For nearly ten years, I have had the privilege of working as the Artistic Director for the Carrollwood Cultural Center. During that time, changes to the programming increased attendance, revenue and resulted in profit margins. As of December 18, I have stepped down as Artistic Director to relocate and pursue other opportunities. Working here has been a highlight of my career that started when I was 11 doing lights for my older brother’s garage band at school and church dances. What made the position here pleasurable was, from day one, Executive Director Paul Berg, made it clear that I did not work for him, but we worked together as a staff.
For the first several months I was here, I’d get a phone call, and later one of the volunteers answering the phone asked me, “Was that really so-and-so calling you?”
There have been many highlights that stand out during my tenure here, including:
- Working with Grammy-winning artists Janis Ian, The New Christy Minstrels, and Tom Chapin, as well as Grammy and Emmy-award winning artist Melanie, whose career kicked off when she performed at Woodstock. Plus, Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop; Mallory and her mother Shari Lewis won Emmys for the Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop TV show, with Mallory as producer and writer.
- Having flutist Jim Walker, founder of the jazz ensemble Free Flight, was a guest artist with Jim Burge and The Jazz Directions. Walker has played on more than 700 movie soundtracks; that is him playing the hauntingly beautiful penny whistle on the theme song for the Oscar-winning soundtrack from the movie “Titanic.”
- Working with Dan Kamen to bring his one-man show, “Comedy in Motion,” to the Center. Dan was the Wooden Indian in the cult film “Creepshow 2” and was wired to be several digital Martians in “Mars Attacks!” He also taught Robert Downey Jr. the Charlie Chaplin routines for his Oscar-nominated performance for the film “Chaplin,” and Johnny Depp the comedy routines for his Golden Globe-nominated performance in “Benny and Joon,” and how to roll a coin through his fingers for “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
- Expanding the field trip program to serve nearly 3,000 elementary school students a year — not bad for a 200 seat venue.
- Working with Tom Ziegelhofer, Jim Burge, and Ted Hope to revitalize the Hillsborough schools All-County Jazz Band after a ten-year absence. Helping with the growth and reputation of MAS Theatre.
- Working with Keith Eisenstadt and his infamous phrase, “I’ve got a stupid idea,” which led to our flying a UFO over the audience during the comedy “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” building a levitating fireplace for “Nana’s Naughty Knickers,” and lots of fun using pyrotechnics.
Working with co-directors Paul Berg and Aaron Washington on the set for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and telling me they needed me to design and build two staircases. And oh, by the way, they have to be movable on wheels. By Thursday. They were done the next day. Walking in another morning and they told me, “We need you to get the rights for the musical “Titanic. ASAP.” My response was, “Ok. And do you want to have the ship sink on stage?” They looked at me like I just walked out of my spaceship. Which I had done decades earlier. Then I gave them three simple options to make the ship sink without importing an iceberg from Northern Canada.
- Oh, and there’s the time I used gaffer tape from behind the soundboard and popsicle sticks from the art room as a splint for a broken finger before I got to the doctor, and Ruth relabeling the Band-Aids in the workbench to Richard-Aids.
The list goes on. I would like to especially thank the efforts of Jim Burge, Mary Jo Hahn, Joshua Hobbs, and Reed Stricsek.
Overall it has been a wonderful experience working with the staff, volunteers, and board to help the Center move forward in its mission to “….create culture through community and create community through culture.” We accomplished a lot! And I am overjoyed, quite happy, and proud to say that Aaron Washington has been named interim Artistic Director. Hopefully, it will become a permanent position for him to move the Center programming to the next level.
So this Yankee, raised in Detroit, Rochester and Boston, is moving back to Baton Rouge to be closer to the majority of his family, where he will continue to wreak havoc by teaching his nieces and nephews how to tape open the rinse hose on the kitchen sink, or use a rope to tie their brother or sister’s bedroom door shut from the outside….
So it is with sadness I leave but with joy for being closer to most of my family and especially my girlfriend, Janet.
P.S. Pray for Janet and consider nominating her for sainthood for putting up with me.