Erica Berman

My day job is director of education and community engagement at the Children’s Theater of Madison. This position allows me to engage my passion for education and performance and I enjoy having the opportunity to support local youth.

I’m very proud of our student matinee program, which exposes over 10,000 area kids to the theater each year. This isn’t just a field trip—it’s an opportunity for them to be part of an educationally enriching experience and one that many have never had before.

We also have a high school residency program that serves young playwrights at five high schools and gives students the chance to write and refine a 10-minute play and to have a staged reading at the Overture Center.

We create curriculum study guides that teachers can use to find connections between theater and a variety of educational topics (ranging from math to social and emotional learning), run a theater program at the Goodman Center and work with Madison Urban Ministry.

We’re always asking ourselves how we can raise the next generation to be creative thinkers and use theater as a tool that can help people be their best self.

My most memorable caffeine is hard to pick. The best hot chocolate I ever had was at a Christmas Market in New York City. It was tiny, expensive and featured a truffle with hot chocolate poured over it. Another favorite was the chocolat chaud that I had the first time I was in Alsace (a region in France that borders Germany and Switzerland), sitting in a French café. And my last favorite was the high tea I had at the Pump Room in Bath, England. It was in a beautiful room with tall, cathedral ceilings and a piano playing. I had a delicious rooibos tea that they told me wasn’t available anywhere else in the world. I remember taking special pleasure in it, knowing I could never have it again.

My current caffeine of choice is hot chocolate. There’s something so romantic about curling up with a cup of it—even if it’s just at home with my cat, Juniper.

My favorite place for caffeine is Lakeside Street Coffee House. It’s a wonderful creative space and I actually wrote a play here! I love the high ceilings, the artwork, the windows looking out on the lake and that it’s beautiful but not too fussy. Lazy Jane’s Cafe is another favorite.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is my grandmother, Edith. She died two days before I was born and my name is actually because of this—in the Jewish tradition, when you want to honor someone you choose a name that starts with the same letter as theirs. I was supposed to be Alyssa Danielle and I much prefer Erica!

My grandmother was from Austria and a bit of a legend in our family. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how she was incredibly warm, kind and selfless—a real mensch. She is the only one of my relatives who came from Europe during World War II and we know she had a child with a German soldier. There is some paperwork in German that could likely offer some clues.

The fact that I was born so close to the time of her death has always made me feel like we have a spiritual connection and there have been things in my life that I can’t explain that I feel are linked to her. I’d love to have coffee with her and get to the bottom of her story.

If I were choosing people outside my family, I’d love to have a big party with a cross section of women from periods throughout time and around the world who cared about youth, art, culture and making the world a better place. I’d love to hear their stories and see how our struggles are different and shared.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: This isn’t a specific problem, but just the idea that sitting down in a neutral location and really listening to others could help inspire creativity and collaboration. Some of our biggest ideas have come from talking and listening. Sitting down together cracks the brain open in a new way and gives us new solutions to old problems. I’d love to see how caffeine could help more people experience the power of dialogue.