Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts has hired Michele Rizzo-Berg to step in as new director and lead the way through this pandemic time. Rizzo-Berg served as center director for 15 years at the …
Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts has hired Michele Rizzo-Berg to step in as new director and lead the way through this pandemic time. Rizzo-Berg served as center director for 15 years at the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore, where she booked over 400 headline artists while also honing the intricacies of the theatre world in other positions, namely at Westbury Music Fair and Nassau Coliseum. Rizzo-Berg spoke to the Long Island Advance over the phone.
Long Island Advance: Will the Patchogue Theatre open in September?
Michele Rizzo-Berg: Right now, no one knows what’s going to happen with live entertainment, but I’ve been brought in to oversee how we will move forward. What we’re wrestling with is how can we safely get people into the building, what if we are mandated to cut the patronage in half or a quarter, and what do we have to do based on those scenarios. We’re going to start the conversation this week with the board. We haven’t heard from Gov. Cuomo about a Phase 4 opening. I don’t know if opening in September will hold. We’re really waiting on that from Gov. Cuomo. If the governor says Aug. 15, Phase 4 is open, then yes.
LIA: Tell us about your background.
MRB: I had started my career at Westbury Music Fair beginning as a secretary and moved up. I became their talent coordinator when working there and also got the opportunity to work at the Jones Beach Amphitheater. Then at Nassau Coliseum I booked their Expo Center. The big promoters would call for dates, including the Islanders. Then I found my way to the Boulton Center. I started as the person who programs the room and as I got further in, began doing more. As center director, I was responsible for all the programming, the budgeting, the staffing, day-to-day operations and full-time and part-time staff. I think that’s one of the reasons PTPA looked to bring me in. I’d pitch in if something was needed, even making the popcorn if there was a void there. To this day, I can’t see live entertainment the way everyone else does because I’m always wondering what goes on behind he scenes. People don’t realize there’s so much that happens before performers go on stage. There’s a whole bunch of people in the middle of that behind the scenes.
LIA: You’ve worked with a lot of famous performers. Do you have any favorites?
MRB: They’ve all been great to work with, but off the top of my head, Robert Kline, Christopher Cross. I did a show with Megan Mullally from “Will and Grace,” Judy Collins. At Westbury, Paul Anka liked to book the show’s details himself; he called me all the time. Edwin McCain, I loved being around him. The guys from Poco, I was on the front line when they were sound checking. When I met Richie Havens, talking to him about his experiences at Woodstock. He was so wonderful to talk to. I had the absolute fortune and opportunity to be around people who inspired people with their lyrics, like Roger McGuinn with The Byrds.
LIA: What’s your favorite music and tell us a little about yourself.
MRB: I’ve always been a rock and roll girl. I grew up in the 1980s and was part of that glam rock scene. But as you turn older your tastes do change. I currently live in Bellport; I’m a marathon finisher and have five dogs and two cats. Also part of doing the jobs I’ve done, I’m fortunate to be friends with the local musicians, so I’ve been part of the community. The village and Patchogue, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a really special place. It’s innovative and fresh, and there are a lot of people who want to do good.