News of PCPA alumnus Robin Williams’ death came Monday as several veterans of the Allan Hancock College program reunited to mark the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Authorities said Williams apparently committed suicide at his home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Some 400 people gathered over the weekend on the Central Coast for the alumni reunion, which ended Monday.
On Monday, while rehearsing his presentation, which included a slideshow with Williams’ picture, Herrier said someone handed him a cell phone with the news of Williams’ death.
“It was this weird situation because we had been celebrating this remarkable institution, and it’s been hard to do both. It’s hard to both celebrate and to grieve at the same time,” Herrier said 24 hours after news of Williams’ death .
Herrier, who appeared in “Porky’s” and “Porky’s 2” before returning to the Central Coast, where he leads the Lompoc Theatre Project, recalls Williams appearing in three productions including the role of Marcellus in “The Music Man” during the summer 1973.
But each night, several members of the conservatory gathered after the show at a nearby house into the early morning doing “bits and schtick” while “just trying to make each other laugh,” Herrier recalled.
“Already then Robin was, he’s always been, funny, a genius,” Herrier said.
During his time in Santa Maria, he also debuted some of his characters who later were included in Williams’ Broadway show, Herrier recalled.
Williams was unpredictable, delivering his one-word line in the “Caucausian Chalk Circle,” in a different way each performance as the cast and crew gathered to watch nightly, Herrier said.
“He was a force of nature. He was really really brilliant,” Herrier added.
Herrier noted that Williams was much more than a comedic actor, having gone on to The Julliard School and winning awards for serious roles, too.
“He had this drive that was evident in all of this work,” Herrier said.
Founded by Donovan Marley, PCPA has provided training to actors and technical crew members since the 1964, and has trained hundreds of students through the years.