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Steve Pacek on how Philadelphia theatre artists raise each other up.

Feb 14, 2017

As we get ready to celebrate over two decades of the Haas Award at our Haas Happy Hour on February 27, we’re sharing reflections from past recipients in this series.

Steve Pacek is Philly born and bred, but spent time living in other cities for a while. His very first professional show here was in 2002, though he moved back full time in 2006. In 2012, he received the Haas Award.

Steve’s first love is being an actor. But he now frequently wears other hats as director, teacher, associate artistic director, Theatre Philadelphia board member, special theatrical event co-ordinator, deviser, dabbling in scenic design, the list goes on...

On that night in 2012 when Steve received the Haas it was “Totally surreal!  I was helping put the Celebration together that year and was still in my "costume" from the opening number (guy-liner galore) when they announced my name.  The look of pride mixed with sheer excitement on my mom's face (who happened to be my date for the evening) still makes me tear up to remember.  That year, a number of past recipients lined the stage and I remember so many hugs and high fives happening down the line before I reached the podium.  Beaming faces of people who I had looked up to and admired.  Still do.  Was I really about to join them!?!?  Then, two more hugs...one from James Ijames and the best one that's saved for last...from dear Carole. I remember her whispering "Congratulations.  You did it!" in my ear......  And that's where the clarity stops.  I remember very little about what happened next, as is sometimes the case when I'm lost in experiencing a truly profound moment for the first time.  I think I spoke of my family, my 11th Hour gang and of my now impossibly long lost love, Jorge.  I must have shared my belief in our community and my gratitude for anyone who has ever taught me anything. The Haas Award only reaffirmed what I had already known to be true.  Philadelphia is my home.  Period.”

How does our city set itself apart in term of its theatre scene?  “There are places like Philadelphia, DC and Minneapolis...all of which are thriving regional arts centers where people really seem to give a damn.  But something about Philadelphia... artists can build a life here.  They can buy a house, start a family...own their own piece of the "American dream" even as an artist!  And the support for each other is really special.  I was lucky enough to study at Ithaca College for undergrad, and something I really marveled at there (as did my friends from other programs who came to visit) was how supportive and committed everyone was to each other's success.  I feel the same way about the Philadelphia theatre community. We are kind.  We really want each other to succeed.  We are always willing to lend a helping hand.  We challenge each other.  We raise each other up.  These are things I see...what I witness.  I can get onboard with that.  I want to be a part of that.”

Steve has received support from “endless amounts of people.  From my mom and the rest of my family who held us together when my dad left, to my teachers who laid the foundation of a lasting technique, to those who continue to say "yes, and..." to my craft (the Arden, 11th Hour, Theatre Horizon), anyone who has ever told me "no," every student who I've ever had the pleasure of teaching (including my fellow Evolvers here in Philly), my collaborators who dare to enter a creation space with me, my audiences who demand that I never rest on my laurels, my loves (past, present and future), to my friends who have held me together when things have fallen apart, other bold and fearless story-tellers, my dog and anyone who celebrates what unites us as a people instead of what divides us.”

On the up-and-comers who inspire Steve today: “It's hard for me to single out in such a collaborative art, but...my EVOLVE STUDENTS, the apprentices at companies who roll up their sleeves in order to gain experience and knowledge, the recent grads who believe there's a future for them in Philly, those devisers who choose to break new ground to see what the future has in store, the unsung heros from backstage and behind office doors with whom the work truly could not be done.”

Steve is a proud founding board member and current board secretary of Theatre Philadelphia. Join  the celebration of the artists and supporters that comprise our community at the Haas Happy Hour on February 27.

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