The pathway of Pat Beyer's career has been a big circle that started and continues in theater -- but there were several stops along the way.
Growing up in Latrobe, Mrs. Beyer, 72, performed in school plays, then jumped head first into acting at 19 with the Greensburg Civic Theater and the Valley Players of Ligonier.
But when the time came to decide on a career that would put bread on her table, she chose hairstyling and enrolled in the Pittsburgh Beauty Academy. After graduating, she opened the Glamour Dock in Sharpsburg, where -- in addition to providing the usual hair and beauty services -- she also cut and styled wigs and did makeup for some guests on the local daytime television program, "The Marie Torre Show."
"It was a very creative time and I enjoyed it, but I also inhaled a lot of hair spray," recalled Mrs. Beyer, who now lives in Greensburg.
Her stylist career came to an end after 10 years when she tried her hand at real estate. Three years later, she gave up that job when, in 1969, she married Barney Beyer, a pathologist.
"I went to fundraisers, served on committees and played golf, lots of golf. I got really good at the game and played in the championship flights at the Latrobe Country Club. Saw Arnie [Palmer] a lot as well as Fred Rogers."
She remained interested in theater as an audience member but did not perform until the late 1960s when she joined the Valley Players in Ligonier.
Her immersion into theater became more intense when she played Joanne in Stephen Sondheim's "Company" in 1981 at Delmont's Apple Hill Playhouse, then purchased the theater a year later. That same year, she formed the Orchard Performing Arts Company, which is still Apple Hill's resident theatrical company.
"My husband helped on the financial end of the theater and was very supportive," she said. "And, I conned my family into helping out."
Mrs. Beyer's sister, Marge Kerr, became the business manager; her husband, Chip Kerr, became an Apple Hill character actor; another sister, Joyce Akins, worked on costumes and helped in the business office; Mrs. Akins' daughter, Leah, sang and danced and eventually went on to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University's theater department.
Mrs. Beyer's father, Andy Krehlik, helped build sets and mowed the grass, while her nephew, Cam Akins, played drums when needed. Her niece, Katie Kerr, practically grew up in the theater, where she had her own little director's chair.
"My mother, Marge, 94, 'entertained' the cast and crew trying to work by bringing in her guitar and singing while the actors tried to memorize their lines," Mrs. Beyer said. "She was the 'detractor' as opposed to the others, who were actors."
While serving as Apple Hill's executive director, Mrs. Beyer performed in more than 100 plays and produced more than 300 shows. Over the years, she took "a lot of acting classes" at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and workshops with local theater producer, Glenn Z. Gress. In 1984 she entered Seton Hill University, where she studied performance but still needs a few credits to earn a degree.
Because her position as executive director at Apple Hill is unpaid, she was eligible for and was awarded the Dominion VITA --or Volunteer in the Arts -- Award, presented by WQED Multimedia.
"When we bought the theater, we weren't into it to make money," she said. "We just wanted to keep it going into the future." She is unpaid, "so we can afford to enable others to stay working in the theater."
Several years ago, when Mrs. Beyer's husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, she curtailed some theater involvement to take care of him.
"My life changed dramatically when he became ill, and I've given up a lot of my duties," she said. "My husband and family mean a lot to me." Although Mrs. Beyer visits her husband of 44 years daily at his residential care facility, she can still be seen at the theater.
"I'm still vital and feel that I have some stuff left to give," she said. "But it's also important for me to bow out gracefully when the time comes and not muddy the waters of those carrying the theater into the future."
David Zuchowski, freelance writer: email@example.com. First Published July 3, 2013 9:00 AM