Living in recovery is a lot like improv—everything is brand new, you don’t know what is going to happen next, and you are constantly saying “yes and.” No one knows this better than acting teacher, former board member, and 2020 T’Shuvah Award recipient, Pat Train Gage. She was first introduced to Beit T’Shuvah in 1997 when she and her husband Sandy (who was Jewish Federation campaign chair at the time) visited all the different agencies the federation supported. “I was instantly drawn to Beit T’Shuvah,” she says. “I just loved everything about it. It was a little bohemian; it wasn’t very structured. I gravitated to it..”
During this time Pat had just gotten her master’s in theater arts and was teaching a class at Santa Monica College. After realizing the impact the arts could make on a place like Beit T’Shuvah, she mixed a handful of students from Santa Monica College with some residents from Beit T’Shuvah and put on a play for the community. She even managed to get the students to pledge that they would not party before or after rehearsals and that they would become a part of the community. Only Pat Train Gage could convince a group of college kids to stop drinking and immerse themselves in a faith-based treatment center.
Pat has had a love for the arts ever since she was a young girl running around on her parent’s farm putting on plays with the neighborhood children and the local livestock. While most people consider a donkey as a useful animal for plowing a field, Pat saw it as the centerpiece for a play centered around the nativity scene. Later on in her life, while she was raising her children in Canyon Lake, she worked as a realtor and unfortunately had an escrow fall through. Instead of pouting, she went for a walk. Suddenly, she saw a diamond in the rough. It was overgrown and abandoned, but at one time, it had been a stage. She decided she was going to take it upon herself to fix it up and start putting on plays there, such as an annual Christmas play, Peter Pan, and “a truncated version of The Wizard of Oz.” Within 2 years, she had built a theater that had a $16,000 yearly budget and was the centerpiece for the arts in her town.
After one of her grandsons became a Beit T’Shuvah resident, Pat jumped into the community with both feet and brought the same passion she had shown in her own town to the Beit T’Shuvah community. She put on more plays with the residents and even started teaching acting workshops where residents could express themselves through the cathartic practice of drama. About seven years ago, she was asked to join the Beit T’Shuvah board. She happily accepted the position and served as an integral member for four years. Pat lovingly giggles as she says, “I just turned 70, and you always want to find what you want to be when you grow up. Well, I finally found it. I want to be an active, not a passive member of this community.”
Six months ago, Warren Breslow and Annette Shapiro called her and asked her to have lunch at the Peninsula with them. She called them and said, “You don’t have to take me to such a fancy-pants place to ask me to be an auction chair!” Annette responded with, “Let us just do it our way.” All Pat could say back was, “Okay, I’ll put on my high heels.” When they told her about the award she was going to receive, she said, ”My mouth dropped, tears fell from my eyes and I was just hoping I could live up to the honoree they had seen and I think that has yet to be seen.” Her humility is endearing, but most of us can easily acknowledge that Pat is more than deserving of the honor she is receiving.
Being a mentor, teacher, and community member have helped Pat to a great extent. Even though she is a grandmother to 21 children, she often finds her nest empty and yearns for the usefulness of motherhood. After the gala, she plans to start a women’s readers theater and go back to teaching acting classes at Beit T’Shuvah. She says, “I learn more from the residents then they could ever learn from me.” As a former Mormon, she sees the overwhelming potential for the Beit T’Shuvah model in other faith-based treatment centers. “We have broadened the table,” she says, “I am happier here than when I was sitting in the pews of my former church.” One of her dreams is to see the message that Beit T’Shuvah has to offer spread throughout the world. With honesty and love, she says, “I am more myself, at Beit T’Shuvah.” I am sure I can speak for anyone at Beit T’Shuvah and say, we feel more ourselves when we are around Pat Train Gage.