By Pat Launer
It’s been a great week; what can I say?
I LOVE serving up that bit of Patté!
The event was fantastic; if you couldn’t be there
It’ll be on TV – and there’s plenty to see there.
But if camp is more your cup of tea
Then “Brave Smiles’ might be the thing to see.
The 7th annual Patté Awards for Theater Excellence proved to be a dazzling night; there was more glitter and glam than at a Pride parade! And really, there was plenty of pride, and plenty of heart. The acceptance speeches were moving, and some people were truly surprised by what they’d won for, which was great fun. The energy, passion and good will in the room were palpable. It was an SRO crowd; we sold out two weeks before the event. So, for those of you who didn’t get there in time, put your request in EARLY next year!
We had a new, glitzy set and a terrific House Band this year: Cris O’Bryon was on piano again, and also served as music director. He was joined by the fabulous Kevin Cooper on bass and Danny King on drums. And they played for several of the other performers. The entertainment interludes were fantastic: “To Life!” from Starlight Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Wig in a Box” – Jeremiah Lorenz recreating his knockout role in Cygnet Theatre’s inaugural production; “Warts and All” from SDSU’s award-winning “Honk!” and the sizzling hot “I’m a Woman” from “Smokey Joe’s Café” at Moonlight Stage Productions.
I loved everything everyone had to say, but the words of the following were particularly heartfelt and poignant: Jack Banning, David Cohen, Deborah Salzer, Deborah Gilmour Smyth. And Jerry Cesak was hilarious. Check it all out on KPBS-TV next week… Details below.
Fyi…. Here’s the entire award list, in order of presentation. One of these days very soon, there’ll be some GREAT photos online at kpbs (thanks to that photographic wizard, Ken Jacques), at patteproductions.com and probably at Dale’s website as well.
The 7th annual, 2003 Patté™ Awards for Theater Excellence
Angels in America, Part I – UCSD Theatre & Dance
The Laramie Project – SDSU Department of Theatre
Stop Kiss – Women’s Repertory Theatre
Love! Valour! Compassion! – Diversionary Theatre
Outstanding Scenic Design
David Cuthbert (Scenic & Lighting Design), Stop Kiss – Women’s Repertory Theatre
Mike Buckley – The Game of Love and Chance – Moonlight Stage Productions
Outstanding Sound Design
Paul Peterson, Pentecost – The Old Globe Theatre; Nu – Sledgehammer Theatre
Outstanding Lighting Design
David F. Segal, Rough Crossing – The Old Globe Theatre
David Cuthbert, A Christmas Carol – San Diego Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Costume Design
Maria Zamansky, Stage Door – UCSD Theatre & Dance
Jennifer Hanson, Honk! – SDSU Dept. of Theatre
Kyle Donnelly, The Three Sisters – UCSD Theatre & Dance
Don & Bonnie Ward, Singin’ in the Rain , Moonlight Stage Productions
Rick Simas, Honk! – SDSU Dept. of Theatre
Matt Scott, Oedipus Tyrannus – 6th @ Penn Theatre
Jack Banning, Children of Heracles – 6th @ Penn Theatre
Susan Denaker, A View From the Bridge – Renaissance Theatre
Farhang Pernoon, Gross Indecency , Diversionary Theatre
Jeremiah Lorenz, Hedwig & the Angry Inch – Cygnet Theatre AND Cabaret – North Coast Repertory Theatre
Beauty – La Jolla Playhouse
Berzerkergang – Sledgehammer Theatre
Pentecost – The Old Globe Theatre
1776 – Lamb’s Players Theatre
Children of Eden – Moonlight Stage Productions
McDonald Playwriting Award : Brandon Alter (“Forty Miles from Tel Aviv,” Playwrights Project winner)
Theater Angel – Molli & Arthur Wagner
Shiley Lifetime Achievement Award – Deborah & Beeb Salzer
OLD PLAYS, NEW VERSIONS – Linda Castro, David Cohen; Marianne McDonald – for Bringing Greek Drama Back to San Diego
NEW AUDIENCES, NEW PLAY – Jerry Cezak – for bringing new audiences to the theater, through his writing, directing and producing “Nickels and Dimes” (Lyceum Theatre)
REALLY A LESBIAN TRAGEDY
There was a time, years ago, before the arrival of executive director Chuck Zito, that Diversionary Theatre produced primarily navel-watching, narcissistic gay plays – coming out stories, look-at-us-we’re-gay-isn’t-it-great tales or look-how-homophobic-the-world-is plays. Sometimes they had a few laughs (most were goofy, superficial comedies). Sometimes they were pretty pointless. Well, it looks like, at least for a short time, those days are back.
“Brave Smiles: Another Lesbian Tragedy” seems to have no particular message or underlying theme. It doesn’t make any points, it isn’t poignant, and only part of the opening night audience found it funny. I and my friends, male and female, gay and straight, didn’t seem to be among them.
Written collaboratively by the Five Lesbian Brothers (the female performance group whose name is funnier than just about anything in the play), the piece borrows its plot and characters from almost every lesbian representation in film, theater and literature — overt or covert — from 1920-1971. If any point it being made at all (and you have to dig deep to find one) it’s the absurdity of the fact that every lesbian in literary history died or suffered tragedy in the end.
Under the direction of Sledgehammer Theatre artistic director Kirsten Brandt, there are additional sound and music cues, movements and accents, that heap on even more arcane references, should you care to delve or indulge. But in the end, the entire effort, which feels dated and amateurish, you’re left saying, “So what? Who cares?” The historical significance of these lesbian representations isn’t mined for any depth; in fact, the piece just reinforces the ugly stereotypes without really refuting them. The farce falls flat.
Act one is set in a Viennese girls’ school in the 1930s, with all the soft-porn lesbian interaction a straight man would fantasize. The headmistress, a cruel dominatrix, is sophomorically named Ludmilla Pussenheimer. This feels like a camp revue (also campy) that a high schooler might’ve written in a fit of pique. The 16 year-old students represent the usual array of Lesbian Types: the bully, the tomboy, the delicate/sensitive one, etc. There’s the alternate, nurturing teacher they all adore. Girls get bounced on teachers’ laps, one dies, one runs away. The new girl – for no apparent reason – is pointedly Jewish, and much is made of that, to no effect. There’s a necklace of tears that gets passed from one to the other, as they suffer endless tragedies and die off in awful ways, over the course of 40 years. There’s no real reflection of the social climate in any of the decades, besides a mere passing reference. If you’re in the right mood, you’ll get a few laughs, but beyond that, what’s the point (for Diversionary, the actors or the audience?).
The performances, by five talented local actors playing some 17 roles, are engaging enough. Jeannine Marquie, a new arrival in San Diego, is a real find, and I hope to see her onstage again soon – in a more substantial piece of work. She’s adorable, versatile, spunky — and she takes a mean pratfall. Robin Christ gets to display some of her physical flexibility, and makes some of the quickest costume changes (designed by Shulamit Nelson). . Allison Riley is earnest (and self-flagellating), Melissa Fernandes is aggressive and often amusing as the ringleader, Damwell, and later a baroness, and Wendy Waddell is particularly appealing as the Jewish woman whose life, for unexplained reasons, is a never-ending series of loss and despair.
David Cuthbert’s scenic design, Mike Durst’s lighting and Paul Peterson’s sound are all capably done. The real ‘lesbian tragedy’ is not finding better material.
A bit of PATTÉ ON TV
Check it out at KPBS-TV, channel 15/cable 11:
Tuesday, January 20 at 10pm
Saturday, January 24 at 11:30pm (a perfect post-theater time)
THIS WEEK’S ‘DON’T MISS’ LIST
“Mothers” — Beautiful, heartbreaking and wildly imaginative. Eveoke Dance Theatre’s latest provocation to sit up and think — about parenthood and about loss. In repertory with Ricardo Peralta Danza Performa’s “Camila’s Story,” through February 1.
In this post-Patté week, I’m reminded, once again, of the wonderful spirit of this incredible theater community. Keep the faith – and keep doing the Good Work!
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.