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Mercer County Community College President Makes Her Kelsey Theatre Stage Debut in “Parfumerie,” Nov. 24 - Dec. 3

Role in classic holiday play allows Dr. Deborah Preston to return to her theater roots


WEST WINDSOR, NJ – To paraphrase an old adage, you can take the actor out of the theater – but you can’t take the theater out of the actor.

“I tell people that I use my theater degree every day – not because I am acting all day, but because the theater teaches us a way of listening, observing, and analyzing human beings that is now at the core of my understanding of people’s motivations and behaviors,” said Dr. Deborah E. Preston, President of Mercer County Community College. “I don’t know how I’d get through the day without that understanding.”

Preston will soon have a chance to use her theater training much more directly, as she will be making her debut at MCCC’s Kelsey Theatre later this month in The MTM Players’ production of “Parfumerie,” Nov. 24 through Dec. 3. And while she is a veteran of numerous stage productions, she said this will be her first performance in front of a live audience in years.

“I never meant to leave the stage, but for five years I was working in NJ while my family lived in Maryland – and this meant driving back and forth almost every other weekend and no possibility of committing to a rehearsal schedule,” Preston said. “My last show was just before I left Maryland, like seven years ago. I have really missed it.”

Preston assumed her duties at MCCC in July of last year, which followed a five-year stint as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Raritan Valley Community College and more than 20 years in academia. But the theater has always been a part of her, as indicated by her bachelor’s degree in theater and master’s degree in English – with an emphasis in dramatic literature – both from Florida State University. And her Ph.D. from Tulane University is also in English – and also with an emphasis in dramatic literature. In “Parfumerie,” Preston plays the role of a somewhat persnickety shop customer, but regardless of the role, she said it’s just good to get back on the stage.

“I love being back in a production,” Preston said. “I feel so at home, hearing theater lingo, seeing the show gradually emerge from chaos, and hanging out with theater people. When I do live theater, it brings me back in touch with my own creativity, and it allows me to practice mental and physical skills that took a long time to develop. I certainly don’t want to see them atrophy!”

Preston says that since her arrival at Mercer, she has been impressed with the reputation and quality of the college’s offerings – which definitely includes the arts. And while a career in the arts may not be a viable option for everyone, she said that should not prevent anyone from following their passion.

“I encourage anyone who loves the arts to follow their dream,” Preston said. “I may not have become a famous professional actress, but I am so grateful for my theater training and have zero regrets about the path I have taken. For someone like me, I hope that acting dispels some of the stereotypes about what acting is and who does it. For me, acting is about discipline and concentration, but also about collaboration and joy and freedom.”

Preston will take to the Kelsey Theatre stage in “Parfumerie,” the holiday play that inspired the films “‘You’ve Got Mail” and “The Shop Around the Corner,” for eight live performances Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 24-25 and Dec. 1-2 at 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 2-3, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for seniors, veterans, military, and students, and may be purchased online at or by calling the Kelsey Box Office Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. - noon, at (609) 570-3333.

About Mercer County Community College

Established in 1966, Mercer County Community College is a publicly supported comprehensive institution that provides opportunities for higher education through an open-door admission policy. The scenic 292-acre West Windsor Campus was opened in 1972 to serve the needs of Mercer County residents. MCCC’s James Kerney Campus, located in downtown Trenton, serves as an educational and cultural hub for city residents that meets the changing needs of thousands of students and community members seeking educational fulfillment and personal and career growth. President: Deborah E. Preston, Ph.D.;

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MCCC President Preston in 'Parfumerie'

Dr. Deborah E. Preston (left), president of Mercer County Community College, will make her Kelsey Theatre debut in The MTM Player’s production of the holiday classic “Parfumerie,” which runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 3.