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NASHVILLE THEATER 101.5: Amber Boyer, Justin Boyd & Maryanna Clarke

It's a question asked of theater artisans forever, it seems: Why do you do theater? Plain and simple, to be sure, but clearly it's a query filled with portent and gravitas. Is applause enough to keep longtime actors on the job? In fact, is it enough to persuade a neophyte to seek a career onstage?

Why do you do theater? We've been putting that question to members of the Nashville theater famiy for the past month to find out what it is that motivates creative types to pursue an illusory and challenging career, while for others the theater gives them a creative avocation that helps keep them sane. Today, in our latest installment of Nashville Theater 101, we introduce three more members of our wildly divergent, almost prototypically dysfunctional theater family: Justin Boyd, Amber Boyer and Maryanna Clarke.

Our questions: Why do you do theater? And why, for the love of God, do you do it in Nashville, the city most widely known as Music City USA?

Justin Boyd

After a jam-packed 2014, Justin Boyd's first show in the new year will be Fiddler on the Roof at The Larry Keeton Theatre.

"I personally do theatre to 'affect' people. I love making people think, laugh, love, and generally just make them feel something. One of the greatest compliments someone can give me after a performance is that they could emotionally, mentally, or spiritually connect with my character. Not only does that mean that the audience could feel something from my performance, but it also means that I did the show and the writer justice in performing the piece well.

"Why here? Since I am a native Nashvillian, I choose here because it's my home. I had my first taste of theatre in a school play when I was 11 years old. It was then that I knew I had to pursue it. I made my Nashville stage debut in 2010 with Lipscomb's production of Ragtime. Since then, I've been involved with roughly 25 productions, and I'm hoping for many more here in Music City USA!"

Amber Boyer

Amber Boyer is a stalwart of Nashville theater, appearing in such diverse shows as Titanic, Bye Bye Birdie, Oklahoma and Circle Players' upcoming production of Ragtime.

"Why theater? To be plain and simple, (and, yes, I know it sounds completely cliche) because I love it. I love being onstage, I love being backstage, and I love being an audience member seeing a great show (wishing I were on stage with them. . . Not gonna lie!) But, ultimately, that's the draw of the theater for me. Seeing a fantastic show being performed from the audience and envisioning yourself up there with those folks to tell that story. And, let's face it. . . who doesn't want to pretend to be someone else for a few hours sometimes, right?

"Why Nashville? I moved here from my smaller hometown that had two community theaters and three collegiate theaters. After college, I visited my friend who was born and raised here. One of the appeals for the move was the number of theaters here. Along with the guarantee of a much more exciting life, that was enough for me to move at 24-years-old. Even though I haven't exactly pursued it as a career and mostly do community theater simply for the love of it, I have had multiple paying performances along the way. There is always opportunity in Nashville, but nothing compares to the theater family that is always creating and growing in this city. It's contagious and amazing. And the talent here is phenomenal! To share the stage with the same people you watch from the audience - and get that 'I wanna be up there with them right now feeling?' It's pretty priceless."

Maryanna Clarke

Maryanna Clarke is the founder of Tennessee Women's Theater Project and is a First Night Award winning actress (for her performance as Madame Arcati in ACT 1's Blithe Spirit) and a 2012 First Night Honoree along with her husband Chris Clarke.

"I moved to Nashville with my husband, Chris, to pursue a career as a recording artist. We lived in New Jersey, had gotten interest from a couple of record labels and realized we couldn't make things happen from so far away. So, Chris got a job with a company in Nashville and they moved us here. Almost immediately, I started to have voice problems. We didn't have health insurance, so I couldn't afford to see a doctor. My voice coach at the time, the brilliant Phoebe Binkley, seeing what a struggle singing had become for me, suggested a change. She urged me to give myself a break from singing and do something else creative. "Take an acting class," she said. I did, and found my true creative home: theater. Good thing, too, because my "voice problems" were later diagnosed as spasmodic dysphonia - a focal dystonia that causes uncontrollable spasms of the vocal folds. It is neurological and it is incurable. It ended my singing career, and would go on to end my acting career - but I managed to find a path for myself in theater that didn't depend on being able to be heard 20 rows back!

"We came here because of the music business, but stayed here for a number of reasons. First, living was easier and more affordable here than in my home state of New Jersey. Then, when our daughter, Kate (the inspiration for Tennessee Women's Theater Project, by the way), came along, we discovered that our neighborhood was actually a great place to raise a kid. She would leave her bike in the front yard for weeks at a time - and there it would always be.

"I don't envy the members of my theater tribe who live in NYC or Chicago or the other big theater cities (well, maybe Toronto - but not in the winter!), where both the financial and emotional costs of living are higher. Theater magic can be created anywhere!

"'Bloom where you are planted.' - or in my case, transplanted. We've been here for over 25 years, and I've been doing theater for most of that time - I've taken root!"

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis