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Summer theater in Solvang, Santa Maria.

Picnic on the lawn, Fiddler on the Roof

Amidst the rolling hills of the Central Coast, the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts presents some of the West's finest theater. This summer, PCPA Theaterfest celebrates its 25th anniversary with a veritable greatest hits package: PCPA's most popular musical, its first production, its first musical, and three additions to its repertory.

From June 15 through September 23, the company will produce six plays on its two stages- the 500-seat Marian Theater in Santa Maria, and the 780-seat outdoor complex 40 miles south in Solvang. Be sure to buy tickets in advance.

Drama fans can catch five plays in three days on some weekends, or buy series subscriptions. You might consider adding a play to visits to Santa Barbara beaches, Santa Ynez Valley wineries, or the Lompoc flower fields. Both theaters are just minutes off U.S. Highway 101.

All awhirl at two stages

During the summer, trucks crammed with props, costumes, and sets roll frequently up and down U.S. 101 between Santa Maria and Solvang. Repertory theater doesn't leave much time for dust or rust to accumulate; it's a tear-it-down and set-itup-again world.

The pace is tough for technical crews and actors alike. Actors have roles in at least two summer plays, which last year could mean The Tempest in the afternoon and Of Mice and Men in the evening. Versatility, endurance, and a love of theater are indispensable for the company's mix of professional actors and students.

"It's four months of immersion. They live, eat, sleep, and breathe theater 24 hours a day," says Cheryl Weiss, PCPA's publicist and literary manager "After a summer here, you really know if you want to be in the theater."

Jack Shouse, the artistic director, says, "The single thing that has stayed the same since PCPA was founded is that this is a place where talented, dedicated theater people can come together, advance, and grow." Shouse should know. He has worked at PCPA since 1968, the year the Marian Theater at Allan Hancock College opened its doors. (Santa Maria voters showed their support by approving a bond issue for its construction.)

PCPA is affiliated with the college; conservatory students receive vocational certificates from the school. When the company first started, it had 21 students and worked out of a World War It flyingschool building on the campus.

A hit, a very palpable hit

This summer, 51 students and professionals will work at PCPA (500 auditioned). The company has grown not only in size, but in stature. PCPA gobbles up drama awards, and several of its premieres have moved to bigger markets.

Regional theater is playing an increasingly important role in developing new works and new talent. Such stars as Harry Hamlin (of "L.A. Law"), Kelly McGillis, and Robin Williams have gone through the rigors of a PCPA summer season. And thanks to financial support from Hancock College and work by conservatory students, PCPA is able to stage musicals and big productions that could prove too risky and costly in New York or Los Angeles.

Plays this summer are Quilters, a story of the American West told from the perspective of women settlers; The Nerd (the title role was created for James Pickering, who heads PCPA's cast); Tony Award winning Evita: The Fantasticks, the company's first musical; Fiddler on the Roof, its most popular one; and A Man for All Seasons, the premiere production of Theaterfest's first season.

On August 21, PCPA celebrates its anniversary with a gala in Santa Maria; entertainment includes dancing, dinner, and re-creations from past plays.

Plays start at 8:30 Pm., with matinees (in Santa Maria only) Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays at 2. Ticket prices range from $7 to $15.50, with series subscriptions from $37.50 to $72; call (800) 221-9469. For information about hotel-theater packages and lodging, call (805) 928-7731. On some nights after plays, you can stay for talks with cast and crew; call the group sales number for schedules: (800) 727-2123.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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