Patricia Sternberg, 82, theater educator, author

Patricia Sternberg
Patricia Sternberg
Posted: July 03, 2013

Patricia Sikes Sternberg, 82, an author, educator, and drama therapist, died June 23 of respiratory failure in the Hospice of Palm Beach County in Boynton Beach, Fla.

She had retired to Florida in 2005 after many years living in Abington.

Ms. Sternberg was a professor in the theater department at Hunter College in New York City from 1978 to 2005, commuting from her home in Montgomery County for 27 years.

Prior to that, she taught in the theater department at Pennsylvania State University-Ogontz (now Abington) Campus from 1971 to 1978.

Ms. Sternberg wrote plays for young audiences. While at Hunter, the performances she directed were often the first theater experience for New York City's public-school children.

Long before disability studies were common, Ms. Sternberg saw a way to dovetail those studies with the performing arts. Theater, she believed, could be an effective tool for self-expression, no matter what a person's physical limitations.

She gave acting lessons to Hunter's disabled students and taught other faculty members to be disability-blind by example, said her son David. Many of the disabled students went on to appear in the 27 productions she directed at Hunter.

Ms. Sternberg was also a certified drama therapist who believed theater could heal. She wrote two basic textbooks in the field: Sociodrama: Who's in Your Shoes? and Theatre for Conflict Resolution: In the Classroom and Beyond.

"Over the course of her career, Pat touched a great many lives in very positive ways," said Mira Felner, acting chair of the Hunter College Theater Department. "The department mourns the loss of her generous, loving spirit."

Ms. Sternberg was born in Detroit. In 1952, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in theater from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. After college, she moved to New York, where she studied acting with Lee Strasberg at the American Theater Wing. She received a master's degree in theater arts from Villanova University in 1972.

In 1956, she wed Richard F. Sternberg. The two were married for 53 years. He died in 2009.

While at Penn State, Ms. Sternberg taught classes in acting, theater history, and creative dramatics for classroom teachers. She also ran a group called Spotlighters that gave many students their first chance to act. Among others, the group produced Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward, Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie, and Picnic by William Inge.

She collaborated with Dolly Beechman on writing historical plays for young audiences, including Treaty Never Broken, Philadelphia - Parade of Progress, and Sojourner, a play about Sojourner Truth. The plays toured Philadelphia-area schools and recreation centers.

She practiced drama therapy at Eugenia Hospital in Lafayette Hill from 1974 until 1978. She also directed productions for young audiences at the Cheltenham Arts Center.

Ms. Sternberg regularly attended the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Bristol Riverside Theatre, and Act II Playhouse in Ambler. She also was a regular in the pool at the Abington Club.

In addition to her son, Ms. Sternberg is survived by daughters Ruth and Anne Meador and two grandsons.

A memorial service will be held in the fall. Donations may be made to the Drama Therapy Fund, 1626 Leavenworth St., Manhattan, Kan. 66502.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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