New Theater Instructor Comes to STE

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Freshman writer Jackson Barr, recently interviewed the new theater instructor at STE, Ms. Pastorek, about how she came to the world of theater and found STE as her new home. Here is what she had to say:

1) How did you get into theater?

    “I have always loved theatre. I feel that it is in my blood – looking back at my ancestors almost all of them were performers in some way. Probably one of the most interesting stories started with a great great grandfather in Scotland, John Ogilve Stewart, who was a Shakespearean actor. When my mother reached the age of 17 she also joined the symphony as a violinist. Once she took a position with the Houston Symphony, she met my father who was a bassist in the orchestra, and the rest is history. I grew up surrounded with music and culture. My earliest babysitters were the backstage guards at Jones Hall downtown. Growing up backstage at a theatre, I soon realized that I felt most at home in that environment.”

2) What is your background in theater?

    “I started the violin at age 3, and continued throughout school. However, I was most happy when creating characters, putting together wild costumes, and putting on plays with my friends. My mother enrolled me at HITS Theatre, and I finally felt like I had found my niche. We performed full-scale musicals at Miller Outdoor Theatre. I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I continued to sing, dance, and act, fitting in as many lessons and classes as possible into my busy school schedule at St. John’s. I was the host of a local TV show my sophomore year, and it helped me to realize further that live theatre was my true passion. Because my singing voice had begun to mature with a large classical sound, I focused on vocal performance at Eastman School of Music. The program focused mostly on opera and classical music, but we also crossed over into the musical theatre world. During the summers I performed with the Ohio Light Opera Company. We would perform 8 to 9 productions “in rep,” meaning that every day we performed a different full-length musical or operetta – sometimes two different productions in one day. I was in heaven.

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  I went to grad school at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where the program was more focused towards opera. The musical theatre bug kept calling me back, however. The responsibility of overseeing  productions was thrilling, and direction helped to shape who I am today.

  I finished my degree requirements mid-semester and didn’t even wait until graduation to sell all of my belongings and move to New York City. I began auditioning the day I landed. Months of the daily audition grind – up at 5am to wait in line, running to sometimes 3 different auditions a day, working all night to afford rent – I lived out of a suitcase for 5 years straight. I premiered vocal works, met famous producers and directors, but also did thankless work from time to time to pay the bills. I dressed up as Marilyn Monroe and attended sports games at Madison Square Garden for a stunt by the MSG Network. I passed out flyers on the street in 10 degree weather. I was living a thrilling and incredibly full life, while simultaneously being a bit detached from the real world and feeling quite lonely.

  After 10 years of this whirlwind existence, I decided it was time for a change. I am incredibly tall, and so I kept getting offered the same types of roles. At age 35 I “retired” from my life as a New York performer, packed up a truckload of memories that I had gathered over the past decade from around the world, and drove back home to Houston.”

3) How did you come to STES?

  “Immediately upon arriving, there was more work here than I knew what to do with. St. John’s had me begin a summer musical theatre program, and I directed and choreographed 18 shows over the next two summers. I began a private voice studio out of my home, and I began to sing professionally around town. I premiered a few works with HGO, as well as singing with the Houston Chamber Choir.pastorekphoto1

 Very suddenly I was offered the job as the Interim Artistic Director of HITS Theatre, my old stomping grounds! I was thrilled to help this company move in a new and prosperous direction. In addition to the class productions at the home theatre in the Heights, we mounted two productions that year at Miller Outdoor Theatre, The Addams Family and Legally Blonde, playing to audiences of up to 8,000 Houstonians per night! I directed an a cappella group that performed downtown at Jones Hall, singing before concerts starring Broadway performers Sutton Foster and Nicole Parker. Old friends and HITS alumni traveled back to Houston from their busy Broadway schedules to coach the new generation of HITS students. That year HITS was named the number one community theatre by The Leader. Sadly, as is common with many small arts organizations, the theatre had to make the hard decision to move forward without an artistic director. It was a disappointment, but I was seeing the same thing happen to friends across the country with their arts organizations.

  Luckily, the city of Houston once again embraced me with open arms and I found myself as busy as ever, directing and teaching theatre at Awty International School, choreographing at local high schools, the University of Houston Moores Opera House, and at Texas A&M Commerce, as well as teaching dance and voice lessons.

  The phone call from St. Thomas Episcopal was quite unexpected, and I had to quickly make the decision to focus on one student body. The gift of teaching at one location and seeing your students grow and mature into young professionals is incredibly valuable. I immediately accepted.”

4) What is your favorite Broadway production?

“I love Kismet for its lush score, and clever lyrics, I love Movin’ Out for the dancing, I love The Producers because it has my favorite Swedish blonde role in it, I love Starlight Express because there is nothing else like it, and I love Hamilton because of its ability to communicate to audiences of all ages, colors, and backgrounds.”

This has been a quick look at our new theater teacher here at STES.  Look for Mrs. Pastorek this fall with the school’s production of Oliver!.

All photo credit to Miranda Graves.