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Miller, Mark James

“The play’s the thing …” wrote William Shakespeare in “Hamlet.”

For 55 years the talented people at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) have been wowing Central Coast audiences with quality productions ranging from “Peter Pan” and “The Wizard of Oz,” to the tragedies of “Macbeth” and “Richard III.”

If Executive Director Mark Booher has his way, this tradition of excellence will continue on indefinitely. Mark has been executive director since 1999, and it would be impossible to overstate his enthusiasm for his work.

“I feel very blessed,” he said, “because since leaving grad school I’ve been able to earn a living in the theater. PCPA is the perfect place for me.”

If Mark feels blessed by being in the theatre, PCPA could also be said to be blessed by his efforts. He is involved in every step of a production, from selecting the plays that are to be performed, to the construction of the sets, the making of the costumes, auditioning of the actors, and overseeing the budget. And he loves every minute of it.

Theatre is found worldwide in various forms, and can be traced back at least 2,500 years to the ancient Greeks.

The word “theatre,” in fact, is of Greek origin. In Athens, participation in theatre was part of citizenship. The works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes are read and performed to this day. The first important works of Roman literature were tragedies and comedies, starting around 240 B.C. with the tragedies and comedies of Livius Andronicus.

From Rome the theatre spread into Western Europe. Learning about the Globe Theatre in London, and the plays of Shakespeare that were originally performed there, is part of every schoolchild’s education.

Mark has a special affinity for Shakespeare, and has even performed at the prestigious Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, as well as the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. An actor as well as a director, he has appeared in productions of “Richard III,” “Macbeth,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Winter’s Tale.”

One of Mark’s more unusual jobs is that of fight director, choreographing the violence that appears on the stage, a task he began back in college.

“This is a cool skill set,” he said, “for you have to make sure everyone on stage is safe.”

“Shakespeare in Love” is currently playing at the Marian Theatre and will run until Feb. 27. Upcoming productions include “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” by Freedman and Lutvak, and Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Mark and his team try to select plays “relevant to the times we live in.” One of the most rewarding aspects of his work is “seeing the extraordinary growth in his students” as their skills evolve.

A great deal of work goes into the production of a play beyond what the audience sees on the stage. Costumes and stage props have to be designed, the lighting and music have got to be right. Costs must also be considered.

PCPA offers a two-year vocational certificate program in which students learn all aspects of theatre production. Actors in the program work six days a week, learning not only acting but the history of the theatre, voice, movement, musical theatre ensemble, and Shakespeare. Those enrolled on the technical side learn stagecraft, lighting, sound, costuming and scene painting, enabling them to pursue careers as craftspeople, designers and theatre technicians — all essential for a play’s production. PCPA also offers internships for both aspiring actors and technicians.

Robin Williams, Kathy Bates and Kelly McGillis are among the most famous of PCPA’s alumni. For more information, call 805-928-7731.

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Mark James Miller is an associate English instructor at Allan Hancock College, and president of the Part-Time Faculty Association. He can be reached at mark@pfaofahc.com.

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