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Sewickley Academy grad's venture grows into international cultural exchange

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Hi Joanne, Attached is a photo of Peter Jr. and Lisa Booth visit with Peter Kasule, artistic director of Spirit of Uganda. This drum maker's shop is on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda.
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Lisa Booth (back row, second from left) works with Deirdre Valente, vice president at Lisa Booth Management (back, far left) as they spend time with talent from Papermoon Puppet Company from Jogyakarta, Indonesia, one of the participating ensembles in Center Stage last year.

Despite being constantly surrounded by performers from around the world, Lisa Booth said she never had any musical talent.

“I tried out for a music group” but didn't make it, said Booth, 63, a 1967 Sewickley Academy graduate.

That didn't stop her from becoming part of the performing world on a different level. Booth is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her company, Lisa Booth Management Inc., based in New York City, which has managed, marketed, conceived, produced and organized musical projects in more than 400 cities and 51 countries.

“Now that I look back, I think I was always more of a producer or organizer than a performer,” said Booth, daughter of the late Elizabeth (“Bobby”) — a former academy kindergarten teacher — and the late Lloyd Booth.

“I enjoyed coming up with ideas for themes for dances, producing a film of a medieval jousting match for the eighth-grade Ivanhoe project. I had wanted to hold a joust on the soccer field in front of the school, but that got nixed pretty quickly,” she said.

She began working with the American Dance Festival at Connecticut College — from which she graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology — and then in New York City. She eventually went out on her own, helping New York City performers who wanted to tour.

“It's a good thing I didn't know how hard it would be until it was too late to back out,” she said.

Booth's late husband, Peter Tierney, always was supportive, as is her son, Peter Jr., 26.

Her husband “encouraged me even though I made virtually no money for the first year or so and took over the second bedroom in our New York City apartment for ‘the office,'” she said.

Although Booth doesn't travel back to the area much — except for a trip a few years ago for her 40-year class reunion — she has worked with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust many times.

“She's one of my favorite people,” said Paul Organisak, vice president of programming and executive director of the Pittsburgh Dance Council through Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

“She's a remarkable woman, aconsummate professional and has been a joy to work with on every engagement we've done. She's one of those people in the field who holds the respect of presenters, agents and artists. She's a real leader in the field.”

Booth said her company has evolved into more than a business that books performers. It now is part of a cultural musical exchange.

The company is general manager of Center Stage, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

The state department selects countries such as Pakistan, Morocco and Vietnam, and Booth said it is then her company's job to find the artists, and book and manage tours for each ensemble.

In addition to performances, the company focuses on planning school visits, artist-to-artist exchanges, panels, pot-luck suppers and parties.

“Witnessing attitudes changing on both sides of this project and appreciating the freedoms we enjoy through new eyes are just a few of the immensely rewarding experiences this kind of work offers,” she said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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