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Saving the drama for San Diego- an interview with Pat Lautner

“It’s a funny story actually. 13 years ago, I was sitting at my computer thinking about all the amazing theatre that I had seen and the hard work that all these people had put into it. There was so little acknowledgement beyond the applause and I just wanted to give something back to the community”. Theatre critic and Emmy Award Winner, Pat Launer, talks about her experiences and hopes for San Diego’s theatre community.

Since that time, Pat Launer created the Patté Award for Theater Excellence to celebrate the amazing diversity of San Diego theatre. This year’s awards ceremony will take place on Monday, January 18. SDGLN wanted to talk to the woman behind the curtain to learn more about what makes her (and the Patté Awards) tick.

James Marcus, SDGLN- Pray tell, how does one go about creating an award show that is now annually celebrated and has so far been nominated for three Emmy-Awards?!

Pat Launer: (Laughs) I just did a floopy thing! I made up certificates on my computer and sent them all out by mail. Eventually I saw them hanging in theatre hallways and the winners would hang them in their homes. The year after that, we made a little party and it just started getting bigger and bigger. Now it’s a whole event and TV show!

JM: What was the main challenge you faced in the process?

PL: Well I became a non-profit corporation just last year and it’s very difficult; the planning is all year round and corporate funding has been extremely tight. But it’s the individuals that make it worth it when you’re faced with challenges, the theatre lovers and supporters who step up to the event. It’s self supported.

JM: I’m sure the Emmy nominations take some of the pressure off too…

PL: I don’t do it for that. Obviously it’s nice to have the recognition but really my attention is on the outstanding live event that it is. No television show could ever capture what it feels like to be in that room. People speak from the heart; it’s not your usual award show.

JM: Can we expect anything different at this year’s show?

PL: Well it’s the third year of the Pattes Scholarship award which goes to theatre groups who come from low-income families. We award them with a certificate and a cheque; however, this year we’re also providing them with tickets to theatre productions around the counties.

JM: It must be incredibly rewarding to be able to do something like that and have a high profile award show acknowledge it.

PL: Absolutely, and the show is strictly for San Diegans. It’s also raising the profile of theatre in San Diego, and recognizing theatre organisations. A little known fact for you as well; San Diego is the number 1 exporter of shows on Broadway!

JM: Wow! So the future looks bright for San Diego’s Theatre Community then!

PL: Well there’s always room for improvement. What’s amazing is that even in the roughest of financial times, theatre creators will find a way to do it. It is remarkable how resilient this community is and how far their passion will take them even on a shoe-string!

JM: And no plans to take your talents across America and establish other theatre communities?

PL: We were actually talking about this and I don’t have any details yet, but eventually I would like to unite the Theatre community of the country. I think there’s a unity of the Nations that the Theatre community hasn’t captured yet.

JM: What do you, the real star of the show, most look forward to at the event?

PL: (Laughs) What my 93 year-old mother always gets me about is how I loved to play dress-up as a child! I’ll tell you what my favourite part, as well as my producer’s is. I write a poem that incorporates all the names of the Patte award-winning productions. Then we show the video-shoot where I dress up like every single production! In two minutes, I have 30 costume changes… and it was a 12 hour shoot!! So much fun.

JM: Well I, for one, think you are a true inspiration to San Diego’s Theatre Community. Your work is incredible; I don’t know how you find the time!

PL: Let me tell you, last year, I went to 245 productions. This is like an obsession with me! There was a weekend where I saw seven shows in four days, then I’ve gotta write about all the shows! I wish I could clone myself cos’ it drives me nuts how many openings are on one night! Hmm…if they’d only get this cloning thing together.

IF YOU GO: The 13th Annual Patté Awards for Theater Excellence, Monday, January 18th at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter. Don’t miss Pat’s weekly column of theater news and reviews, online at SDNN: www.sdnn.com