After graduating with a degree in Spanish, Sara Garonzik never imagined she would become a leader in the Philadelphia theater community.
“When I first started, it was extremely rare for a woman to be directing,” Garonzik said. “So I was unaware that there were even other opportunities.”
Like many graduates, Garonzik believed her career would be steered by her college degree. After graduating from Temple in 1972, she immediately enrolled in grad school at the University of Pennsylvania to attain a teaching certificate. But a chance encounter led her down a career path she hadn’t previously considered.
“There was a small up-and-coming theater group that was looking for new people,” Garonzik said. “They were willing to audition people who never acted before. It was a really horrible audition, but they accepted me anyway. And I was hooked.”
Despite the time she spent earning a graduate degree, Garonzik took a chance and dropped out of grad school. She realized teaching Spanish wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life. Instead, Garonzik took a day job to support her work with the theater company at night.
“We were so small,” she said. “Theater in Philadelphia was different then. We would self-produce shows at local storefronts.”
Garonzik changed her focus from acting to directing and producing. When a close friend told her about an open assistant’s job at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, she jumped at the chance to prove herself.
“I think it would be harder today if I were that age then, knocking on doors of theater companies,” she said. “Plus, now there are grad schools that teach you all about running nonprofits. So, you can study all that stuff that I learned on the fly all those years ago.”
“Philadelphia Theatre Company became my graduate school,” she added.
Sharon Kling, the manager of board and administrative services at Philadelphia Theatre Company, has worked with Garonzik for more than 12 years, and said it’s “quite clear” Garonzik is “driven by a passion for great theater.”
“She’s very much a hands-on producer, involved in every aspect of what the company puts forth to bring about the best possible productions,” Kling added.
In spite of not having much theater experience or an education in the arts, Garonzik rose in the ranks at the company. She began directing and producing shows, learning how to budget and finance projects and eventually became the leader of the company.
“You eventually stick with something and you pick up a lot of skills along the way,” she said. “I was lucky because I had this opportunity. I jumped in with this company in the beginning right during a transitional period. Right when they were looking for bright new people coming in.”
Garonzik was able to grow with the company, spending most of her life building a legacy that would become nationally acclaimed.
The executive managing director of the company, Priscilla Luce, has known Garonzik since first serving on the board of directors in 2007. Together, they have dedicated their time toward leading the theater into the next phase of the company’s growth.
“Her exceptional artistic taste and the warm relationships she established and maintains with playwrights, actors and theatrical designers across the country have helped to make PTC and Philadelphia a desirable home for them, which in turn has helped to build Philadelphia into the great theater town it is today,” Luce said.
Katelyn Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.