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Santa Barbara Native Riley Berris Takes Over the San Marcos High School Stage

Berris, who succeeds longtime theater teacher David Holmes, will make her directorial debut with Picasso at the Lapin Agile in November

For her first directorial offering, San Marcos High School theater teacher Riley Berris is introducing the community to Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein.

Students are busily rehearsing for the debut of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, which hits the stage in November.

“It’s a short and sweet comment on the connection between science, art and music,” Berris said. “It’s just a very smart play, and I think it’s hilarious.”

Berris, who was a student teacher with longtime theater legend David Holmes before he retired in the spring, took over the theater department this fall.

Upon retirement, Holmes said he was glad to pass the torch to someone he mentored, just as it was passed to him in the 1980s.

Berris is a Santa Barbara native and alumna of Santa Barbara High School, Loyola Marymount University and UCSB, where she recently finished her master’s degree in education and teaching credential.

Like Holmes, she worked with a theater company and pursued professional acting after graduating college and before getting into teaching.

She chatted with Noozhawk during a break in rehearsal this week and seemed right at home directing the students and coordinating with other performing arts staff.

“I am surprised by just how much fun I’m having,” she said.

Berris knew she had big shoes to fill coming after Holmes, but says the students have accepted her, and the classes and directing are going very well.

“I was afraid, for sure,” she admitted.

She teaches beginning acting, stagecraft and play production classes in addition to choosing and directing the fall play, spring musical (it will be Crazy for You next year) and managing the one-act play performances and talent show.

She got to know all but one of the 11 students in the upcoming show last year when she was a student teacher.

“They’re all pretty astoundingly professional and fun to work with,” she said.

A lot of research went into choosing the very first play for fall.

“I honestly read probably 20 plays over the summer,” she said.

Within the first 10 pages of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, she was cracking up and knew she had a winner.

“I think audiences will love the characters we developed together,” she said.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile is a comedy play written by Steve Martin about Picasso and Einstein meeting in a Paris bar as young men.

It debuts at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 and has additional shows on Nov. 14 and 15 at the school's performing arts center. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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