Presenting and Producing Your Work: Advice for Performing Artists

Presenting and Producing Your Work: Advice for Performing Artists
Image: Laura Greer, Photo Courtesy of Laura Greer.

Hear from new NYFA Coach Laura Greer, Senior Producer, Apollo Theater, on how to develop relationships with presenters and producers.

How do you develop relationships with presenters and producing entities? We’re pleased to introduce new NYFA Coach Laura Greer, who can help you strategize ways of building your career in the performing arts.

For more than 30 years, Greer has presented and commissioned performing artists at institutions such as the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Greer can help you think “beyond the gig” and towards a more sustainable performing arts career.

Book a one-on-one session with Greer for advice on audience cultivation; general strategy; or guidance on how to work with a presenter, booking agent, or manager. Read our interview with Greer below!

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New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA): As a producer, you’ve spent over 30 years presenting and commissioning performing artists at renowned institutions such as the Apollo Theater, 651 Arts @ BAM Majestic Theatre, the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, among others. What does your role as a presenter/producer look like?

Laura Greer (LG): My early years at the Apollo was focused on developing the Programming and Education departments. This meant that I was determining the creative and strategic plans for developing strong departments for the institution. I was able to work with our Executive Producer at the time, Mikki Shepard, to determine the artistic voice of the institution.  

After many years of working on program design, I now focus my attention on the overall budget for the Programming Department and its myriad types of performances. I’m also negotiating and developing different types of contracts and agreements for  artists, consultants, and partnering organizations. And, I am interacting with the production team on the execution of performances on stage. What do you look for when looking for artists to work with and feature? I’m usually excited and moved by artists whose work tells a story. Not necessarily having a specific narrative, but work that takes you on a journey that is emotionally engaging. 

NYFA: What advice do you have for performing artists looking to get the attention of and ultimately work with presenters?

LG: Do the homework of researching the types of artists presented within a season or two by the presenter. By doing this, you can get a general idea of the types of performances/productions of interest to this presenter.  Presenters are often bombarded with artist requests. I find that I’m more receptive to an artist inquiry if I’ve actually seen a performance. So, take time to invite presenters to see a performance or work-in-process. The idea is to build a relationship.   

Do the homework of researching the types of artists presented within a season or two by the presenter. By doing this, you can get a general idea of the types of performances/productions of interest to this presenter.

Laura Greer

NYFA: What do you mean when you encourage performing artists to think “beyond the gig?”

LG: Taking time to determine both short term and long term goals as a performer. What is the plan?  Many artists want to develop a healthy tour itinerary or larger scale projects—in both instances it takes a broad network. Again, this goes back to researching who is who in the field. 

NYFA: As a Coach, how can you work with performing artists to chart a more sustainable career?

LG: I’m a good listener and thought partner. I really enjoy the experience of talking to artists about their work and who it can resonate with. I’m happy to impart my insights regarding the key elements of building a team, cultivating an audience, and identifying and developing presenting partner relationships. These elements and more are part of building a sustainable career. Sometimes it’s just about sharing space and being able to ask the wild questions.

About Laura Greer, Senior Producer, Apollo Theater:
Laura Greer joined the Apollo Theater in 2005 after over 20 years of working in the performing arts. She is dedicated to presenting and commissioning artists of African descent and introducing new voices and talents to the attention of diverse audiences.

Throughout her tenure at the Apollo Theater, she has been a member of the leadership team and instrumental in shaping the design and implementation of the “new” artistic vision and strategies for the Apollo’s performing arts, education and community programs, and archive project.

Greer has created several of the Apollo Signature Programs: “the Salon Series,” a new works residency and performance series; “Music Café,” a late-night cabaret series spotlighting the next generation of music artists; and “Africa Now!,” a festival that celebrates the best of today’s African music. She’s spearheaded and managed several international collaborations including “Breakin’ Convention” (2013, 2015, 2017) , an international hip hop dance theater festival with Sadler’s Wells, London; a collaboration with Jazz à Vienne (2014, 2016), a leading European jazz festival in Vienne, France; and the Apollo’s successful presentation of Southbank London’s New York premiere of the “Women of the World Festival (WOW – 2015, 2017).

Prior to her work at the Apollo, Greer was the Associate Producer at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, GA (1999-2005), providing artistic and production oversight of the annual ten-day festival. She also served as the Director of Programming at 651 Arts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Majestic Theater, specializing in works grounded in the African Diaspora, and held various leadership positions at Aaron Davis Hall at City College of New York (1985-1998)—now known as Harlem Stage—where she established several signature programs including “New Faces/New Voices/New Visions.”

Greer has served on numerous local and national grant panels and committees. Most recently she served as a mentor with the Urban Bush Women Producing Fellows Initiative.

This program is part of NYFA Learning, which includes professional development for artists and arts administrators. Sign up for NYFA’s free bi-weekly newsletter to receive updates on future programs. 

Amy Aronoff
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