Published in KPBS On Air Magazine February 2005

After a difficult year, rife with economic hard-times, political discord, downsizing and belt-tightening, the theater community was ready for some serious celebrating. And it was a glorious gala, a veritable theater love-fest: The 8th annual Patté Awards for Theatre Excellence, sponsored by KPBS and aired (Jan. 16) on KPBS-TV.

The evening crackled with energy, sparkled with glitter, sequins and feathers (and that was just my outfit!). The entertainment was spectacular, and the acceptances were heartfelt. Most important, everyone was there to celebrate one of the best years of theatermaking in years. There were more new plays, readings and political works. And unparalleled creativity in design, direction and performance. I broke my own attendance record again, seeing 185 productions over the course of the year. And many of them have stayed in my mind, searing their potent words and images into memory.

Since the Patté Awards only honor local theatermakers, a few noteworthy productions and performers go unmentioned at the event. Especially significant this year were the touring production of Movin’ Out (brought to us by Broadway San Diego) and the Globe’s Don Juan, with its magnificent direction by Stephen Wadsworth, performances by Andrew Weems, Adam Stein and Francesca Faridany, and costumes by Anna R. Oliver. Other high-profile out-of-town visitors included Billy Crystal (in 700 Sundays, which began as a Page to Stage work-in-progress at the La Jolla Playhouse, and is now a super-hit on Broadway) and John Lithgow and his triple-threat sidekick, Norbert Leo Butz, in the Globe’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which opens on Broadway March 3). Playwright/director Luis Valdez was in residence again at the San Diego Rep, for another world premiere, Earthquake Sun.

Of course, there’s no dearth of outstanding local theatermakers to admire and extol.

First, three special Patté honors:

The MacDonald Playwriting Award, named for playwright/director/philanthropist Marianne McDonald, was bestowed on Seema Sueko for her highly charged, personal/political reminiscence, Remains, a heartbreaking story about seeing all sides of the Middle East conflict.

The Shiley Lifetime Achievement Award, named for long-time Patté and KPBS donors Darlene and Donald Shiley, was given to consummate actor Jonathan McMurtry, who has thrilled local audiences for over four decades, playing everyone from Scrooge to Iago.

A Special Citation went to Ken Jacques, For Keeping San Diego Theatre Memories Alive – Photographically. For 25 years, this gifted photographer has ‘shot’ San Diego productions, many published last year in “The Play’s The Thing: A Photographic Odyssey through Theatre in San Diego.”

The rest of the Patté Awards represented 18 local theaters, from the smallest to the best endowed, from student productions to the highest levels of professional expertise. They all produced moving and memorable work. So herewith is my personal Pat on the back, the eighth annual Patté Award winners of 2004:

Outstanding Ensemble

Jesus Hopped the A Train – Lynx Performance Theatre

Kimberly Akimbo – 6th @ Penn Theatre

Kiss of the Spiderwoman – 6th @ Penn Theatre

A Lie of the Mind – Backyard Productions and New Village Arts Theatre

Outstanding Scenic Design

Nick Fouch, The Goat – San Diego Repertory Theatre and Hecuba – 6th @ Penn Theatre

Giulio Cesare Perrone, Earthquake Sun – San Diego Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Sound Design

Paul Peterson, Kid-Simple – Sledgehammer Theatre

Joseph Sarlo – A Streetcar Named Desire – UCSD

Outstanding Lighting Design

Eric Lotze, Escanaba in Da Moonlight –   Cygnet Theatre

Jennifer Setlow, Earthquake Sun – San Diego Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design

Kathy Auckland (costume and wig design), The Music Man – Starlight Theatre  

Jeanne Reith and Aina S. O’Kane, The Boy Who Fell into a Book – Lamb’s Players Theatre

Outstanding Direction

David Ellenstein, The Chosen – North Coast Repertory Theatre

Sean Murray, Direction and Design of a six-play season at Cygnet Theatre

Claudio Raygoza – Saturday Night at the Palace and A Raisin in the Sun – Ion Theatre and Common Ground Theatre  

Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Kimberly Akimbo – 6th @ Penn Theatre and Fit to be Tied – Diversionary Theatre

Outstanding Performance

Richard Baird, Macbeth – Poor Players

Jill Drexler, Fit to Be Tied – Diversionary Theatre

Sandra Ellis-Troy, The Gingerbread Lady – Renaissance Theatre

David McBean, Fully Committed – Cygnet Theatre

Rosina Reynolds, Shirley Valentine – Renaissance Theatre

Charlie Riendeau, The Lion in Winter – The Broadway Theater

Seema Sueko, The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow – The Old Globe Theatre

Outstanding Production

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – The Old Globe Theatre

Jersey Boys and 700 Sundays – La Jolla Playhouse

A Dream Play – Sledgehammer Theatre

Bed and Sofa – Cygnet Theatre

Other Stars in the 2004 firmament:

Splendid Actors : Priscilla Allen, David Ari, Linda Castro, Ron Choularton, Robin Christ, Devlin, Julie Jacobs, Jessica John, Linda Libby, Daren Scott, Dennis Scott, Katherine Sigismund, Cristina Soria, Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson,

Dazzling Directors : Esther Emery, Darko Tresjnak, Joseph Ward, Jim Winker

Superb Playwrights :   Mat Smart, Jim Caputo, Ruff Yeager

… and a few Fresh Young Faces to Watch:   Matt Davis, Ian Gilligan, Andrew Hart, Sam Jacobs, Erika Jermasek, Andrew Kennedy, Ari Lerner, Evan Macy-Beckwith, Melissa Mitchell, Blake Thomas, Dan Tracer, Alisha Zalkin, Tom Zohar

With all this succulent local talent, expect some hot and tasty theater treats in 2005!

©2005 Patté Productions Inc.