Sunday, June 7, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on May 20th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 12 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 12

PCPA carries on with virtual content as the COVID-19 crisis proves to be its fiercest showstopper


Despite the cancellation of its last two spring productions (the remaining performances of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and the formerly upcoming The Sound of Music), leaders of the Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) in mid-March remained hopeful about its summer lineup. 

Standing ovation
Check out Tech Talk (every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.) and Actors Talkback (every Thursday at 3:30 p.m.) on PCPA’s Instagram. For more updates on PCPA, visit

Actors Talkback streams live on PCPA’s Instagram every Thursday, starting at 3:30 p.m. The show spotlights a different thespian guest each week. Host Erik Stein’s (top) guests so far include PCPA alumna Dana Costello (bottom).

Less than two months later, the company’s artistic director, Mark Booher, would officially announce the inevitable.

“It’s a word to which we’ve become too accustomed, but the only word I can conjure to describe this decision is ‘heartbreaking,’” Booher said in a press release, after declaring the cancellation of PCPA’s summer season. “Still, the theater is always founded on creative adaptability, and certain basic optimism about the force and resilience of the human spirit.

“When the time is right,” he added, “PCPA will be shining its light again, as a gathering place for our community.”

Aside from being PCPA’s casting director and recruitment coordinator, Erik Stein has also acted in several of the company’s productions, including last winter’s The Little Mermaid, in which he portrayed King Triton.

The cancellation decision forces PCPA to turn away not only its audience, but approximately 100 artists formerly scheduled to work on Little Shop of Horrors, Something Rotten, and other summer productions. On average, PCPA shows bring close to 30,000 attendees to the Solvang Festival Theater every year, according to the release, resulting in nearly $1 million in local economic activityand that’s excluding box office revenue.

“Although we’re saddened by the thought of a summer without the magic of PCPA for the first time in 46 years, we know that this is best for the safety of everyone,” Chris Nielsen, board chair for the Solvang Theaterfest, said in the release.

But in the midst of PCPA’s “physical” closure, the company’s casting director, Erik Stein, feels almost more productive than ever, he explained.

“The faculty, staff, students, and leadership of PCPA have continued to work very hard from home,” Stein told the Sun. “In fact, it feels like I’ve actually logged more hours over the last two months than I typically would.”

Performances of PCPA’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, directed by Mark Booher, were held for only one weekend before the show was abruptly canceled in mid-March due to COVID-19 concerns.

Like his fellow instructors at PCPA, Stein currently teaches both his Audition and Business of Being an Actor courses through Zoom. He also works as PCPA’s recruitment coordinator and continues to recruit new performers by leading virtual workshops for college and high school students. 

As if that isn’t enough, Stein is also in the middle of co-writing an original musical, with writing partner Brad Carroll, and preparing to direct an online production of Moliere’s Tartuffe (the cast will include several of PCPA’s second-year acting students).

“I believe that restraint breeds creativity,” Stein said. “Actors are trained to find creative ways to get around obstacles. Theater always seems to find its way. Our creative ambitions continue to be high as we work to find ways around this very unique obstacle.”

Despite a seemingly full load, Stein was ecstatic when PCPA’s social media department approached him to host two new Instagram live feed shows, Tech Talk and Actors Talkback.

“I love James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio, so I jumped at the opportunity. I am honored to do it,” Stein said. 

Like his fellow instructors at PCPA, casting director Erik Stein currently teaches acting courses through Zoom. He also works as PCPA’s recruitment coordinator and continues to recruit new performers by leading virtual workshops for college and high school students.

During the first talk show, Tech Talk, Stein shares the screen with one of PCPA’s technicians or designers each week (the show streams as a live feed every Tuesday afternoon, starting at 3:30). Guests so far have included scenic designer Jason Bolen, technical director Henry Matthiessen, and master electrician Cody Soper. 

“The designers and the technicians are really the makers of the magic. I always feel so lucky to stand in the midst of what they create,” Stein said. “I want to give our audiences an opportunity to get to know the people they see on stage and the people who are behind the scenes making the magic happen.”

Actors Talkback streams live every Thursday, also starting at 3:30 p.m., and spotlights a different thespian guest each week. Stein has brought on Emily Trask, Kitty Balay, George Walker, Bree Murphy, Britney Simpson, and Dana Costella so far.

For Stein, providing new virtual content for PCPA is part of his stance as an actor to just keep creating, even under uncertain circumstances, he explained.

“It is a very interesting time to be an actor. We are trained to be comfortable with the unknown,” Stein said. “You really can’t be a professional actor if you are not able to embrace the unknown. There are a lot of unknowns right nowmaybe more than we have dealt with in a long timebut we are trained to handle it and keep creating in whatever ways we can.” 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is embracing the unknown. Send story tips to

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