“What’s a Producer?”
Without fail, that’s the question I most often get when I tell someone that I’m a theater producer. The truth is that there is no easy answer because it really depends on who you ask and the project you’re working on.
In my opinion, a producer always looks at the big picture. Ultimately, he/she is responsible for everything, from raising money to making sure the artists’ vision is represented accurately on stage. Being a theater producer is a delicate balancing act, as you need to remain a little detached so you can see when something isn’t working, but at the same time, you should have working relationships with the artists, so when you have constructive feedback, they will respect your opinion.
For the past two years, I have worked as an Associate Producer for Bisno Productions, a commercial producing company headed by Debbie Bisno (NU ’92). We develop and produce dramas, musicals and event theatre on Broadway, Off-Broadway, regionally and on tour. At Bisno Productions, I have worked on shows such as the revival of the musical Annie; the Broadway premiere of Craig Wright’s Grace, starring Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Ed Asner and Kate Arrington; and Tony Award-winning smash hit War Horse, (Broadway, Toronto and US tour).
We are a very small office (just me, Debbie and our intern) so I get to do a little bit of everything—every day is completely different! My favorite part of my job is definitely working on new shows. For example, we are currently developing a new musical for younger audiences—Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money— adapted from the book by Christopher Paul Curtis, with music and lyrics by Motown legend Lamont Dozier. We also do a few consulting projects, where we use our expertise to guide a specific project. I enjoy those projects because they give me the opportunity to work with different people and organizations.
Bisno Productions has a pretty robust internship program, and we always have one Producing Intern in the office. Our interns get a real hands-on experience and there is no such thing as a typical day, but some things that our intern might do include: attending readings, reading scripts, researching shows under consideration, and helping with office management. In addition, I always try to match my intern’s interests with possible projects. For example, during our recent run of Grace, we had an intern who was very interested in writing and had a background in journalism so we gave her the opportunity to pitch stories. She ended up writing a profile piece for Michigan Avenue magazine on one of the show’s stars—and NU grad!—Kate Arrington.
We’ve had interns in the past who’ve had quite a lot of theater experience, but we’ve also had interns who were theater fans but had never worked professionally in the field. We do try to find interns who have some administrative experience, but the most important requirement is a passion for theater. We are currently looking for a Summer Intern, log into SoConnect to view/apply for intern. So if you were also wondering, “What is a Producer?” please apply!
Roberta Pereira has been working with Bisno Productions since 2010. Previously, she was an Associate Producer at Anne Bogart’s SITI Company, Executive Producer of Yale Summer Cabaret (New Haven) and Associate Managing Director for Yale Repertory Theatre/World Performance Project, where she produced a series of international music and theater events. Roberta also produced all the auxiliary events for the 2006 Dublin International Theatre Festival.
As an independent producer, her credits include the Broadway premiere of David Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre starring Sir Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight, Spacebar: A Broadway Play by Kyle Sugarman (Studio 42), USHER (New York International Fringe Festival, Outstanding Musical Award), the production concept of Ainadamar (winner of the Opera America Director-Designer Showcase), and We Declare You A Terrorist (Summer Play Festival). Roberta was also a Producing Consultant for London’s Gate Theatre transfer of The Kreutzer Sonata to LaMama in New York City and for Roller Boogie the Musical at OBERON in Cambridge, MA.
Roberta is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of nonprofit theater company Studio 42 and a founding ensemble member of Tilted Field. She is also Managing Editor of Dress Circle Publishing, the premier publisher of theater-themed novels. A graduate of Yale School of Drama’s Theater Management program, Roberta is originally from Brazil and currently lives in New York City.