PCPA's Yusef Seevers during a presentation of his Black Theatre, in which he draws connections between plays and the real-time experience of Black Americans. | Credit: Courtesy

PCPA is a live theater stronghold in Santa Barbara County, having staged such popular plays as Disney’s Little Mermaid, Julius Caesar, Muthaland, The Addams Family, and more in the last year alone.

Though their stages are currently dark, PCPA remains a source of balance and art in an unfamiliar stretch of time. Thespians and theater enthusiasts can relish in new virtual programs such as The Rediscovery Reading Club, Talkback Thursday, Youth Enrichment, PCPA Reads@Home, Sunday in Isolation with George, and more available on their site.

The young, and those young at heart, can delight in PCPA Reads@Home, a storytelling segment geared toward children. The virtual storytelling series hosted by resident artist Kitty Balay brings cultural literacy to the youth.

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For adolescents, the Youth Enrichment with Leo Cortez offers hour-long behind-the-scenes meetings and how-tos. Participants can register for free and experience interactive sessions on theater essentials like stage makeup taught by experts.

A particular crowd-pleaser is Talkback Thursday, hosted by resident artist Erik Stein. Stein, who has starred in many PCPA productions and directed numerous plays for the conservatory, brings his wit and knowledge to interviewing a guest each week.

A longtime lover of talk shows, Stein is “grateful for any connection with amazing actors and technicians,” he said in a recent interview with the Independent, despite physical distance. The segment’s origins, he said, are based in James Lipton’s Inside the Actors Studio. The virtual boom served as an opportunity to bring his enthusiasm for talk-shows to fruition.

So far, Stein has interviewed Michael Ferguson, Roland Rusinek, Roddy Kennedy, and Kristin Stokes, among others. His favorite part of doing the show is how the chats flow into natural conversation. “So often the interview starts to feel like it is just me and my friend sitting in my office nerding out about things that inspire us,” Stein said. Interviews typically span over an hour, leaving plenty of time to share personal asides, memories, and questions from the audience.

The unscripted conversations have resulted in some of the show’s most unpredictable moments. During an interview with PCPA graduate and Broadway performer Dana Costello, Stein and Costello were interrupted by the town’s nightly tribute to COVID first responders. “The whole city started cheering and banging on pots and pans,” said Stein. “Dana stepped out onto her balcony and let us all experience it with her.”

The interviews go live on Thursday and are broadcasted on Facebook Live. Through this medium, viewers can directly interact with the Stein and the interviewee and leave comments during the show. “Questions from the audience,” Stein said, “are like pebbles being thrown into a calm pool of water. They rough up the surface and help bring what’s underneath to the top.”

With the multitude of virtual offerings from PCPA, the art of storytelling remains a respite for Santa Barbarans. See pcpa.org/plays/TheatreThursdays/ for Stein’s Talkback Thursday and pcpa.org for all of the virtual programming being offered.


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