The chronicle of the ISTA founder
By Peter Wilkins
The year was 1990. I can still remember my first meeting with the formidable Pat Zich, founder of the International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA), as if it were yesterday.
After learning of the existence of ISTA at an IB conference in Adelaide, I wrote to Pat to express an interest in being involved in ISTA. In true style, Pat replied instantly, inviting me to join the staff at a high school festival at the Munich International School. On arrival, I found my way to the canteen, where Pat was hunched over a table, counting money. There was a brief greeting, and I was aware that she was thoroughly absorbed in her accounting.
Over the years that followed and at various festivals and executive council meetings at her small Finsbury Park flat that she shared with her black dachshund Emma, I was to learn what a sheer force Pat was, how she ‘ruled’ ISTA with a fist of iron and an indomitable will of steel. She could be daunting, even infuriating, as she sent out endless streams of faxes to instruct ISTA artists and teachers. Today we would call Pat the ultimate micro manager. But beneath that stern managerial appearance lurked a woman of remarkable warmth and generosity. Nowhere was this more apparent than when talking about her son Rick or grieving the loss of her beloved Emma or driving my son and I, and later my wife and I, through the beautiful countryside surrounding her beloved Aberfeldy within the braes of Robbie Burns. Even her choice of What a Wonderful World as the ISTA theme song betrayed a woman of remarkable sensitivity, a loving friend and an inspiration to so many members of the ISTA family.
Pat could be domineering, but she cared for her dream and created a vision for an association that was to bring enormous pleasure and opportunity and grow into the world wide phenomenon that ISTA is today. A remarkable woman who left a remarkable legacy, Pat never gained the international recognition that she deserved, but she would be proud of what ISTA has become and the part she played in making a difference to so many people’s lives through the wonder of theatre.