By Jessica Schley

Contributing Writer


A dinner-theater event for 85 in Stacy Hall at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in April raised more than $60,000 for students of Pacific Conservatory Theater’s (PCPA) two-year theater training program.

“Theatre in the Valley,” hosted by the Firestone family, featured live performances by PCPA resident artists and their students on a temporary stage, complete with professional lighting and sound, all built by PCPA student interns.

The courtyard hors d’oeuvres and dinner in the hall, catered by Scratch Kitchen, were served by students.

The Firestones are decades-long supporters of PCPA, and many family members participated in the fundraiser. Brooks Firestone served as emcee; his adult children Hayley Firestone Jessup and Andrew Firestone gave a raucous performance as auctioneers; and his granddaughter Ella Walker, a second-year student of the PCPA program, performed a Shakespeare monologue.

Another of his daughters, Polly Firestone Walker, is a resident artist and PCPA faculty member who also performed a monologue.

Additional performances included Broadway hits “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning”, “Moon River” and “The Pirate King.”

PCPA is the only accredited two-year theater program in the state. Famous alumni include Robin Williams, Kathy Bates, Zac Efron, Chris Meloni of “Law & Order,” and Roddy Kennedy, who is performing in Broadway’s “Hamilton.”

Two other graduates, Paul Culos and Kasey Mahaffy, have been cast in episodes of the hit TV show “Modern Family.” And Vincent Rodriguez III, a 2003 PCPA graduate, is starring in the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning musical comedy series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

The program doesn’t focus only on actors. It offers course tracks for all of the theater crafts: lighting, stage construction, props, wigs and hats, costume making, sound, and more.

Scholarships raised at the event will help student interns pay for housing and food. Since the intensive program immerses students in classes during the day and theater performances at night, students have no time to work to support themselves, hence the strong need for PCPA’s scholarship program, which provides more than $500,000 a year to interns.

Andrew Murray donated all of the wines for the event, including a special 2016 Syrah from Curtis vineyard, picked from vines that Brooks and Kate Firestone had planted in 1974, the year that the Solvang Festival Theater was built.

The theater was constructed using the same stage dimensions as PCPA’s Marian Theater, so that productions could be shared between stages. PCPA was founded in 1964 and has produced well over 10,000 alumni in the 54 years since it opened its doors.

For more information on PCPA’s upcoming season, visit