Published in KPBS On Air Magazine February 2001

Y2K — the millennial year in theater, a time of stability and change. Staying-power was applauded, but at the same time, the theater scene was crowded with entrances and exits.

The venerable Old Globe turned 65, and Lamb’s Players Theatre celebrated 28 years as our only true resident repertory company. The San Diego Rep had a silver anniversary, Moonlight Amphitheatre had a double-decade jubilee and Sledgehammer Theatre wrapped up 15 wild and wooly years of provocative productions. San Diego Playgoers celebrated its 25th with a name change — to Broadway San Diego, a more apt representation of what it does, bringing roadshows our way from the Great White Way.

Theater companies and theatermakers came and went. Asian American Repertory Theatre and San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre lost their homes. But, thanks to the generosity of Marianne McDonald, they gained a new one: the Hiroshi McDonald Mori Performing Arts Center. We’re still waiting, sadly but hopefully, for good news from the also-recently-homeless, much-lamented Fritz Theater.

In the executive offices, both the Globe and the Playhouse racked up losses and gains. Influential managing director Tom Hall left the Globe after 20+ years… and was replaced by Douglas C. Evans, who proved to be a high-energy go-getter, right from the get-go. Up at the La Jolla Playhouse, artistic director Anne Hamburger made a surprise departure at the end of her very first season, off to join that Goofy mega-machine, Disney. To much county-wide applause, former artistic director (recently turned filmmaker) Des McAnuff stepped in to assume the mantle of ‘interim artistic director,’ and, to everyone’s relief, to plan the 2001 season.

So, with all this backstage celebration and transformation, was anything happening on the stage? You bet. It may not have been the best theater year ever, but it certainly was an active one. Three San Diego productions have or will have made their way to Broadway: The Full Monty (a smash-hit from the Old Globe), and two from the La Jolla Playhouse: Jane Eyre (which opened in December) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (set to open this fall). Millie and Monty thrilled local audiences last year, bringing good, old-fashioned fun (and dancing!) back to musical theater. And our Grinch far outshone all the others (the monstrous movie, and the doomed Broadway musical, Seussical). San Diego was definitely high-profile on the national theater map.

Since the Patté Awards only honor local theatermakers, a few noteworthy productions and performers get lost in the community festivities. Especially significant this year were some magnificent, Broadway-bound designers and performers. But we did get the first glimpse of a new, musical theater discovery — Sutton Foster, the understudy who stepped brilliantly into the star role of Millie at the Playhouse. Watch for that face (and its multi-million-dollar smile) in the future.

There was no shortage of outstanding local theater to admire and extol, in the 100 plays I saw last year. So, herewith is my own personal Pat on the back, the 2000 KPBS Patté Awards for Theater Excellence (‘because you ain’t chopped liver!‘) presented at a dinner/entertainment gala on January 22, in the Shiley Studio at KPBS. Both the gorgeous, newly designed Patté Awards and the scrumptious, festive evening were made possible by a generous grant from Donald and Darlene Shiley, the ultimate Theater Angels.

This year, I presented a new award, for a new kind of performance. Two dance groups have smashed the boundaries between art forms, and refashioned them as Dance Theatre.

For outstanding Dance Theater, a KPBS Patté Award to:

Eveoke Dance Theatre Company for “Soul of a Young Girl” and

Malashock Dance & Company, for “Blessings and Curses.”

Two other special awards, initiated last year, are the ‘Shiley Award for Lifetime Achievement,’ presented to long-time local (and national) Latino theater-wizard William Virchis and the ‘Theater Angel Award,’ bestowed on the very generous theater writer, director, adapter, teacher and philanthropist, Marianne McDonald

The rest of the 2000 KPBS Patté Awards, in no particular order (except, like the Oscars and the Tonys, the Outstanding Performances, Directors and Productions come last), are as follows:

Outstanding Ensemble

Moon Over Buffalo – North Coast Repertory Theatre

Orson’s Shadow – Old Globe

Old Wicked Songs – Old Globe

Outstanding Scenic Design

Giulio Cesare Perrone, Mummified Deer, A Christmas Carol – San Diego Repertory Theatre

Mark Wendland, The Cosmonaut’s Last Message.. – La Jolla Playhouse

Annie Smart, Going to St. Ives – La Jolla Playhouse

Outstanding Lighting Design

David Lee Cuthbert, Ghost Sonata – Sledgehammer Theatre

Chris Parry, Love’s Labours Lost – Old Globe

Outstanding Costume Design

Maren Lyman, Lysistrata – SDSU

Valerie Ohawa St. Pierre, The Skriker – SDSU

Outstanding Sound Design

Deborah Gilmour Smyth (sound and original score) – Dracula – Lamb’s Players Theatre

Spencer Hill, Ghost Sonata – Sledgehammer Theatre

Outstanding Performance

Ron Campbell, R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe – San Diego Repertory Theatre

K.B. Merrill, The Glass Menagerie   – North Coast Repertory Theatre

Tom Stephenson, Dracula – Lamb’s Players Theatre

Jason Schauer, Me and My Girl – Christian Community Theatre

Erin K. Granahan, Born Yesterday – Moonlight Amphitheatre

Outstanding Direction

Kirsten Brandt, Furious Blood – Sledgehammer Theatre

Luis Valdez, Mummified Deer – San Diego Repertory Theatre

Neel Keller, The Cosmonaut’s Last Message… – La Jolla Playhouse

Outstanding Production

The Full Monty – Old Globe Theatre

The Cosmonaut’s Last Message – La Jolla Playhouse

Thoroughly Modern Millie – La Jolla Playhouse

A Christmas Carol – San Diego Repertory Theatre

Our plays spanned 3000 years (from Lysistrata to The Full Monty), and our productions traveled 3000 miles. Is San Diego theater hot, or what?

©2001 Patté Productions Inc.