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Professional theater has played role in Pat Gorecki's life of public service

Pat Gorecki, 79, who helps run the local League of Women Voters, says the theater has influenced her public speaking skills.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Pat Gorecki, 79, who helps run the local League of Women Voters, says the theater has influenced her public speaking skills.

NEW PORT RICHEY — When Joe and Pat Gorecki downsized two years ago to their Gulf Harbors condominium, among the memorabilia that surfaced were photos of 18-year-old Pat in a college production of Girl Crazy.

So when the updated version of the George and Ira Gershwin musical, Crazy for You, started its run last month at the Richey Suncoast Theatre, of course, the Goreckis had to go.

Pat said the updated story of a New York song-and-dance man who helps rescue a Nevada music hall is "nothing like I remember" of the dude ranch romp she danced her way through in 1947, except for songs such as Embraceable You and I Got Rhythm. But it allowed the Goreckis to reflect how their lives, filled with initiative and service, nevertheless always seemed to have a show business backdrop.

You may know of Pat, 79. She helps run the local League of Women Voters. When people have questions about judges or ballot amendments that the Supervisor of Elections Office isn't allowed to answer, the clerks send those voters to Pat. She served as a Minnesota delegate to the 1980 Republican National Convention, and she still can't say no to appointments. Among other posts, she now serves on the citizens' oversight committee tracking how the Penny for Pasco sales tax money is spent.

Her husband, Joe, 82, was a record-setting hurdler in high school who started an insurance company in Kansas. He visited his 21-state operation by plane, starting with a Piper Colt he bought when a flight instructor said lessons would be $12, but $6 "if you have your own plane." Later, he formed a Minnesota real estate company that one of the couple's four children runs today.

Now retired, the one service for which the couple gets paid is staffing a Holiday precinct at election time.

The black and white photos of Pat high-stepping in the chorus line are from more than 60 years ago, yet so crisp they could have been taken yesterday.

Pat points to herself — the blond in the center — and notes her leg was bent and her arm was not graceful like the next girl's. "I never was a good dancer," she said.

She was tapped as a dancer for the November 1947 musical production at Iowa State College — as if she didn't have enough to do as a full-time student who also competed on the swim team and marched in the band. The pictures from Girl Crazy show Pat as a young, leggy blond, but her husband of 57 years says that's not what captivated him.

"She's got more stuff up here," he said, pointing to his head, "than anybody I've ever run into.

"She was the first woman to go through Iowa State College at Ames and get a degree in industrial economics," he added.

But even though the Goreckis focused on left-brained pursuits, "we've been around professional theater," Pat said. Four years after they were married, the 1955 movie Picnic came to shoot in their small town of Hutchinson, Kan.

Always one to try things, Pat got a job as an extra on the set.

She laughs at how the producers spray-painted a junk pile green to blend in with the landscape. Star William Holden was drinking "a little in those days," and hung out a hotel window, prompting concern among the producers, the fire department and some of the locals.

"Well, the hotel was nine stories tall," Joe explained.

Joe was really the one with the theatrical ambitions, Pat said. When they had a son in 1960, he visited her in the hospital in his uniform as Col. Purdy in a Hutchinson production of Teahouse of the August Moon. He describes another community theater role, as the lead in a production of Bus Stop in the round, as "the most fun I ever had."

Their daughter Heather is the only nondeaf person to star in an off-Broadway production of Children of a Lesser God, her mother said. But her older friends were only just making it in the theater, so Heather and the theater student she married moved to St. Augustine so he could become the technical director at the Flagler Auditorium. She still acts in the equity Limelight Theater there and their children have delighted in playing roles as well.

And Pat's mother, who got a college degree in the late 1920s when such a thing was unusual for a woman, co-wrote a play with another woman, and passed the urge to try things to Pat, who passed it to her children.

Pat said theater as a theme in her life has shown up most in her public speaking, which "I have done (in) more places than I can talk about."

"Even if you don't go into theater, it gives you the ability to be able to stand up in front of people and express yourself."

Her advice to anyone: Try out.

If you go

Final weekend

Richey Suncoast Theatre concludes its musical comedy Crazy for You this weekend, with showings at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, at the theater, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. Tickets are $16 for adults, $8 for children. The box office is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Saturday and an hour before each show. Call (727) 842-6777.

Professional theater has played role in Pat Gorecki's life of public service 03/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:15pm]

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