Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley

Photo-Coverage-The-First-Night-Robe-is-Presented-to-Kristi-Mason-Clay-Steakley-20000101

Clay Steakley, who plays the role of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Actors Bridge Ensemble's world premiere production of Bill Feehely's Outside Paradise, is the latest recipient of The First Night Robe. Jeffrey Ellis, founder and executive producer of The First Night Honors, presented the robe to Steakley on Saturday, November 10, prior to curtain of Outside Paradise at Belmont University's Black Box Theatre.

Directed by playwright Bill Feehely, Outside Paradise continues through November 18. In addition to Steakley, the cast is led by 2011 First Night best actress in a play Jennifer Richmond, 2010 First Night Most Promising Actor Luke Hatmaker, Ricardo Andres Puerto, and Belmont University BFA performance students D.J. Clark, Ashley Glore, Adrienne Hall and Kallen Prosterman.

A week earlier, on Thursday, November 1, Kristi Mason-who played Babe in Lipscomb University Theatre's production of The Pajama Game-was the recipient of the robe prior to curtain on opening night at Collins Alumni Auditorium on the Lipscomb campus in Nashville. Directed by Beki Baker, The Pajama Game was choreographed by Justin Boccitto, himself a recipient of the robe earlier in the season and 2011 First Night Award-winning best director of a musical for Hairspray at Lipscomb.

On September 2, 2012-during the presentation of The First Night Honors-a new Nashville and Tennessee theater tradition was unveiled with the presentation of the First Night Robe. Fashioned after and inspired by the legendary Broadway Gypsy Robe, the First Night counterpart is presented to someone who is making their first appearance on a Nashville-area stage, is playing a significant role after a long absence or is deemed worthy of notice by the show's production team.

The robe, designed and built by Laura Spencer Higgins and Cat Arnold, is royal blue lined with pale silver and accented with gold brocade trim. It represents the history of theater in the Volunteer State and the continuing sense of community and tradition that reverberates throughout Tennessee every time an actor steps upon the stage.

Broadway veteran Bailey Hanks (Legally Blonde), who made her Nashville stage debut at The First Night Honors, was the first recipient (subsequently, she was presented with the robe again on opening night of 9 to 5: The Musical at the Roxy Regional Theatre in Clarksville), followed by Taylor Tracey, who made her Nashville debut playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at the Larry Keeton Theatre.

Justin Boccitto, who plays Ken in Blackbird Theatre's production of Red, was the next recipient, receiving the robe on opening night of the show at Lipscomb University's Shamblin Theatre. Paul J. Cook, playing Leo Frank at Boiler Room Theatre, accepted the robe on the second night of Parade, while Enoch Porch and Kevin J. Thornton, creators of Into the Darkness: A Vampire Musical, shared the First Night Robe on their very own First Night at Chaffin's Backstage at the Barn.

Kelsey Porter, who played Nettie in Circle Players' production of The Color Purple, which was held over for a third weekend at Tennessee State University's Performing Arts Center, was presented the robe prior to opening night of the musical, which was a joint production of Circle Players and TSU.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis shows Kristi Mason the autographs of previous recipients.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis, Kristi Mason and Tyler Ashley at the presentation of the First Night Robe prior to curtain at opening night of Lipscomb University Theatre's The Pajama Game.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis, Kristi Mason and Tyler Ashley at the presentation of the First Night Robe prior to curtain at opening night of Lipscomb University Theatre's The Pajama Game.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Director Beki Baker, Jeffrey Ellis and Kristi Mason

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis traces the route of the First Night Robe following the presentation to Clay Steakley.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis, Clay Steakley, Vali Forrister and director/playwright Bill Feehely.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis presents Clay Steakley the First Night Robe prior to curtain at the world premiere production of Bill Feehely's Outside Paradise.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis, Clay Steakley, Vali Forrister and director/playwright Bill Feehely.

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis and Clay Steakley

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley
Jeffrey Ellis and Clay Steakley

Photo Coverage: The First Night Robe is Presented to OUTSIDE PARADISE's Clay Steakley




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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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