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Young actor benefits from annual Patte Awards

By Amy Lynne Bowes

Luke Marinkovich’s bright eyes fill with wonderment as he talks about his future – education, career and life in a new city.

The 18-year-old La Jolla resident was the recipient of the First Annual Patte Scholarship for a Promising Young Theatermaker in honor of the late Dr. Floyd Gaffney.

Host and founder of the Patte Awards, Pat Launer recently introduced them.

When tallking about the Patte Awards, a sense of excitement comes through Launer’s voice.

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“All my life, I’ve gone to so much theater (more than 200 local productions a year), I just wanted to give something back,” she said about starting the local awards. “I’ve always been very, very supportive of young people, too.”

That is how this year’s scholarship award came to light. Launer tries to think of new innovations to keep the award show strong.

According to a press release provided, the Promising Young Theatermaker is in honor of the late Dr. Floyd Gaffney, the father of African-American theater in San Diego. Gaffney was a celebrated African-American educator, mentor and award-winning director. A founder and professor emeritus of UCSD Theatre Department, Gaffney played an instrumental role in mentoring and inspiring countless students and San Diego theater artists. At the time of his death in 2007, he served as artistic director for Common Ground Theater.

In 2006, Launer presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Gaffney.

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She felt that the First Annual Patte Scholarship for a Promising Young Theatermaker was a fitting way for the theater community to pay tribute to him and his legacy.

Marinkovich was the winner of this year’s scholarship with honorable mentions awarded to 15-year-old Loren Lott and 17-year-old Lauren Hunter.

“He (Gaffney) was an inspiration to so many,” Launer said.

Marinkovich was presented the scholarship at the Patte Awards from the Gaffney family.

“It was so overwhelming to get it (the scholarship) under the name of Dr. Floyd Gaffney,” Marinkovich said. “He’s done so much for young actors in the community.”

Marinkovich plans to use the scholarship toward furthering his education this fall at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU).

Other La Jollans taking home Patte Awards this year include:

  • The La Jolla Playhouse for the production of The Farnsworth Invention in the category of Outstanding Production.
  • Toby Algya for Medea with the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance in the category of Outstanding Sound Design.

The 11th Annual Patte Awards will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 on Channel 4 San Diego. Photographs, a Web cast of the awards ceremony and a complete list of winners, can be viewed at www.patteproductions.com.

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As a young boy, Marinkovich was introduced to acting when he was cast as a toy soldier in the school play “Pinocchio.” Looking through a small hole in his toy soldier box on stage, he watched the audience. He was amazed. “That is where I really got a feel for theater,” Marinkovich said.

As a recipient of the new scholarship offered at the Patte Awards, Marinkovich is excited about his future.

In order to receive the scholarship, he had to write an essay. His essay focused on his interest in theater. He wrote about his kindergarten toy soldier experience.

Now that the young boy is a young man looking to a future in musical theater or theater, Marinkovich said, “I would love to be a working actor in New York.”

He got a real taste for New York City this past summer while attending a conservatory at NYU. He stayed with friends he knew from the San Diego theater community.

“It was great,” he said. “I got a real sense of being independent while I was there.”

He also attributed his success so far to the San Diego theater community.

“It’s great being a part of a city where there’s no animosity,” Marinkovich said.

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Speaking to the recent Patte Awards, Marinkovich was amazed at how many people supported him and his future goals, especially the estimated 500 in attendance at this year’s award ceremony at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre at the Lawrence Family JCC in La Jolla.

“I feel like I have so many people on my side, especially Pat (Launer),” Marinkovich said. “She has been so supportive with me furthering my education.”

Now, Marinkovich is looking to the future, but still thanking the people who are pushing him in that direction. While auditioning for the NYU program, Marinkovich said the people from the Moxie Theatre were in the audience pushing him on to his future goals.

Moxie Theatre’s “Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen,” a Patte Award winner, was the most recent local production in which Marinkovich played a role.

The somewhat bashful, wide-eyed Marinkovich seems to have a mindset on his future in New York and a heart set in the San Diego theater community that has nurtured him along the way.

“He’s a very promising actor – good and bright,” Launer said.

Launer began the Patte Awards in 1997 as a way of recognizing “San Diegans making theater for San Diego.” She jokingly tells the story that the name is " the Patte Awards, cause you ain’t chopped liver.”

The talkative and active Launer attends more than 200 productions a year.

According to Launer, the Patte Awards have been growing every year and this was the first time she produced the event independently.

“I attribute a lot of the success to the many, many volunteers that help me with the Patte Awards,” she said.

Launer is an Emmy Award-winning theater critic who not only plans the whole event, with a lot of help from volunteers, but hosts the award ceremony too.

“It’s my way of giving back to the theater community,” Launer said.

Launer is resident online critic at www.sdtheatrescene.com, and her weekly theater suggestions appear online on the What’s Hot page at www.knsdsandiego.com.

In 2002, she won an Emmy Award for writing, hosting and co-producing Center Stage, an all-theater variety show that aired on KPBS radio and TV from 1999 to 2001. Launer has written about theater for the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union -Tribune, In Theater magazine, Performing Arts magazine, Decor and Style and San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles Magazine.

The major sponsors of this year’s Patte Awards include Union Bank of California; The Shiley Awards in Health, Education and the Arts, funded by Donald and Darlene Shiley; a Community Projects Grant from County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price; The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians; JM Digital Works/Jazzercise; San Diego National Bank; Fish & Richardson P.C.; Sycuan Resort and Casino; Elaine Lipinsky; and Jeffrey and Sheila Lipinsky. The Media Partners are KSDS Jazz 88 and Channel 4 San Diego.