Front and Center Stage: Staff Spotlight
McCarter is so much more than what you see on our stages. Dozens of arts professionals are hard at work every day making a difference in the lives of others. This is the first is a series of short interviews with McCarter staff, where they discuss their backgrounds, their work, and their professional passions. We recently sat down with Brannan Berman, McCarter’s Director of Individual Giving.
What do you do at McCarter?
I work in the Development Department as the Director of Individual Giving. I oversee all giving and benefit fulfillment of our Artist’s and Director’s Circle members.
Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I was born in Freehold, NJ – Bruce (Springsteen) and I share the same hometown! I moved to West Windsor five years ago after living in New York City for about 10 years. I’ve also lived in Georgia, California, and Pennsylvania. I’d say that Southern California and Pittsburgh are where I really grew up with New York City being a constant in my life from the age of 13 on.
Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
I moved away from home when I was 15 to train with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, so I didn’t have the normal high school to college path. I didn’t go to college until much later - after dancing with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and American Repertory Ballet. I have an undergraduate degree from NYU in Applied Psychological Studies and went back to NYU for a masters in Performing Arts Administration.
What attracted you to McCarter Theatre Center?
I’ve been in the arts my entire life and I’ve always loved McCarter. The work created here is always of the highest caliber and the presented series has always resonated with me. Where else - outside of the city - can you see such diverse programming? McCarter is a gem and we are so fortunate to have it in our community! I danced on the Matthews Stage many years ago and I remember thinking at that time what a great performance space it was. There was always something special about climbing the spiral staircase to the stage in pointe shoes!
Fast forward to three years ago, after having spent a few years commuting into NYC to work at American Ballet Theatre with young twin boys at home, I knew I needed a change. I wanted to be a part of the Princeton community and also remain in the arts. When I learned that a position in the Development department was open, I jumped at the opportunity and I’m so glad that I did.
What projects are you currently working on in your position?
McCarter is a non-profit theater, and being in Development means that I am always raising money. We just finished a large end-of-calendar fundraising campaign. I’d say that I spend much of my time building relationships, educating people about what it means to be a non-profit theater and bringing them in to see what McCarter does – because we do so much more than what appears on our stages. Our department also creates a number of events throughout the year. In fact, we just had our fourth Opening Night dinner of the season for 102 people last weekend. Our Gala is coming up on April 28 and so we are in the thick of preparations for it. If you don’t have tickets yet- be sure to buy them now!
How has your work inspired you?
Development work can be exhausting, but it is also incredibly gratifying. Building relationships with so many people within the community is very rewarding. Knowing that these relationships directly impact the work we do at McCarter is even more so. There is nothing better than sharing with people who have a passion for the arts and McCarter the “inside or behind-the-scenes” of all that we do. It’s really inspiring to see them experience one of those “aha” moments when walking backstage or when they begin to really understand that their support truly is so vital to ensuring that McCarter continues to thrive as a world-class theater and performing arts center.
What is your favorite project that you have worked on thus far?
I have a handful of projects I’ve really enjoyed working on. Creating our Pop-Up Donor lounge remains one of my favorites, but I have to say that last year’s gala with The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis performing, has been my most rewarding. We had a Cuban theme and even organized a trip to Havana, Cuba. The gala was our most successful gala to date and the trip turned out to be even more remarkable than I expected. Bill Lockwood, myself and 18 McCarter supporters spent a week immersing ourselves in the culture of Cuba. We sat in on dance rehearsals, visited artist’s studios and were given private choral concerts inside historic churches. We even drove through the city in 1950’s convertibles! It was such a memorable and moving experience.
What’s your favorite way to de-stress?
I have 7 year old twin boys. Together, their energy is endless, but I love nothing more than to be with them. Movie night and bedtime with them is my favorite thing to do. It’s calming and just brings all that has happened in the course of the day into perspective. We’ve recently been reading Harry Potter which has been really fun because I never read the books and so it’s new for all three of us! Other de-stressers generally include a glass of wine and a book or latest TV show. I like to run and when I’m really stressed, I clean. Yes, I said clean! It totally de-stresses me. Ask the Development department about this and they will tell you that when things get stressful at work, I start cleaning!