Class of 2012 First Night Honors Revealed at Monday's Preview Party

July 23
11:01 PM 2012


Eight individuals, whose names attest to the depth and breadth of live theatrical performance in Nashville, have been named as members of the 2012 Class of First Night Honorees and will be feted with a special tribute concert on Sunday, September 2, at Belmont University's Troutt Theatre.

The eight honorees for 2012 were revealed during the annual First Night Preview Party, this year held at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre, the venerable company that this year is celebrating its 45th anniversary, and hosted by Janie and John Chaffin. In addition to the honorees, nine men were named as recipients of this year's First Night Star Awards and 18 younger performers were named as Most Promising Actors.

This year's honorees join a list of Tennessee theater's brightest lights who were honored in 2010 and 2011, including: Scot Copeland, Paul Gatrell, Sean and Bob O'Connell, Kathleen O'Brien, Barry Scott, Shannon Wood, Mac Pirkle, Dan Brewer, Danny Proctor, Pam Atha, Layne Sasser, Gary Hoff and Helen Shute-Pettaway.


This year's list of First Night Honorees include Maggi Bowden and Sue Stinemetz, whose work together as producers spanned decades of involvement in local theatre, primarily with Circle Players and ACT 1; Maryanna Clarke and Chris Clarke, the married pair who have made Tennessee Women's Theater Project a theatrical force to me reckoned with; Mary Jane Harville, actress/director/educator, who is one of the best-known actors to ever be associated with Tennessee Repertory Theatre; Jackie Welch Schlicher, another of Tennessee Repertory Theatre's brightest names, is a teacher, speaker and improv comedy star; Chambers Stevens, who made his mark in Nashville theater as an actor/director/playwright and co-founder of Nashville Shakespeare Festival and now works with younger actors in the Los Angeles area and continues to win fans as a playwright and performer; and Paul Vasterling, the artistic director and CEO of Nashville Ballet, who has brought both national and international recognition to our city (and who, interestingly, choreographed "The Time Warp" for Circle Players' 2000 production of The Rocky Horror Show, directed by First Night founder and executive producer Jeffrey Ellis).


Recipients of The First Night Star Award include: actor/director/playwright Matthew Carlton; co-founders of Blackbird Theatre Wes Driver and Greg Greene; Circle Players president and veteran director Tim Larson; Studio Tenn Theatre Company artistic director Matt Logan; noted set designer and local theater veteran Jim Manning; producer/director/actor Johnny Peppers; Eric Ventress, executive director of ACT 1; and playwright/actor/director Shawn Whitsell, who heads up The Destiny Theatre Experience.

The First Night Star Award winners for 2011 were Cathy Street, Vali Forrister, Maryanna Clarke, Kate Adams, Melissa Bedinger Hade, Denice Hicks, Trish Crist and Mary McCallum.

Class of 2012 First Night Honors Revealed at Monday's Preview Party

Named as 2012's Most Promising Actors are: Maya Abram, Blair Allison, Christian Albright-Redden, Delaney Amatrudo, Tyler Ashley, Douglas Corzine, Gina D'Arco, Spencer Dean, Katelyn Michelle Fiorini, Ryan Garrett, Matt Hunter, Piper Jones, Stephen Michael Jones, Zane Jordan, Kevin Mead, Caleb Reynolds, Whitney Vaughn and Luciano Vignola. The Most Promising Actors will perform in a special production number during the First Night Gala on Sunday, September 2, 2012, at the Troutt Theatre.






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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors - the history of which can be traced to 1989 and the first presentation of The First Night Awards - which honor outstanding theater artisans from Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and also includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors recognition. Midwinter's First Night honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. An accomplished director, Ellis helmed productions of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, all in their Nashville premieres, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show. Ellis was recognized by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror. In 2015, he directed William Inge's Picnic for Circle Players and Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years for VWA Theatricals, with The Larry Keeton Theatre's production of Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest set for spring 2016.

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