About PCPA

Welcome from the Artistic Director and Managing Director

Welcome to Pacific Conservatory Theatre!

Conservators protect, for future cultivation, a fledgling life as it develops the deep roots and thick skin to make it on its own. Conservators do this as an act of faith, knowing there is something vital and verdant worth preserving and growing. A hope for a better tomorrow. As storytellers, we are intrinsically hopeful, and hopefully available and attuned to the stories around us. We’re awake, sensitive and inclined to empathy. For many of us in the community the constant assault upon our hearts and minds by exposure to so much round-the-clock travail and loss in our world can feel overwhelming.

The climate change in the natural world, the cultural ‘climate changes’ in our lives, relationships and communities can feel so big that, unless we have the means to broaden our vision and inspire our hope, can cower us into despair. Art, art-making and art-partaking can be an important part of bringing balance, insight and hope into our stress crowded lives. I’m hopeful that you’ll be enjoying and appreciating some of that today!

Artists turn dreams into visions, and visions into action. The theatre is the means by which, by intuition and discipline, we affirmatively encounter life’s challenges through story. We are engineers in steel and in spirit. We are constructing bridges between people. Sometimes it’s grand and heralded with timpani and trumpet, but usually it’s just quietly, determinedly showing up for work – surveying the environs and horizons, working the plan, footing the foundation, laying the rebar, mixing the concrete. Or, in a more agrarian vein, planting the seed. Sometimes planting the seed for the proverbial ‘tree under whose shade we will not sit.’ Investing in putting things together that time (and thermodynamics), or apathy, or evil, might otherwise pull apart, for better future. Our vehicle is story; fabricated from the raw and refined materials of our very selves – body, mind, spirit. Working together with your imaginary forces, we methodically and optimistically work at building up what is burned down or torn down or falls down, and we do our building in mediums of the ineffable, that can never fall or burn or fade.

We hope you’ll find the plays edifying and enjoyable!

Jennifer Schwartz, Managing Director and
Mark Booher, Artistic Director/Associate Dean

Photo of Managing Director, Jennifer Schwartz and Artistic Director/Associate Dean Mark Booher

Mission Statement

PCPA is a professional conservatory theatre, committed to reflecting and transforming our diverse community with the art of live theatre.

We believe that the theater has a vital role and responsibility in the community to enrich cultural literacy and improve the quality of life.

We commit to serving our current audience, cultivating our future audience and training the next generation of theatre professionals.

We aspire to adhere to the best theatrical traditions and to set new standards of excellent artistry, ethics, and professional practice for the future of the theatre.

History

For over 58 years PCPA has been presenting exemplary theatre and providing excellent training with a resident company of theatre professionals.  From its beginnings in the fall of 1964 and first summer season in 1965, founder Donovan Marley laid the ground work for a year-round professional theatre company, following the insightful impulse of Allan Hancock College President Walter Conrad, “Because we are geographically isolated from population centers where artistic experiences are readily available to our students and our college patrons, we have an obligation to develop such experiences on this campus.”  The first company consisted of twenty-one actors, calling themselves the Platform Players. They converted an old barracks building into the Interim Theatre with seating for 100. The first production was A Man for All Seasons and enthusiastic standing-room only audiences packed all 10 performances.

1965-1966

The 1965-66 season was heralded as a season of firsts for the fledgling theatre company – its first musical, The Fantasticks, the first Theatre Wagon to begin its circuit of schools with a production of The Emperor’s New Clothes, the first Equity artist-in-residence to join the company for Of Mice and Men, Vernon Weddle (pictured left), the first starring role in an Interim Theatre production for professional actress Rosalind Pearlman, and the first professionally choreographed show, Romeo and Juliet, by Agnes Grogan, who had studied and worked with Martha Graham and been a featured dancer in the Broadway premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

1967

In 1967 the conservatory began to accept students from outside the Allan Hancock College district and a technical program for sets, properties and costume construction was established adding new professional staff members. Recognizing the cultural and economic benefits of a theatre, Santa Maria voters approved a school bond in 1965 which included $1-million to build the Performing Arts Center building on the college campus eventually named the Marian Theatre, after Marian Hancock.

1968

Plans for the new theatre were on the drawing board in 1966.  When completed, the theatre would seat 448 patrons around a thrust stage, based on Minnesota’s Guthrie Theatre.  Doors opened on July 10, 1968 with a production of Camelot, featuring Laird Williamson as Lancelot.  It was in 1968 that the company was first called the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.  The young company continued to see exponential growth in its audience year after year.

1971

Invited by Roger Neilsen of the Solvang Businessmen’s Association, 1971 marked the first performance by PCPA, in Solvang’s Hans Christian Andersen Park, of Hamlet.  Support for a permanent theatre space for PCPA productions grew quickly through the community — fostered by Neilsen, Earl Petersen, Royce Lewellyn, Erling and Sue Pohls, Johannes Jaeger, John and Jan Severson, Vince Evans, together with the Santa Ynez Valley Arts Association and many others.

1974

In the summer of 1974, through an astounding outpouring of civic initiative, fund raising and hard labor, the Solvang Festival Theatre was constructed, in 58 days, on Second Street.  Artistic Director Donovan Marley instigated and oversaw the entire construction of the 700 seat outdoor venue. Though it does not include a basement level or ‘trap room,’ the architectural ‘footprint’ is nearly an exact replica of PCPA’s Marian Theatre stage in Santa Maria.  The Theaterfest summer repertory season was inaugurated by a community Rejsegilde event and came to fruition with PCPA’s production of Once Upon A Mattress, joined in repertory by The Taming of the Shrew and King Lear.

During these early years, audiences witnessed the emergence and growth of some of today’s biggest names in the entertainment field — artists who have gone on to national prominence and hundreds of others who have taken on roles of national significance in the American theater.

1992

In November 1992, the Severson Theatre was inaugurated as an addition to the Performing Arts complex on the Allan Hancock College campus. This intimate and flexible space has been the home for classic, contemporary and musical productions as varied as The Last Five Years, Arcadia, Master Class, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Oleanna, Measure for Measure, The Turn of the Screw, Little Women, Distracted, All My Sons, Clybourne Park and PCPA’s play reading series InterPlay. These absorbing and enlightening plays, alongside the rest of each season’s offerings, support PCPA’s commitment to providing the greatest possible variety in the learning environment and enjoyment in the play-going experience.

Construction shot of Marian Theater

Ultimately, the history of PCPA is marked, not with the construction of buildings or even of organizations – however significant they may be – but in the force of life invested by generations of artists as a valuable feature of community life here on the Central Coast.  The building up of a community, and an American culture, enriched and illuminated by art made by well-trained artists has always been at the heart of the artistic and educational enterprise.  The company of over 50 theatre professionals is a team dedicated to enhancing community life and advancing the art of theatre from the studio to the stage.  Over 100 students are trained each semester in acting and technical theatre.  The tradition of the master craftsperson passing on their knowledge through daily practice of the art is as ancient as the arts themselves. In this tradition we work from experience to knowledge, rather than just from knowledge to experience – following the observation that “in the end we retain from our studies only that which we practically apply” (Goethe).

PCPA remains the only resident professional company on the Central Coast and the only training program of its kind offered at a community college — producing exemplary artistic experiences for the community while preparing thousands of actors and theatre technicians for a career in theatre. You can enjoy a production at PCPA today, with the deeper enjoyment that you’re glimpsing the seeds of a richer tomorrow.

PCPA Theatres

Marian & Severson

Marian & Severson

Solvang Festival

Solvang Festival

Hancock College

Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s professional Acting and Technical Theatre programs are fully accredited career and technical education (CTE) programs of Allan Hancock College. Students admitted to the programs receive instruction from theatre professionals, apply knowledge and gain experience within the context of the producing professional theatre. The theatre’s 58 year history and over 10,000 alumni have continued to make a significant impact on the American theater since its beginnings in 1964. The unique synthesis of professional training and practice make the programs of Pacific Conservatory Theatre nationally recognized as the only one of their kind offered at a community college.

In 1964, AHC President Walter Conrad recognized the essential role of the arts to the development of mature people and the culturally literate community. His leadership in the establishment of such experiences in the community of Santa Maria is likely one of the most important contributions of his administration to the college and to the community at large. Dr. Conrad said, “Because we are geographically isolated from population centers where artistic experiences are readily available to our students and our college patrons, we have an obligation to develop such experiences on this campus.” Over 50 years later, the positive impact of that visionary conviction continues to resonate in the lives of the hundreds of thousands who have been touched by the illuminating and edifying art of the theatre.

Allan Hancock College Board of Trustees

  • Jeffery Hall, President
  • Greg Pensa, Vice President
  • Hilda Zacarias
  • Suzanne Levy, Ed.D.
  • Alejandra Enciso
  • Mirian Solano, Student Trustee

Board of Trustees

Front of school with Allan Hancock College sign

President's Message

Welcome to another spectacular season of live theater!

PCPA is unlike any other theater company – only at Allan Hancock College do community college students work side by side with professional actors and resident artists to hone their craft. We are incredibly fortunate to have a world-class conservatory theater company here on the Central Coast and we are honored that you have joined us for our 58th season of live theater!

PCPA is an integral part of Hancock College’s goal to change the odds for those in our community. Our neighbors know that PCPA is a cultural touchstone not just for Santa Maria, but for all of the Central Coast – and we were recently recognized by our regional accrediting agency as an “innovative program” worthy of commendation.

Thanks to your support, we are able to bring more than live theater to our region. Each year, our outreach program takes plays directly to more than 20,000 K-12 students in our area. For most of these children, the outreach program is their first introduction to the dramatic arts. Your support enables us to train community college students for jobs in acting and technical theater – training that results in real jobs for our graduates.

We are grateful that the community supports PCPA’s mission to transform our diverse community with the art of live theatre. Your support is vital to the mission of our programs. As a ticket holder, season subscriber, donor, or show sponsor, you are making art happen in our community

Also changing the odds for those in our community is the college’s new Hancock Promise. Beginning with the 2018 graduating class, the Hancock Promise ensures that all Northern Santa Barbara County high school graduates can attend Allan Hancock College tuition free their first year after graduation – first year free at AHC! The funding for this transformative program comes completely from private funds. For complete details, please visit www.hancockcollege.edu/promise.

Because of you, PCPA and Allan Hancock College change lives every day. We are grateful for your support!

Thank you and enjoy the show.

Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D.
Superintendent/President
Allan Hancock College

Alumni

These artists trained at PCPA early in their careers

Alumni

Robin Williams

Robin Williams

Zac Efron

Zac Efron

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain

Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates

Vincent Rodriguez III

Vincent Rodriguez III

Kristin Stokes

Kristin Stokes

Joanna Jones

Joanna Jones

Boyd Gaines

Boyd Gaines

Patrick Page

Patrick Page

Meami Maszewski

Meami Maszewski

Dana Costello

Dana Costello

Roddy Kennedy

Roddy Kennedy

Kelly McGillis

Kelly McGillis

Richard L Hay

Richard L Hay

Harry Groener

Harry Groener

Robert Blackman

Robert Blackman

Mercedes Ruehl

Mercedes Ruehl

John Dexter

John Dexter

John Lacovelli

John Lacovelli

Sharen Davis

Sharen Davis

William Thomas Hodgson

William Thomas Hodgson

Other Notable Alumni

Ken Albers Denis Arndt Jamie Baker Paul Barnes
Shari Belafonte Robert Benedettit Raye Birk David Birney
Earl Boen Libby Boone Powers Boothe Carol Brolaski
Brad Carroll Richard Chapman Jack Clay Jeff Combs
John Gillard Daly Daniel Davis Sharon Davis Melinda Deane
Larry Delinger Michael Devine John Dexter Jerry Dunn
James Edmondson John Fernandez Allen Fletcher Robert Frank
Ralph Funicello Michael Ganio Skip Greer David Gropman
Michael Gruber Anne Guilbert Harry Hamlin John Hancock
Mark Harelik Lawrence Hecht Mark Herrier J. Allen Highfill
Elizabeth Huddle John Iacovelli Chris Idoine Johanna Jackson
Nagel Jackson Byron Jennings Roddy Kennedy Patrick Kerr
Alvina Krause Michael Leibert Larry Lester Roberta Levitow
Kathy Lloyd George Maguire Jeremy Mann Wes Mann
Donovan Marley Michael X. Martin Deborah May Sandy McCallum
Jeff McCarthy James McLure Terri McMahon Colm Meaney
Mark Medoff Kim Miyori James Moll Dan Monahan
Belita Moreno Randal Myler Leslie Parsons Robert Patrick
B. Iden Payne Gordon Peacock Robert Peterson Tony Plana
Jim Poulos Rick Risso Robynn Rodriguez Gretchen Rumbaugh
Remi Sandri Stephanie Shine Carolyn Shouse Jack Shouse
Jason Shubb Kurtwood Smith Francine Tacker Lauren Tewes
Russell Treyz Jerry Turner Bernard Vyzga Keith Williams
Laird Williamson Dorien Wilson Cal Winn Michael Winters

EDI

PCPA's Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

With a commitment to transparency in our on-going work to ensure PCPA is an equitable, diverse, and inclusive company for all, we would like to share a progress update on the EDI efforts in which we have been engaged. We acknowledge that Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is not merely a set of tasks or actions but a continual practice. As such, we will continue to share updates as we continue this imperative work.

Your Support Counts

We are deeply indebted to the generosity and support of our many patrons, friends, and alumni members.

Your Support Counts

We are deeply indebted to the generosity and support of our many patrons, friends, and alumni members.