Published in KPBS On Air Magazine February 2003

It was a cold, rainy evening, six years ago, when I sat down and thought about all the plays I’d seen and how much I appreciated all that had gone into this creative effort, this evanescent artform that’s written on the wind. Seated at my computer, I banged out a certificate of appreciation, called it The Patté Awards™ (’cause you ain’t chopped liver’) and mailed them out to individuals and theaters countywide. Next thing I knew, they were hanging in theater lobbies and cited in actor bios.

Every year since then, the Patté Awards have grown and expanded. We’ve graduated to beautiful statuary, added special awards, celebrated different aspects of dramatic endeavor and each year since 1998, KPBS has made a bigger and more elaborate bash of the gala awards event. Last year, we brought it to a broader audience, broadcasting the entire evening on KPBS-TV.

The January 13 event was stupendous; the awards and the affair have taken on a life of their own. It’s not a competitive evening, like the Oscars or Tonys. All the winners know they’ve won; the suspense is in wondering exactly which of their endeavors is being rewarded. It’s a terrific networking opportunity for theatermakers, and a great time for theater artists to mingle with theater patrons and the general audience. Most of all, it’s a great, big theater Love-Fest, hundreds of San Diegans getting together just to celebrate the wonder and splendor of local theater.

Since the Patt ¾ Awards only honor local theatermakers, a few noteworthy productions and performers get lost in the community festivities. Especially significant this year were three events at the Globe: the touching performances of Daniel J. Travanti and Robin Pearson Rose in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” the skill of Jonathan Fried, Robert Petkoff and Tom Hewitt in “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” and the magnificent work of Cherry Jones and Swoosie Kurtz in Jack O’Brien’s Broadway-bound “Imaginary Friends.” O’Brien’s terrific touring production of “The Full Monty” came through and bared it all once again. There were stellar guest directors, like Darko Trenjak (The Globe’s “Pericles”) and Bruce Beresford’s deliciously updated “Rigoletto” at the San Diego Opera.

Of course, there was no shortage of outstanding local theater to admire and extol, in the 126 plays I saw last year. This year, I saw more shows than ever, and the choices seemed more difficult than ever. So, after much soul-searching, here is my own personal Pat on the back, the 2002 6th annual Patt ¾ Awards™ for Theater Excellence.

Once again, I gave out three special awards.

The Patté’s Shiley Lifetime Achievement Award, named for long-time Patté and KPBS donors Darlene and Donald Shiley, went to Sam Woodhouse, founder and artistic director of the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

The Theatre Angel Award was presented to the Lipinsky Family, for their continuation of the legacy of philanthropist/patriarch Bernard Lipinsky. The Lipinsky name graces the San Diego Jewish Arts Festival at the San Diego Rep, the exclusive Suite at the Globe Theatres, and the Institute for Jewish Studies, the clock tower and a scholarship at SDSU.

The MacDonald Playwriting Award, named for playwright/director/philanthropist Marianne McDonald, was bestowed on the blossoming talent of Jason Connors, who last year won his second statewide contest, Plays By Young Writers.

Outstanding Ensemble

The Importance of Being Earnest & Travesties – North Coast Repertory Theatre

A Prayer for My Daughter – 6th @ Penn Theatre

Before It Hits Home – The Community Awareness Project of San Diego

Beehive – The Theatre in Old Town

Outstanding Scenic Design

Annie Smart, Wintertime – La Jolla Playhouse

Robin Sanford Roberts, Betrayal   – The Globe Theatres

Outstanding Lighting Design

David Lee Cuthbert, A Knife in the Heart – Sledgehammer Theatre

Trevor Norton, All My Sons – The Globe Theatres

Outstanding Costume Design

Shulamit Nelson, The Mystery of Irma Vep – Diversionary Theatre

Robert Wojewodski, Smash – The Globe Theatres

Outstanding Sound Design

Stephanie Robinson, Edward II – UCSD

George Ye, Struggling Truths – Asian American Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Performance

David McBean, Pageant – North Coast Repertory Theatre

Francis Gercke, A Hatful of Rain; The Only Game in Town – New Village Arts

Gayle Feldman-Avery, Othello – Women’s Repertory Theatre

Rosina Reynolds, A Knife in the Heart – Sledgehammer Theatre

Ron Choularton, The Caretaker – Renaissance Theatre; Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol – North Coast Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Direction

Kirsten Brandt, A Knife in the Heart – Sledgehammer Theatre

George Flint, The Zoo Story – Renaissance Theatre

Bill Fennelly, Edward II – UCSD

Les Waters, Wintertime – La Jolla Playhouse

Outstanding Production

Peter and Wendy – La Jolla Playhouse

Pericles   – The Globe Theatres

Ragtime – Moonlight Stage Productions

Never the Sinner – Diversionary Theatre

These productions encompass 13 local theaters, from the smallest to the best endowed, from student productions to the highest levels of professionalism. It’s a testimony to the breadth, depth and diversity of San Diego theater. As put it, we’re “the latest cultural Mecca.” In other words, we ain’t chopped liver. Hearty (theater) appetite!

©2003 Patté Productions Inc.