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Davin, Jones-Benton and Patterson to Co-Host FIRST NIGHT HONORS

Geoff Davin, Stephanie Jones-Benton and Erica Patterson will serve as co-hosts as the leading lights of Tennessee theater are heralded with the presentation of the 2015 First Night Honors Gala, to be held Sunday, September 20, at Nashville's iconic and historic Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre. The event will feature musical numbers by more than 150 performers in tribute to the Class of 2015 Honorees.

Davin, whose original show The First Church of Mary, The Repentant Prostitute's FIFTH ANNUAL Benefit Concert, Revival, and Pot Luck Dinner was directed by nine-time First Night Award winner and 2015 First Night Honoree Martha Wilkinson, debuted in May to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences, has appeared on various Nashville stages, including Nashville Repertory Theatre, Boiler Room Theatre and Street Theatre Company. Davin's resume boasts such diverse roles as Andrew Jackson in STC's Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, Frank N. Furter in BRT's The Rocky Horror Show, and roles in Nashville Rep's A Christmas Story and Larries.

Jones-Benton recently completed the run of Nunsense, directed by Joshua Waldrep, at The Larry Keeton Theatre, playing the role of Sister Mary Leo. She will be directing the Keeton Theatre's upcoming production of The Music Man. Some of her favorite roles include Lucy in Circle Players' Jekyll and Hyde, Marion in The Music Man, Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Ariel in Footloose and Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls.

Erica Patterson

Patterson is a graduating senior at Tennessee State University majoring in Theatre. Born and raised in Memphis, she became involved in Germantown High School's Poplar Pike Playhouse, where she found her love for the theatre. Erica was recently awarded Best Supporting Actress and Best Female Vocalist for her role as Sarah in Ragtime, presented by Circle Players.

Tickets for the 2015 First Night Honors Gala are $25 and should be purchased in advance by calling executive producer/founder Jeffrey Ellis at (615) 300-2513.

Nine individuals who have taken leading roles in making live theater in Tennessee better and more magical have been named as members of the Class of 2015 Honorees for The First Night Honors, the annual celebration of all things theatrical held in Nashville every September.

This year's Gala will include a SILENT AUCTION and a Special First Night Pre-Show at BACKSTAGE AT THE BARN (to be hosted by Memory Strong, actress/singer and executive director of ACT 1, and produced by 2014 First Night Most Promising Actor Amanda Grace Creech). A cash bar will be available and a special appetizers/desserts menu will be offered during First Night festivities at Chaffin's Barn.

Geoff Davin

The 2015 Honorees include:
Actor/director/producer/writer Henry O. "Chip" Arnold

Actress/director/educator Kaul Williams Bluestone

Producer/director/actor/Arts Center of Cannon County's Darryl Deason, Murfreesboro dentist

Playwright/educator/director Paula Flautt of Christ Presbyterian Academy

Actress/producer/director LB Gaiters

Actress/director/teacher Carol Irvin of Crossville's Cumberland County Playhouse

Producer Larry Keeton, namesake of The Larry Keeton Theatre, Donelson

Actress/director/producer Wesley Paine

Actress/director/producer Martha Wilkinson, the winner of 9 First Night Awards for her roles in musical theater and artistic director of Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre

Stephanie Jones-Benton

In addition to the 2015 Honorees, winners of the First Night Star Award were revealed at the annual Preview Party at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre in July and will be featured at the Honors Gala. Star Award winners include: Britt Hancock, April Presley, Jenny Wallace Noel, Blandina Vergara Cruz, Kari Smith, Bradley Moore, Nicole Begue Hackmann, Buffi Jones Holland, David Wilkerson, Matt Smith, Ron Murphy, Brenda Dent Gregory, Dave McGinnis, Teresa Hardage Driver, L.T. Kirk, Kim Tyson Powers, Jessika Malone, Eddie Charlton, Mary Ellen Smith and Donald Powell.

ABOUT FIRST NIGHT: During its original incarnation (beginning in 1989), First Night Awards were presented in many different categories; styled after the Tony Awards, theater-goers annually cast their ballots for their favorites in various award categories. When First Night was revived in 2010, an effort was made to maintain the longtime feeling of First Night (described as a genuine sense of joie de vivre and community among a large, disparate - and sometimes dysfunctional - group of individuals) while creating an event more relevant in the 21st century. Ultimately, it was decided to model First Night on The Kennedy Center Honors, focusing on the achievements of a group of visionaries, or as they are now referred to: the leading lights of Tennessee theater.

Subsequently, an original First Night category of Most Promising Actor was updated with a group of young theater artists recognized each year, in anticipation of their future accomplishments, and in 2011, the First Night Star Award was established to recognize leaders of the theater community who are likely to be given the full First Night Honors treatment in years to come, in recognition of their achievements to date.

At the First Night Honors Gala each year, a cast upwards of 150 performers pay tribute to the honorees with a concert performance featuring a wide range of music, drama and comedy, featuring performers from throughout the Volunteer State. In addition, Most Promising Actors are given their own special evening of performance, spotlighting their unique talents and capabilities.

From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)

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