International Exhibitors at APAP: “You Have to Show Up to Be Credible!”

APAP 2020 LogoMarlowsphere (Blog #146)

The saying “Eighty per cent of success in life is showing up” has long been attributed to actor, comedian, writer, director, and filmmaker Woody Allen. Whether the number is 75% or 90% or some number in between, the fact remains that if you want to have success in your life—personal or professional, whatever the endeavor—you have to show up and be present in the milieu and community you’re interested in.

This has never been more true than at the recent Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference at the Hilton Hotel (53rd Street/Avenue of the Americas, New York City) held January 10-14, 2020. The EXPO Hall at the APAP|NYC conference is the largest global performing arts marketplace of its kind with more than 370 booths, serving more than 3,600 attendees and 1,600 performing arts organizations.

According to Mario Garcia Durham, APAP president: “It pulsates with energy, making it an essential stop for building your business. Our dynamic ability to convene a global performing arts marketplace to APAP President Mario Garcia Durham talking with a Shanghai Opera House representative APAP 2020 Photo Adam Kissickdrive critical business decisions for every segment of our field makes APAP|NYC an extraordinary way to start the year.”

In other words, it’s a place to be seen, to network, to make and do business.

Durham’s emphasis on “a global performing arts marketplace to drive critical business decisions” is no exaggeration. Clearly, the vast majority of exhibitors are from all over the United States. However, a modest cadre of exhibitors hail from beyond America’s borders, from such countries as: New Zealand, Mainland China, Taiwan, Poland, Ireland, Canada, and France. Moreover, several American-based exhibitors are also in the “international” presenters camp, so to speak, because they mainly represent artists from other countries.

Exhibiting at APAP is no inexpensive investment, especially for the international exhibitors. But without exception, when asked “Why do you exhibit at APAP?” the consistent refrain expressed in one way or another was “You have to show up to be credible. And you have to show up year after year.”

One international exhibitor, Heidi Fleming, CEO of the Montréal (Quebec, Canada) based FAM Group pointed out she had been exhibiting at APAP for over 25 years. When asked “Is there a return on the investment?” she mentioned that sometimes she is able to book one of her clients while walking from her hotel to the Hilton location by bumping into a presenter she had met several times at previous APAP conferences. “If I hadn’t known that person for some time because of the APAP connection and hadn’t met that person while walking to APAP my client wouldn’t have gotten that gig!”

She added: “Every year you meet someone new who can add something extra to one of our artists, bring them to another level. It’s kind of slow and steady. You just have to keep showing up.”

APAP 2020 Photo Adam KissickShona McCullagh is the Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the New Zealand Dance Company, a full time contemporary dance company founded in 2012 located in Auckland. They had their North American debut in October 2019 in Toronto, but they have never been to the United States. Ms. McCullagh mentioned this was her second APAP. She has two main goals: “To learn. The Professional Development Sessions are enriching, inspiring, and provocative. The whole conference is very well planned and thought through. All of us in the arts work incredibly hard. The opportunity to be here nourishes our hearts and minds. And being in this space we can share experiences with others. And, of course, we’re here to market our work.”

Other exhibitors from the so-called Pacific Rim included several from Mainland China, including C-Musicals, the China Arts and Entertainment Group, the Shanghai Grand Theatre, and the Shanghai Opera House. Carol Cai is part of the Foreign Affairs General Office of the Shanghai Opera House. 2020 was the third year in a row that the Shanghai Opera House has exhibited at APAP. She observed: “Being here is a chance to get to know people. It’s also important for us to get to know what’s going on in America and the global market. We would like to present to the world our excellent performances. It’s also helpful for us to know what is trending now in this global market. This information will be very useful to us when we plan our next tour.”

Ms. Haley Yang works as part of the “C-Musicals” (Shanghai, China) Marketing and Public Relations function. She pointed out: “The C-Musicals organization presents original musicals in Mandarin, a departure from classical Chinese music presentations, such as those from the China National Peking Opera Company.” They exhibited at APAP for the first time in 2020. They decided to exhibit in order to show the United States what they’re capable of.

The Junta de Andalucia from Sevilla, Spain, also a first time exhibitor at APAP in 2020, perceived there is a market for the various flamenco dance companies in their roster, including the Anabel Veloso Flamenco Company, the Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernandez Duo, the Flamencos Por El Mundo, the Fundacion Cristina Heeren de Arte Flamenco, and the Marcat Dance Company. Their message is “Discover the Dance and Music from Spain.” They also exhibited at APAP to present their wares, so to speak, to prospective presenters and to get to know the market.

The Japan Foundation takes a broad approach. In addition to a headquarters office in Tokyo, and affiliated offices in Urawa, Kansai, and Kyoto, it has offices in two dozen countries in The Americas (New APAP 2020 Photo Christy KissickYork, Los Angeles, Toronto, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo), Asia and Oceania, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Founded in 1972, its mission is “. . . to promote international cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries.” With respect to APAP, Koji Nozaki, Program Director of the Arts and Cultural Exchange in its New York office: “We’re here at APAP to talk about various aspects. But we’re also here to network.”

Barbara Nowak, International Relations Manager for the Polish “Slask” Song and Dance Ensemble, echoed the double sentiment of most if not all the international exhibitors: “We’re here to present our performances, and, you have to show up to be credible.” The company was established 66 years ago to promote Polish Culture worldwide. The company has not only performed in Poland, but also in the whole world to show Polish culture.

Nowak added: “In our minds APAP is one of the most important places where people in the performing arts industry meet. It’s a serious conference where you can meet serious people and have serious discussions. And this is why we appreciate coming here all the way from Poland spending a lot of money. This is our 10th year coming to APAP. Over the years the benefit to us is establishing contacts. It is not possible to do business or become one of the real members accepted by the community by exhibiting here for one year. This conference gives us an opportunity to show the group our company’s abilities. We’re also looking for reliable partners. We have to be here to verify our credibility.”

While the international exhibitors consistently voiced the need “to be at APAP to be credible” theme, Olga Romanova of Peganov Entertainment, a German theatrical company, expressed the need to expand: “The producer and founder of our company, Alexey Peganov, decided to go outside of Germany and go international and tour in the United States also. He decided to start with APAP and the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) which is also a conference for theatre professionals to move things forward. ISPA [it meets right after APAP in New York City], however, has no exhibit possibilities, just a lot of meetings, so APAP was the only choice. Here we’re trying to find agents. We want to expand more. Our shows are mainly for children.” The company was founded 12 APAP 2020 Photo Christy Kissickyears ago. They have seven productions including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Treasure Island.” 2020 is the second year Peganov Entertainment has exhibited at APAP.

Oisin Mac Diarmada of Ceol Productions out of Coolaney, County Sligo, Ireland, has been coming to APAP for 10 years. He offered a slightly difference perspective: “We’ve been coming here for some time and the central reason is you have to be here to do business. You can’t do it long distance. But I can also tell you that things have improved over time. Just looking at the graphics at each exhibit, they have improved. Visually the booths are more interesting and professional. Also, because of technology you don’t have to bring so many materials anymore. It’s all electronic, digital. But the overall purpose is still simply meeting people, nurturing relationships, doing business. And you have to be here to do that.”

© Eugene Marlow 2020

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