MUSIC CITY CONFIDENTIAL #6: All The News from Onstage, Offstage, Backstage and Beyond


As summer temperatures continue to hover near the 100-degree mark, it's as if the theater community itself has caught fire and there's more interesting and intriguing theater going on in Nashville than you can shake a stick at (if, that is, you wanted to shake a stick at it-which to me sounds like a futile gesture, since I've been shaking my stick at it for longer than I care to admit). Yet, in all sincerity, there really is a lot going on in these parts this summer, and the sense of excitement and anticipation is palpable.

We've been doing our part to prepare ye the way, watching the action onstage, taking some furtive peeks backstage, listening to all the offstage gossip and venturing beyond the confines of the theater to gain the informed knowledge to see more shows in the Volunteer State than you ever thought possible. So, good people of the theaterati, read on and get all the information you need to know in this, our latest installment of Music City Confidential. This is #6…

Dancers and dance aficionados all over Nashville had their chance to celebrate National Dance Day on Saturday, July 28, with events hosted by both Dance Theatre of Tennessee and Nashville Ballet. The celebrations started early at both DTT and Nashville Ballet, with company members and students taking part along with members of the public in general and they continued throughout the day. In fact, the cast of The Nutty Professor Musical, who had two shows on Saturday, probably brought down the curtain on Music City's celebrations of National Dance Day when the curtain rang down on their Saturday evening peformance of the new musical!


It's that time of year again: the 2012 First Night Honors season is under way in earnest in Music City, with the Preview Party and Announcement of Honorees kicking off festivities on Monday, July 23. Janie and John Chaffin, the owners of the venerable Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre played host to about 85 of the theater community's best and brightest last week to witness the reveal of the 2012 Class of First Night Honorees, the winners of the 2012 First Night Star Awards and the names of this year's Most Promising Actors. The Class of 2012 includes Maggi Bowden and Sue Stinemetz, Maryanna and Chris Clarke, Mary Jane Harvill, Chambers Stevens, Jackie Welch and Paul Vasterling. They will be honored during the upcoming First Night Honors Gala on Sunday, September 2, at Belmont University's Troutt Theatre.


The First Night Star Award winners-nine men who've proven themselves leaders of the creative community-are Matthew Carlton, Wes Driver, Greg Greene, Tim Larson, Matt Logan, Jim Manning, Johnny Peppers, Eric Ventress and Shawn Whitsell. They join last year's Star Award winners-eight extraordinary women including Maryanna Clarke, Vali Forrister, Cathy Street, Melissa Bedinger Hade, Denice Hicks, Mary McCallum, Trish Crist and Kate Adams-to be singled out for this coveted award. Next year, both women and men will be honored with Star Awards. Last year's First Night Honors saluted women (with a theme of Ladies, First!-thanks to Denice Hicks, we were able to retire our own "Girls, Girls, Girls" idea), and this year we pay tribute to the theatrical contributions of men.

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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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