For many performers, expressing their creativity often comes in the form of their onstage persona. Whether a dancer, singer, or variety act, when the curtain goes up, they own the stage. But what happens after the curtain goes down. For one performer, Fernando Quevedo, working behind the scenes is as much of a creative world as the one under the spotlight.
Fernando Quevedo was literally born into the business. His family traveled the world with their Gaucho Act; as Fernando describes the act, “usually from Argentina, guys with long hair playing drums and dancing.” At two years old, Fernando was flying to Europe with his family to join the prestigious Orfei Circus in Italy. At age 9, he was officially part of the family act, performing nightly in Puerto Rico, where a three month contract which turned into a 10-year run. And like many kids in the 80s, during his off-stage time, he became fascinated with computers and spent much of his spare time exploring this new technology. This fascination helped form his skill set in later years.
VegasReport sat down with Fernando to discuss his current role as a creative producer and owner of Q Productions Las Vegas. Learn how his experience as a performer helped develop his vision and work ethic, and broaden his opportunities to entertain audiences around the world.
Vegas Report: At what point in your career did you become interested in producing in addition to performing?
Fernando Quevedo: Each time a new show is put together, it’s a team of people, and I got a chance to meet designers, lighting designers, set designers. I was a little kid then, and they gave me time. They let me hang out and watch what they did, and that, I think, was invaluable. Little did I know that those were skills I would be able to revisit and explore in my adulthood for my producing.
So, a big change came. [Our family] landed in a show here in Vegas called Enter the Night. What started as a fill-in spot for Bobby Berosini and a few times for Vladimir, who both were phenomenal acts, and found ourselves being asked to be part of the show, Ultimately we were there for nine and a half years. I got a chance to work with some phenomenal people, and my interest was already getting more serious into production and creating. It was at this time that I developed a lot of likes for cinematography and filming. Writing, theatrical elements, and anything creative, for that matter. I was also delving into music composition and choreography. And so, all those things became the basis of the craft of show creation and entertainment creation.
Vegas Report: After nine plus years in Enter The Night, what was your plan moving forward?
Fernando Quevedo: I was looking into making a jump from performer to show creator, and I thought that I was going to be able to knock on a door of the entertainment director and say, “Hey, I got this great idea. You guys are always saying you want original ideas, and here, I have this great idea, right?” And they would go, “Amazing! Let’s do this! How many millions do you need?” And so, I found out quickly that here in Vegas, the only gamblers are the people that come and gamble. Everybody else, they would say, “It’s a great idea. Do you have a videotape? Is the show done?” And I would say, “No. If the show would have been done, it wouldn’t be original, right? Here’s my track record. Here’s what I can do.”
After realizing that was not the way to go, I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I put a show together. A bunch of my friends at that time had been doing a lot of showcases, mainly in gay clubs, because it was the only place that would support entertainment, and I worked on that show for a little while. I booked a theater in a performing arts library and put together a show, and that was a catalyst for everything that came after. A year after that, I was able to put a show in the Venetian. And I reminded myself once again, “Okay, I’ve got to go in on this,” put my money where my mouth is, quite literally, and then, launched my producer career.
Vegas Report: You mention show creator a couple times. What’s the difference? And which one are you, a show creator or producer? Or are they the same thing?
Fernando: I don’t think they’re the same thing. Honestly, and I don’t mean this as a pejorative, but anybody can be a producer. It really just requires you saying, “Here’s my business card. I produce.” Somebody defined a producer – I don’t know if they were saying it on the best terms or the worst term – as “somebody who can get people to do things for them.” Maybe it is what it is. There are some producers that are geniuses. Look at Broadway producers, people that have written and directed and are really ground-breaking. Then there are other producers that have never created a thing in their lives, but that doesn’t mean that they’re bad.
A show creator, on the other hand, is somebody that’s a little bit more, I would say, on the creative side, on the writing side. Every idea starts with a seed of an idea that gets honed in as a writer. That tends to be the case. They both can work hand-in-hand. Sometimes, the roles are very blurry. Sometimes, they’re very well defined, but I think that’s a little bit of the difference from one to the other.
Vegas Report: At what point did showroom bookers, entertainment directors, theater owners start to take you seriously as a producer?
Fernando: Those are 2 excellent questions. So, yes, there is a moment. I think for me, it was after I did my first truly large-scale show called Zzyzyx. It was at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. It used to be the MGM Grand, which is the largest stage.
I had done a very small show called Zzyzyx, same exact name, and the general manager of the property loved the show. We got standing ovations. It was really good, a cute show. Very strong. Somehow, the entertainment director at Grand Sierra Resort found out about the show. It was a timing thing, which I believe a lot in. He asked if we could produce the show at his hotel. After debating whether or not we could do the show on short notice, [a group of close friends] and I decided to go for it. The show went excellent, beyond expectation. I’m not going to lie, that first time, I was scared. It was going from piloting a small Cessna to a 747 jet liner. My biggest fear is in disappointing the buyer, the client, the people that put their trust in you, the performers that decide to take your job over somebody else’s job. But it was great.
After that, it’s never smooth sailing. You basically have the scars to prove yourself to somebody else. Another buyer, entertainment director, or client will be able to see that. So, you achieved that. That’s excellent. They’re in the business. They get it. That was probably the moment.
Vegas Report: Do you still pitch today? Is the live pitch still required, or do you find that a video from your past show is enough to close a deal?
Most of my deals right now have been approached, or me approaching. I’m not going to say, “Yeah, people are calling me. The phone is ringing left and right.” It’s not the case. You still have to pitch people, but it’s different. It’s an email. It’s them going to your website, seeing what product you have. They contact people that you work with, sort of getting the buzz. And then, one day they call, “Hey, we’re looking at doing this. What do you think?”
Our complaint nowadays is you have entertainment directors who will not take a call, will not respond to an email. Forget about me. Established agents who have carved their mark here in Vegas can’t get through, and that’s a little inexcusable, because they’re the same people that complain that there’s nothing new when there is actually a lot of product out there.
Vegas Report: Where and how do you find inspiration for new creative concepts?
Fernando: I find that the shows are very much a little bit a reflection on the person. There’s always a unique element. You look at the shows that are being produced. Yes, it’s what the town wants, what the buyer wants, what the market needs. But they are always infused, painted with some strokes, that are the characteristics of that producer or show creator. For me, all the stories tend to be in the realm of the fantastic, the magical, and I don’t mean it as in a magic show. They always tend to be worlds that open up, like somebody finds a device or an element that opens up to another world.
Furia is a show that deals with superheroes. It’s about a person wanting to become a superhero, because in his mind, that’s the way he can make the world better. It is about a lost traveler from another world, another dimension. We don’t really specify it, but maybe that’s part of me always feeling as an outsider, because I was born in Argentina and left when I was 2 years old. So, I’m not really Argentine, but I have all the elements of the culture of Argentina. I grew up in Italy until I was 9 years old. So, I have those elements, but I’m not really. I grew up in Puerto Rico. I’ve always felt American. I’ve been here since I was 17 years old, but at the same time, I have all these things. So, I guess, subliminally maybe, that show was because of that. It was about somebody, from an outsider’s point of view, in many ways, how they view the world.
Borealis is one of my favorite shows. It’s a holiday show written from the perspective of somebody that hates holiday shows. That’s my biggest show, but I’m honest. I cringe at holiday music and the over-commercialization of the season. So, I tried to put a sprinkle of that without hitting people over the head, because at the end of the day, my mission is to entertain. That is the deal, but if I can, I try to put a thread throughout the show of what the show should be.
Vegas Report: So, are you willing to do a holiday show if someone asked you to do a traditional holiday show?
Fernando: Yes, because in my way, my mission is that of, I guess, a general. The president tells the general, “We’re going to invade X country,” and the general can say, “Well, I don’t think you should. I think you really should reconsider that,” and the president will say, “That’s wonderful. Love your opinion, but we’re going forward.” So now, the mission of the general is to achieve that. So, the same thing happens with me. I cannot be so self-centered and egocentric to say, “I have a vision of a show, and we are going to do Shakespeare – as told from the point of view of snails and it will be spoken in Arabic.” There’s a place for that, I’m sure. It’s called LA or New York. Sorry.
Vegas Report: A small black-box theater somewhere.
Fernando: Yes, well a black-box theater, you’re going to get a bunch of hipsters who are going to absolutely love the show, even though they don’t understand it, and that’s wonderful. That’s great, but that’s not what my mission is. My mission is … somebody told me very crass, an executive said, “My job is to screw everybody out of their money when they go to the casino. Your job is to make them forget.” OK. I get it.
Vegas Report: Does it matter if you are based in Vegas as a producer? Does that help or hinder your chances of being a successful producer?
Fernando: I will answer you with facts. Not to sound like a politician. The fact is that all the great producers are not from Vegas. In fact, everybody else made it everywhere else, except here. It goes back to the first thing that I said. The only people that gamble, that want to take a gamble here, are the gamblers. You look at amazing shows. I’m talking about really, really amazing shows. Shows that were groundbreaking. Let’s start. Viva La Girls, of course came from Paris, Moulin Rouge came from Paris, established productions, and they came from outside. Let’s move a little bit forward in time. Blue Man Group, not from here, not originated from here. There are shows that originate here, but I’m talking about world-class shows that made an impact. One of the latest ones, Absinthe, [one of] my favorite shows, originated outside of Vegas.
For better or worse, that’s basically the case, and now, we’ve had a little bit of the flirting with Broadway shows. That’s debatable whether they’re successful or not. So, the short answer to your question, no, you absolutely do not need to be from Vegas. Most people are successful everywhere else, and then they come to Vegas to set up shop here, and the reverse is true. Just because you’re successful somewhere else does not guarantee success – this is the graveyard for many, many successful producers.
Vegas Report: Yeah, Vegas is definitely the one city where it’s completely different than other cities. You can take a show and tour many different places and try to land it in Vegas. If you don’t know the market, it’s not going to work.
Fernando: Right. And then, from the outside, it’s very easy to think that they know the market, but there are just a lot of things. I know what they do. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I’ve sat next to producers who see these shows. In their minds these shows are not very good, and they realize these shows have been around for 8, 10, 15 years. They assume similarly that their show is going to be great. “I have great costumes,” they say. That’s literally what somebody said to me, and they don’t understand what it’s all about. A lot of times, being able to sell a ticket to an unsuspecting tourist who doesn’t know the difference between a high-end show and a mediocre show is the key. Unfortunately, that’s kind of the truth.
Vegas Report: If you could give one piece of advice to a new producer or a performer that wants to get into the business side of entertainment, what would your advice be?
Fernando: Hands down, grit. G-R-I-T. Grit. Grit will trump talent, will trump pretty much anything. You just have to look at people around you. That’s not to say, not to put time and effort into talent. I think you need to be basically a sponge absorber, as much information and knowledge as possible. You have to really love what you do, because this is an up-and-down business. Every producer will tell you. The great ones, people I admire, I see them when they’re up and at their top, and I see them lose a lot of product and shows and be at the bottom. The one thing that makes them successful in my mind is that they continually “do.” Just like the drop of water that will beat the mountain and carve a chasm in it, it’s the same thing. So, to any performer, don’t quit. Don’t quit. Just keep at it, and you’ll make it.
Vegas Report: Is there a dream production that you want to create?
Fernando: I think if there was a dream production, it’s a very personal thing, but it would be to create a musical based on the music of Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor, I absolutely admire. That’s my Frank Sinatra. That was a defining moment in my life, when I was 17, 18 years old and Trent Reznor had Nine Inch Nails, and I loved their music. So, I would love to do a very artistic visually appealing show based on the music from Nine Inch Nails.