Excitement Grows for First Night Nashville Theatre Honors, 9/19

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As Nashville's summer theater season continues to heat up, anticipation continues to grow for September's First Night Nashville Theatre Honors, the revival of the Music City theater gala that will benefit Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and sponsored by Macy's and BroadwayWorld.com. Set for Sunday, September 19, at Belmont University's Troutt Theatre, First Night 2010 will honor eight individuals for their sustained and continued commitment to theater in Nashville.

The First Night Theatre Awards were presented from 1989 through 1996 by Pyramid Publishing, founded by Jeffrey Ellis and R. Stuart Bivin. Bivin's untimely death in 1997 brought the awards presentation to an abrupt end and, according to Ellis, he's wanted to revive the event ever since.

"But it was essential to find a new way to bring back First Night, to revive the tradition in a more relevant way for the theater community now," Ellis explained. "After talking to various members of the theater community, it became apparent that what was most acutely missing was the sense of fun, excitement and camaraderie of First Night."

As a result, the First Night Nashville Theatre Honors are styled after the Kennedy Center Honors. Individuals will be honored with specially staged tributes, featuring members of the local theater community and the staging of scenes and musical numbers from this theater season's most outstanding productions.

RIF was selected as the beneficiary of First Night due to Macy's nationwide support of the program that provides literacy and reading support for children. Throughout the month of August, Macy's stores will raise money and awareness for RIF at its more than 800 stores. First Night Nashville Theatre Honors will continue that support during the month of September.

While the names of the honorees won't be announced until the August 2 preview party, some plans for the big event have already been announced. On Monday, September 13, the 2010 Class of First Night Honorees will be guests of honor at the first First Night Symposium, a round-table discussion about the history of theater in Nashville and its future. The honorees will be interviewed by First Night founder and executive producer Jeffrey Ellis, who covers the Music City theater scene for BroadwayWorld.com and they will respond to questions from the audience. The symposium will be free and open to the public.

On Thursday, September 16, the honorees will be feted with the First Night Honors Dinner, a cocktail buffet hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Michael Gold in their Northumberland home. During that dinner, the honorees will be presented with their medals in recognition of their achievements. In addition, the honorees will be paired with photographers who will create portraits as part of their First Night tributes, which will be unveiled during the dinner.

A standing room only crowd is expected at Belmont's Troutt Theatre for the presentation of the First Night Nashville Theatre Honors on Sunday, September 19. The evening will start with a pre-show party at 6 p.m. and will continue with the Macy's Red Carpet Event, hosted by Jennifer Richmond and Trey Palmer, with fashion commentary by Cary Street and Richard Browder.

A star-studded cast of Nashville theater's best known performers will highlight the First Night Nashville Theatre Honors, with special performances from this season's productions of David Lipscomb University's Doubt, ACT 1's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, GroundWorks Theatre's Fat Pig, SistaStyle Productions' Fly, Girl!,Circle Players' Titanic the Musical, 3PS Productions' john and jen, Boiler Room Theatre's Rent and Nine, Tennessee Repertory Theatre's Big River, Rhubard Theatre Company's Potty Talk, Street Theatre Company's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Actors Bridge Ensemble's Vincent in Brixton and All My Sons, Metro Parks' Signs of a New Day: The Z. Alexander Looby Story and Nashville Shakespeare Festival's Love's Labor's Lost.

Among performers in the First Night spotlight will be: Denice Hicks, Kim Leslie, Kay Ayers, Vali Forrister, Laura Thomas Sonn, Mary McCallum, Laurel Baker, Debbie Kraski, Jervon Dailey, Wesley Paine, Lisa Marie Wright, Holly Shepherd, Patrick Waller, Martha Wilkinson, Johnny Peppers, Megan Murphy Chambers, Jack Chambers, Melissa Bedinger Hade, Ed Amatrudo, Amanda Lamb, Michael Coursey, Yvonne Smith, Tyson Laemmel, Jacob Weiss, Rona Carter, Scott Rice, Cori Laemmel, Lindsay Terrizzi Hess, Erica Cantrell, Alan Smith, Mike Baum, Corrie Miller, James Rudolph, Patrick Kramer, Bakari Jamal King, David Compton, Matthew Carlton, Cinda McCain,Ginger Newman, Shelean Newman, Joshua Waldrep, Darin Richardson, Ben Van Diepen, JoAnn Coleman, Christi Dortch, Layne Sasser, Kelvin Amburgey, Pam Atha, Carolyn German, MeLinda Bates, Tim Fudge, Alicia Haymer, Nan Gurley and Ann Street-Kavanaugh. Other performers will be named throughout the summer.

Closing out festivities on Sunday night will be an after party, featuring a silent auction. Further details will be announced as they are available throught the summer. To follow the progress of First Night's revival in Nashville, follow The First Night Nashville Theatre Honors on Facebook. Tickets to the Sunday event are only $25 per person.

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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, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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