GIVING THANKS: What Are You Grateful For in 2015?

Once again, it's that time of year: a period of reflection and introspection that gives us all the perfect opportunity to express our gratitude for the things in our lives that have meant the most to us in 2015. We reached out to members of our theater community, to inquire about that which they are thankful for and we got some very heartfelt, considered romances that, leavened by the humor injected from some of our favorite people, gives us added insight into the psyche of the artistic and creative-minded people who make theatrical magic every day...

Emily Faith

EMILY FAITH has moved on from Nashville and is now pursuing her theater career in Boston, but promises to be back in town over Christmas to give us something to be thankful for - she gives thanks this season from her new perspective...Nashville theater is the most beautiful community from the perspective of someone now living on the outside. From professional to community to educational to children's, Nashville theater has seemed to hit its stride. I am thankful to witness (albeit from afar) the talents that have blossomed, the risks being taken and most importantly, the support system you have created for yourselves. I am thankful that you are a home that I know I can always come back to. Please know how lucky you are. Happy Thanksgiving!

Theater mom MARIA GARNER's daughter Zoe is now in college in Chicago, so being an empty nester may mean you're more likely to see her in your audiences now, plus the price is right: What I'm grateful for in Nashville theater: Thought provoking shows that I can afford to go see without taking out a loan. I am also grateful for the openness of theater community no matter where you are starting from or what your interest level might be. There is a spot for everyone.

LINDA SPEIR, who co-starred in Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre's critically acclaimed Arsenic and Old Lace, this year has a message for Nashville directors: I'm thankful every time I get cast!

Curtis LeMoine Reed

Although CURTIS LeMOINE-REED seems like a Nashville native now, truth is he's been here a relatively short time, and that's something to be grateful for: I am thankful for Nashville welcoming me with open arms and allowing me to jump in feet first into this theater-rich community. I have been so fortunate to work with some amazing companies like Street Theatre, Gaslight, and soon with Nashville Rep as well as some amazing actors and directors: Martha Wilkinson, Cathy Street, Jenny Norris Light, Lauren Jones, DeVon Buchanan, Chase Miller and Pam Atha just to name a few as there are too many to list. I am thankful for the future in theater that Nashville offers to locals as well as transplants such as myself. And I am thankful for the fact that Music City's theater community continues to grow and expand and innovate itself in a positive manner.

Gorgeous, glamourous and multi-talented KATHERINE MORGAN (who'll be co-hosting Midwinter's First Night on January 10) gets to the heart of the matter in answering the question about what she's most thankful for in 2015: Spanx!!!

Middle Tennessee State University alumnus DAVID CUMMINGS (whom I reviewed in college!) has had a busy theater year in 2015, for which he's happy to give thanks: I am thankful for so many things theatrically. First that I am blessed to be given so many opportunities to do what I love. Second, and more importantly, when I get to work with young actors as I just did in Addams Family [at Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro] gives me the wonderful chance to help mold the next generation and perhaps pass a little of what I know to them. Lastly, and I feel most important to me, is when I see a complete first row of seniors...from the facility where I work, beaming at me as I do my thing. The enrichment that I know I am bringing to them is the best gift of all.

Carrie Brewer

After spending time in two of the world's busiest - and biggest - theatrical meccas, Nashville newcomer CARRIE BREWER is happy to have found a new theatrical home in Music City: Having come from two wonderful, yet soul sucking, big cities (NY and LA) I am thankful for the supportive, fun, family-friendly atmosphere of the Nashville arts scene.

Kary Moreland Choate is a theater mom who's very proud of all her "kids": I'm thankful for all my theatre kids. Being a theatre mom is the best.

Theater dad Eric Crawford is especially thankful this year for the theater community's warm welcome to his son: I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to watch my son learn to run sound and lights at Towne Centre during shows I was involved in. It was neat to watch him interact with the rest of the cast and crew in a role of responsibility.

2015 First Night Most Promising Actor Karissa Wheeler graduated high school this year and entered college in Sewanee at The University of The South: I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to play "Aphrodite" in my first college performance at Sewanee in the Tennessee Williams Center under the direction of Dr. Peter Smith, choreography by Courtney World, technical direction by John Marshall, scenery by Dan Backlund, and costuming by Ruth Guerra with Jennifer Matthews. I am thankful for my current Shakespeare Theatre Professor, Dr. David Landon, who will be playing King Lear in King Lear at Nashville Shakes very soon, as well as my vocal coach at Sewanee, Susan Rupert. I am blessed to be learning from experienced, talented instructors and peers, and at the same time I'm very grateful for all of my former theater coaches, directors, teachers, choreographers, dance teachers, and voice instructors. You know who you are (xoxo)

Sewanee alumnus Gary Harris, one of the first designers to ever win a First Night Award, credits his background in the arts with making him very thankful now...I'm honestly thankful that a life in the theater has prepared me to face any task or situation. The art is an education of the broadest kind.

Taylor Novak

2015 has been a banner year for actor TAYLOR NOVAK, for which he is very grateful (and 2016 will start off extra-large as he co-hosts Midwinter's First Night on Sunday, January 10): I am thankful for Bradley Moore and the "Upcoming Auditions in Nashville" posts on

You can't help but love Angela Gimlin, even when she took your dream vacation (at least she brought back souvenirs from the set of Downton Abbey): If it's not too late, I am thankful that Outlander will be coming back in 2016, I'm grateful for all of the wonderful, new actors I got to meet this year in Hamlet, Steel Magnolias and Inebriated Shakespeare. I am grateful I got to visit Highclere Castle earlier this year (and Jef Ellis didn't). I am also grateful, as always, for my other love named Jeff, Jeff Ward.

Lipscomb University theater student Will Lasley, who's definitely one of a kind (in only the best way that a theater person can be uniquely special...) gives thanks for a theatrical titan: The fact that Alan Menken is still writing.

Christen Heilman Runyon

Christen Heilman Runyon has one of the most expressive faces you'll ever encounter in life - and her reason to be grateful this season may explain why: I'm so grateful to be a part of a passionate and compassionate theater community. I love hearing things like "that would never happen in New York" from a casting director after witnessing actors sharing equipment and food at a callback. I'm so lucky to work among people of who care as much for their fellow thespians as they do their art.

Susan Adkins played a salty grandmother type earlier this season, the timing of which might have elicited her thought: I am thankful because every time I am ready to do a play, there is one just right for me to audition for. Not that I always get it, but just knowing the opportunities are there makes me very happy.

He's always either onstage or in the audience, so Howard Snyder's thanks this year seem apropos...I'm thankful for opportunities offered and challenges met, for the joy of performing that's matched only by the joy of watching those I know perform.

Sarah Shepherd

American Idiot's Sarah Shepherd speaks for many from the company of that Circle Players show when she talks about what she's most thankful for this season: This year I have one very big thing that makes my heart overflow with amazing feelings of life, love, and happiness. That thing is simple: this year I became an Idiot. And before you call me crazy, I'm not talking about the usual kind of idiot, rather the fact that I'm an American Idiot. Let me explain...

I had the honor and privilege of being cast in the Circle Players production of American Idiot this year, directed by my very good friend Bradley Moore and his genius creative team. I've done several shows with Bradley and I have always been a Green Day fan, but at that point in time I had no idea how this show, and this cast would change my life for the better. This group of people, including the creative team, has grown to be an entirely new family for me. We support each other, pick each other up when we are going through hard times, cheer each other on, and celebrate each other; all the while, making sure that there is no idiot left behind. Even after the show closed (and it closed way too early!), we would have done it 100 more times), we all see each other at least once a week, and we plan monthly themed get-togethers (I'm looking forward to Friendsgiving in a couple of weeks). I've never had this kind of experience with any cast I've been in before and I've never been so proud of a show before in my life. I am forever grateful for all of my fellow American Idiots and "Dadley" Bradley, Shauna, Dareath and the entire team who put us all together and made the experience one I will never forget. My heart is soy full of love for these people that I cannot imagine my life without any of them in it. And I hope I don't ever have to.

Theater helps Lynn Yates to escape the day-to-day reality of life "offstage": I am thankful for the rewarding and gratifying outlet the stage provides for me to channel all the crap that lives on the "outside."

Peering out into the dark of a theater filled with audience members gives Meigie Mabry an opportunity to express her thanks: I'm thankful for audiences. I love auditioning, getting cast, researching, rehearsing, and performing but having audience members who laugh and cry and applaud is so important. I also love being in audiences.

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