This week we chat with Paul Berg, who has served as executive director of the Carrollwood Cultural Center for five years.
Q: During your five years as executive director, what is the most significant change you've observed?
A: The obvious answer is how quickly we have grown. The center opened just before the economy went south — at that point it was really anybody's guess as to how we would be affected. We were not only able to survive, but we have also grown in every programmatic area.
I think one of the most significant changes I have seen has been with me. When I started with the center I had no idea how much the organization would affect me. I have been so fortunate to meet and work with some incredible individuals who have really touched my life. The job of an executive director is to effect change in an organization. I can honestly say that the people involved with and the patrons of the Carrollwood Cultural Center have changed me for the better.
Q: Your 2013 entertainment schedule is wide ranging. How do you gauge the interests and tastes of prospective patrons?
A: It is a very difficult process of charting the stars and cross-referencing the rise and fall of the tide. In all seriousness, when we first opened, we had to guess at what we thought the community would be interested in. We have gotten better over the past few years at listening to our patrons and programming our entertainment accordingly and have seen more and more sold-out shows.
Q: Over the years, which performance(s) proved most popular?
A: Our theater performances have been very popular. The center created its own theater company, MAS Theatre, which has produced "Hairspray," "The King and I," "The Music Man" and "Murder's in the Heir," to name a few.
Our Featured Performers Series also has been incredibly successful. This series has featured performers such as The New Christy Minstrels, Have Gun Will Travel and Caroline Cole. We are very fortunate to have Jonathan Edwards and Janis Ian performing in February and May.
Perhaps the program that has the most loyal following is our Jazz with Jim series. We are fortunate to have a wonderful partner in Jim Burge, who puts together this monthly concert and brings in guest musicians to join him on stage.
Q: The center is in Carrollwood and bears the community's name, but it draws from a wide area, does it not?
A: There was a lot of confusion when we first opened our doors in 2008. We would receive daily calls from community members asking if the center was only open to residents of Carrollwood Village. Not only are we open to everyone everywhere, people have traveled an hour or more, sometimes even from out of state, for a show, class, to view our art gallery or rent our facility for a private event.
Q: What was the last book you read?
A: I am currently reading "11/22/63" by Stephen King, which is about a schoolteacher who travels back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. I love it so far. King does a good job of pulling history into a fiction novel, but his real strength is creating characters you are really rooting for. The previous book I read was "Zombie Christmas Carol" by Michael G. Thomas based on "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. It had zombies, it had Dickens; what more could you ask for?