Nonprofit Spotlight

A scene from PCPA's A Midsummer's Night Dream.

Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts of Allan Hancock College

“The arts inspire us, soothe us, provoke us, involve us and connect us. Communities that invest in the arts reap the additional benefits of jobs, economic growth, and a quality of life that positions communities to compete in a 21st century creative economy.”
~Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts.

For Mark Booher, Artistic Director and Associate Dean, the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts is one such enterprise changing lives and connecting people in Santa Barbara County.

PCPA is a professional conservatory theatre, committed to reflecting and transforming the diverse community with the art of live theatre. To do this, every year, PCPA raises a half a million dollars to award scholarships to promising young artists. The students come to the conservatory as interns, learning either the craft of acting or technical training in intensive six-day a week, twelve-hour a day programs. Actors acquire fundamental skills such as voice and speech, movement, dancing, singing, the ability to transcribe dialects, and stage combat. They are also exposed to great writers, like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, thus receiving a literary education as well. Technicians working in the Technical Training Program learn all aspects of stage management, including lighting and electronics, the art of costume making, and costume crafts (the ability to make accessories and props, such as wigs, belts, shoes, and masks).

As Mark Booher states, “It is as if we are climbers, training these students to climb. It does not matter where you are on the trail, you are always climbing. We give the students the skills they need to ascend the mountain. There is the understanding that there will always be another mountain to climb. We train students to be climbers so that they can continue to meet the challenges of this profession, knowing that it is about doing good work every day, putting ideas into practice, and working in cooperation and collaboration with others.” As students perfect the craft of acting, they perform along with resident artists and faculty members in the plays seen each year at Marian Theatre at Allan Hancock College and the Solvang Festival Theater.

The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts was founded at Allan Hancock College in 1964 by Donovan Marley. PCPA has gained national recognition for the variety of its repertory, with a company of more than 180 actors, directors, designers and technicians. PCPA has trained over 5,000 young people through a program of academic and experiential training in the fields of acting and technical theatre.

Annually, PCPA provides professional theatre to nearly 90,000 patrons between the Santa Maria and Solvang venues, and is considered a top tourism attraction in the Santa Ynez Valley. And, through its touring productions under its Education and Outreach program, PCPA brings live theatre to 35,000 students each year. As a result of these enterprises and the conservatory program, PCPA’s economic impact on the local community is estimated at $5,700,000 as calculated using the “Arts & Economic Prosperity Calculator” provided by Americans for the Arts.

Trying to balance the educational component, contributed income, and ticket revenue to keep the theatre accessible and available to all members of the community can be a daunting task. That is why longstanding relationships, such as the one PCPA has with the Santa Barbara Foundation, are important. “The Santa Barbara Foundation allows us to do things that are otherwise impossible,” says Booher. “It allows us to serve many more members of the community; they also help us acquire things like equipment which allows us to make something more beautiful, or a particular type of programming that allows us to reach an audience we otherwise would not be able to reach, or a way of supporting artists that we would otherwise be unable to engage – so they help us function in our service to the community.”

In a new outreach effort, PCPA has received Santa Barbara Foundation Mini-Grant funding to start a text giving campaign. Through the campaign, community members can donate five dollars immediately to support PCPA. “The Santa Barbara Foundation sees this good idea and pilot program as important because if it succeeds it can be a success to the broader community in what we have learned. If I am in the theatre and I have an amazing experience I can act immediately, because now, community investment is as easy as possible. The text campaign enables people’s involvement, while also reaching a whole new generation of givers. If you are 22 and have a cell phone, you can participate in your community culture. If you have five dollars, you can be a philanthropist.”

Investing in arts and culture is a community investment. When you support the artistic community, you are championing creativity, cultural heritage, history, educational opportunity, and economic growth. The Santa Barbara Foundation recognizes the inherent cultural value the artistic community provides. Our dollars – your dollars – are going to organizations and causes worth sustaining, because investing in our creative capital is priceless.

For more information on PCPA, visit
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101