Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Go South with the Byham Theater and Grammy-Nominated Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Go South with the Byham Theater and Grammy-Nominated Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole

Article excerpt

Paul Organisak was in New York this morning, battling a cold.

But the show -- as he knows all too well -- must go on.

Mr. Organisak has been executive director of the Pittsburgh Dance Council since 2001 and vice president of programming for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust since 2004. He's the man behind the shows.

Tonight, for example, Pittsburgh welcomes the Zydeco sound of Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole to the Byham Theater, Downtown. Mr. Organisak is the guy responsible for the booking.

"I often say I have the best job in the world," he said despite his congestion and scratchy throat.

"It's phenomenal. My job is to bring the best and the most diverse programming to Pittsburgh. Speaking of Cedric Watson and such artists, we're the only organization that would do something like that.

"I like to say my goal of programming is to complement what's already going on in Pittsburgh. We never want to compete. We have an amazing arts community in Pittsburgh. So what I try to do with Trust Presents is present artists like this."

Mr. Organisak grew up in Carrick and graduated from Carrick High School, located right behind his parents' home, in 1980. He went to the University of Michigan with thoughts of becoming a music professor.

After he graduated, he moved back to Pittsburgh, where he jumped into the arts community. He started with the dance council, then took on the programming duties with the Trust.

"I have to balance my artistic choices with financial responsibilities," he said. "I feel like our audience members are our shareholders, and I have a responsibility to serve them. So, sure, the audience for Cedric Watson tonight might be small, but that's OK, because it's an investment.

"I am in an incredible organization that is committed to taking financial risks. That's why we raise money. We're in an upside-down business. Everything we put on stage -- with the exception of Broadway or rock 'n' roll or sometimes comedy -- loses money. But we want to fill out the offerings in the city. We're willing to raise money to do that.

"Look at the offerings, the Dance Council, Children's Theater. They don't make money, but that's not what it's about. We can't always do 'Wicked.' It sells hundreds of thousands of tickets. It's an amazing show. The Broadway Series is remarkable in how people come out for it. But there are factions of the community that want something unique.

"It is not just about numbers coming Downtown, but bringing the widest representation Downtown."

The payoff?

"To me, it's about the quality of life in Pittsburgh," he said. "Enhancing the offerings available to the community. We have a responsibility, in the Trust, to bring people Downtown. The people who are coming to see Cedric Watson tonight ... that's our mission."

Mr. Watson, 28, grew up in southern Texas and Louisiana, listening to Creole music while the other kids were blasting hip- hop. …

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