Founding and History

Founding and History

Marin Summer Theater (MST) is a youth theater company that rehearses and performs in Marin County, California in June and July. MST company members are students of performing arts between the ages of 13 and 23 and includes student actors, singers, dancers, musicians, directors, designers, technicians, and crew.

Each summer in a seven-week season, MST prepares and presents three fully-staged productions. Each production is performed for one or two weekends. Each summer, shows are selected to provide a breadth of theater experience and to include a play, a dramatic musical, and a dance-heavy musical or review. MST receives support from San Marin High School Music Boosters (a 501c3 organization), San Marin High School, and the Novato Unified School District.



MST was founded in the fall of 2008 when Emily Gates and Patrick Nims saw a need for a low-cost summer performing arts company. At that time there was no summer musical theater program for college age students in Marin County, no low-cost theater arts program for college or high school students, and no "summer stock" program that produced multiple shows with the same core company members.

Nims and Gates envisioned a plan; to create a student summer theater company that would prepare and present three different productions in seven weeks.



The primary objectives of MST are threefold:

  • To present demanding, high quality; drama, musical theater, and musical revue productions.
  • To create a diverse summer stock company of college, high school, and middle school age students.
  • To keep tuition as low as possible so that cost is not a barrier to participation.

The "summer stock" aspect of MST is a key component of the program. Summer stock is an American theater tradition that challenges young performers in many important ways, including:

  • Stretching students' abilities by preparing for multiple productions simultaneously.
  • Broadening students' theater experience by assigning students a variety of roles and responsibilities (on stage, technical, musical, etc.) in each of the summer's productions.
  • MST's rehearsal schedule is designed to minimize conflicts for students with work or summer school commitments.  Because three productions rehearse simultaneously, it is necessary for players with leading roles in one production to be supporting players or work tech in other productions. This breaks down the star syndrome that can occur when only one production is being prepared.

While Nims and Gates knew that it would be necessary to charge a tuition fee to cover royalty and other production costs to make the program sustainable, every option was explored to keep student fees as low as possible while staying true to MST's goals.


The First Season

During the first season of MST:

  • Nims, Gates and the majority of MST staff members worked on a volunteer basis and received no compensation.
  • San Marin High School and the Novato Unified School District donated the use of the high school facilities.
  • Of the other adult staff members, eleven also volunteered their time.
  • On-stage performers were charged a flat tuition fee of $275 to participate, regardless of the number of shows in which they appeared.
  • No tuition was required for orchestra members, stage crew or technicians to participate.
  • The 2009 student company included fifty-seven students from twenty-three different schools and universities. The average student age was sixteen-and-a-half and there were seventeen college-age company members. Twenty-five orchestra members, stage crew, and technicians participated in the season at no charge. Scholarships were given to six on-stage performers.

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About Marin Summer Theater

Marin Summer Theater (MST) is an award winning non-profit theater company for students of performing arts between the ages of 13 and 23. The MST company prepares and presents three fully-staged productions in a six-week summer season. MST's mission is threefold: To present exciting, professional quality drama, musical theater and musical revue productions; to keep tuition as low as possible so that cost is not a barrier to participation; to create a diverse company of college and high school students.

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