoon and Emma meet with an agent to discuss an artist.
APAP is a conference that is a prime example of how business meets the arts. It is always a behind the scenes, almost secret part of the presenting industry. Because of my father’s job, I have always seen the technical expectations and the hospitality requests that come with a touring artist, but even from my perspective, I had never seen how the performer actually got there and all that that involved. However, APAP proved to be the perfect way for me to learn more about it. I’m not sure about the other students, or even the two teacher chaperones, but I found the Expo Hall and the business meetings very interesting. The Expo Hall is where all of the agents for every single artist being represented are available to talk and book shows with presenters from around the country. Mr. Cahoon and Mrs. Tartarilla continued to tell us how crazy the Expo Hall is and how we might not want to spend much time in there. However, I was intrigued by this business side that I had never seen, nor expected in this line of work. I sat in on a few meetings between my dad and potential agents to discuss tour dates, prices, technical demands, and for the agents to pitch new shows to them. I was mostly struck in this process by how much really goes into these careers. While going through career consideration processes at school, this helped me see that picking such specific career-driven classes is hard because so many skills are included in just one career. On the surface, arts presenters have a career in fine arts, music and theater. However, after experiencing something like this, you can realize that this job also involves business, marketing, and programming. This experience taught me so much more about this particular career, and also about the value of digging deep into every aspect of any career you’d like to learn more about.

The largest part of the APAP experience for most people is getting to see performances. These performances can come in 15 to 20 minute showcases, 90 minute shows, or anywhere in between. The first performance we saw was an off-Broadway play entitled Puffs, which we all saw together. It was the perfect way to start the trip. It kept us entertained and interested, making a good first impression for the trip. I was able to see a multitude of jazz artists during APAP, and some of them stood out to me more than others. My favorite jazz band was the Seth Weaver Big Band, though I also saw talents such as Cynthia Sayer, Nicole Henry, and Rodney Marsalis. I also found that at APAP, you can find extremely culturally diverse acts and be exposed to all new types of things. For the chaperones and the other girls, there may have been many new artistic experiences, but for me, it was Alash, the Tuvan Throat Singers. It is certainly possible that I am the only 14 year old that has been exposed to all different sorts of art since the day I was born, but it was part of what made my experience unique. For example, Cirque Eloize: Saloon was a popular favorite for some of our group members, but I did not enjoy it. However, I recognize that this is most likely because I have seen an abundance of circus companies perform, most of which are older and have more experience than Cirque Eloize. As the trip progressed, I learned that this is one of the best experiences you will ever be given to find the art you don’t understand, and find the art you love and appreciate, as long as you are open to exploring everything. For me, the art that I loved and that inspired me was Koresh Dance Company. Koresh’s work is the type of art that makes you step back and process what you are seeing and what it is making you feel. In my opinion, that is the most important kind of art. Their ability to evoke emotions and thoughts through movement and how they incorporate words, breath and percussion into their pieces will stick with me for a long time.
Koresh Dance Company was a highlight of the trip
The part of the trip that set it apart the most from the other attendees was my head on experiences with New York based artists. Because I attended the trip with my dad, I was able to travel around the city with him to meet with some of his old friends. This is part of what made the trip extremely valuable to me and that I think should be taken under consideration. The first group of people that we met in the city were Vit Horejs and Bonnie Stein. Vit and Bonnie run the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre. We met with them in their tiny apartment to return a puppet of theirs, and it was a great way to truly experience, though just for a moment, what it is actually like to live in New York City. Everything is small and tight, but it is clear that it is easy to get used to if you are there doing what you love. The other thing I learned on that particular adventure is how large New York City is. Vit and Bonnie live in the Village, and on the way to their apartment, I
Vit Horejs from Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre
took in how large the city really is. It seems like a completely different place all the way over there! We also met with a Pinkerton alum, Alyssa Dillon, who moved to New York after college to pursue a career in technical theater. Now, she is the Props Master at
Sleep No More, which is a production of Macbeth that takes place on a 5-story, interactive set. Being able to meet with Alyssa was a direct example of someone straight from Pinkerton that pursued what she loves and is successful in doing so. Seeing Alyssa living successfully in New York, doing what she has always enjoyed is a great way to just let us know that it is possible to do what you love outside of high school, and that what we are doing now could turn into a career. Soon before we left the city, my dad and I had one last meeting. We met in a small coffee shop with Rebecca Tucker and Nick Wilder. Rebecca and Nick are New York based actors who have worked on shows with my dad in the past. I didn’t take part in much of the conversation with them, but just being able to observe and listen was enough to get a good idea of how crazy their life as actors is. Rebecca and Nick live in New York City, but don’t get nearly as many acting jobs as they do in New Hampshire, Boston, Florida, and New England based national tours. They are able to make a living by living in New York City, but getting cast all over the east side of the country, which I find very interesting, considering that many people move to New York City to perform there. From this quick get-together at a coffee shop, the three of them made plans to bring Nick and Rebecca to New Hampshire and have them talk to our students about majoring in theater and pursuing it as a career. These are the types of things that are probably the most valuable pieces of information to learn on a trip like this. Since so much of what is talked about at school is all about career and college choices, I believe that we should all be given opportunities like this to honestly talk to people who have pursued our “dream” careers.

After getting excited about and attending the conference, I am aware of how beneficial this experience was. I learned so much and I want to make sure more people continue to learn these things. The arts are so important, and keeping the arts alive is important. To do this, even just at Pinkerton, I want to work to get more people involved and interested in this trip, because so many more people deserve to experience what I experienced this January.
-Emma Cahoon, Class of 2020

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