The sky is the limit

May 082011
Authors: Anna Baldwin

Luke Peckinpaugh started acting on a whim.

After finishing two years of college as an undeclared major in Northern California, he moved out to Colorado to be a ranchhand in 2004.

In Fall 2008, Peckinpaugh, who had no previous acting experience, decided it was time to finish college and walked into the University Center for the Arts to try theater.

“I don’t know why the hell I tried acting,” Peckinpaugh said.

On his second day of theatre classes, he tried out for a part in “The Distance From Here” by performing lines from an old western movie and gained the role of the abusive stepfather, Rich.

“He was the last one to audition, and he strolled in in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots,” said co-director of the
Division of Theatre and Dance Walt Jones. “He had memorized the lines, and no one does that. And he nailed it the first time.”

“He’s unique. He’s really one of a kind,” Jones said. “It’s his presence and voice. You’re either born with it or you’re not.”

To date, Luke’s theatrical performances include the roles of Rich in “The Distance From Here,” Theseus in “A Midsummer’s Night ‘sDream,” Eddie in “Fool For Love.” Randal Patrick McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Joe Keller in “All My Sons.”

“He has an inner intensity, and he has a lot of presence even when he’s not talking, which is unusual,” Jones said.
At the annual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in California in February, Peckinpaugh won the coveted Irene Ryan Acting Award out of 408 actors in the region, and an invitation to attend the Kennedy Center National conference Competition.

The national competition was the week of April 18, and Peckinpaugh competed against people from seven other regions in the nation.

He also won regional nominations for his work in “All My Sons” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Dale Wasserman, adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey.

Peckinpaugh did scenes from “Lone Star” by Jim McLure, and “A Prayer for My Daughter” by Thomas Babe, as well as a monologue from “Utopian Highway” by Chuck Mee for the regional festival.

As the youngest of four children, Peckinpaugh said that though his family is very supportive, they got a big kick at first out of the fact that he was going to act.

“I think I’m unique; I kinda stand out like a sore thumb. You don’t see a lot of ranch hands acting,” he said.
Upon his graduation in May, Peckinpaugh plans to stay the summer to continue his ranch work and then weigh the options.

One of these options is moving to LA to try acting in film.

“The sky’s the limit, I guess,” he said.

“You don’t often say it, but I’m serious. He has the most depth, complexity, imagination and power that you have to have naturally,” Jones said. “We’re going to miss him.”

UCA Beat Reporter Anna Baldwin can be reached at

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