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  • The Wall Street Journal

Off-Beat Options for Theater’s Changing Audience

Agents and performers try to sell their acts at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ annual conference

Joel Pierson has a message for concert hall and theater bookers: Who needs another string quartet, dance troupe or touring Broadway show when you can hire a jazz combo playing music from Bugs Bunny cartoons?

Mr. Pierson is the founder and keyboardist of the Queen’s Cartoonists, a six-man New York band that dedicates itself to playing tunes from swing-era animations, along with similarly silly and fast-paced fare from “The Simpsons,” the Muppets shows, “Star Wars” and more.

“I think we’d be a great novelty act,” said Mr. Pierson, speaking shortly before the band launched into a 30-minute Saturday afternoon set designed to showcase and hopefully sell their concept.

The occasion was the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), a winter New York gathering where some 3,600 attendees from the U.S. and more than 30 countries—mostly programmers for theaters and concert halls—come to scope out acts that might help them fill their performance calendars in the seasons ahead.

The conference, the performing-arts industry’s biggest trade show, concludes Tuesday, with most events taking place at the New York Hilton in Midtown.

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