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The voice of a city 

This is real community theater: At the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts—more commonly known as PCPA, at Santa Maria’s Allan Hancock College—a new project titled Community Speaks! sends second-year students to interview members of the community they live in about an important issue. These 25 students then create a unique piece of theater honoring their interviewees, which they present in a free public performance. This year’s students zeroed in on the subject of cancer, seen from the perspectives of its patients and survivors—and their caregivers, doctors, and nurses. Using these interviews, and aided by independent research, the students will bring these true stories to the stage in 25 single-actor performances, creating a full-length production encompassing monologues, poetry, and song. Community Speaks! is presented at the Severson Theatre in Santa Maria.

PCPA resident artists Evans Jarnefeldt and Karin Hendricks started Community Speaks! as a way to use theater to broaden social awareness, understanding, and compassion. While this is the conservatory’s third course to participate in the project, December’s performance marks the first time the show has been made open to the public. Jarnefeldt and Hendricks share a goal to reveal to the community a little-seen side of itself, provoking conversations and deepening the audience’s understanding about the needs and issues of the part of the world they call home. The two also hope to make the public presentation into an annual event.

“It would be so exciting to increase our residents’ awareness, through a performance event that takes place every year, in which the real people and real issues of our own neighbors are highlighted and given a stage,” said Jarnefeldt, an acting teacher.

See Community Speaks! on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 10 a.m. at the Severson Theatre on the Allan Hancock College campus at 800 South College St. in Santa Maria. Though free to the public, tickets are required for this event; call the box office at 922-8313. Visit PCPA online at

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