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Degrees of Separation and Great Performances



by Ronnie Davis

In early February I got a call from Samantha Sackler, a longtime partner & friend who owns an LA based production company called The Firm, asking me if we would be willing to work on a Drive-In Premiere and help with registering guests & distributing Movie Snacks to each one as they arrive. She knew that the criteria her client laid out was completely in our wheelhouse. First and foremost, in the instructions was that there can be NO plastic anywhere and everything had to be environmentally friendly. Our culinary team created a compostable box that we were able to label for the client of Popcorn, Candy, and a Glass Bottle of Water. At first, I did not know who the end client was but when I found out more, I had to smile and remind myself of what a very small world it really is. As it turns out the Premier was for the National Geographic Network’s new program Genius: Aretha.

First degree of separation: National Geographic is a long time Great Performances’ client as is The Firm, and we have collaborated on many events for both. My colleague Jill Cole has led the catering efforts for National Geographic’s first season of Genius: Picasso, starring Antonio Banderas, as well their Oscar Winning Documentary film Free Solo.

Second degree: we have had the distinct honor of working with The Queen of Soul herself, Miss Aretha Franklin on several occasions, dating back to a private dinner concert for our partners at Jazz at Lincoln Center and most recently in 2015 at a Gala at the Plaza Hotel. Working with her was like a dream and I was humbled by her kindness and RESPECT.

Third degree: in 2017 we produced and catered a fundraiser in the Hamptons for 600 guests and the headliner I got to spend time planning, in rehearsals and though the evening with the amazing Cynthia Erivo, who is starring in Genius: Aretha.

The opportunities to spend meaningful time with these amazing people is something that only happens because of Great Performances. Those of us who do this every day cherish these moments and find enormous reward in simply the experience. Sitting on a couch with Aretha Franklin telling stories about her musical beginnings is priceless. Having dinner backstage with Cynthia Erivo and hearing about her performance in The Color Purple is beyond imagination. Have drinks with Samantha Sackler and her team after a successful project is more fun than anyone deserves, and I am grateful for her friendship.

All of this is possible because of our dedication to “Being of Service” which is one of the founding principles of Great Performances. There is great nobility in serving others…which we are all so lucky to do every day. We all cannot wait until our industry rebounds from this pandemic, and we return to what we are meant to do.