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The 2015 First Night Honorees: Actress and Educator Kaul Bluestone


2015 First Night Honoree Kaul Bluestone claimed her place in the First Night record books in the 20th Century: She was the 1996 Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her role in Circle Players' production of Dancing at Lughnasa...and she has starred in two critically acclaimed plays directed by First Night founder and executive producer Jeffrey Ellis in the 21st Century: The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Picnic, both for Circle Players.

"I was a freshman in high school when I knew that I was destined to make a life in the theatre. My favorite teacher, Sara Jared, taught English. While we were reading Midsummer Night's Dream out loud in class, Ms. Jared pulled me aside after class and told me that she thought that I had real talent in portraying/reading the different characters," Bluestone recalls. "She told me that a friend of hers was a director of the TTU college theatre group, Wesley Players, and that they were holding auditions for the play, Anne Frank. She encouraged me to audition."

"I immediately read Anne's original diary and checked out a copy of the playscript from the library to practice lines. I explained to my parents that I wanted to audition for the play. After they agreed to let me audition, my mother told me not to expect to be cast as Anne. She told me that a smaller part would be all right to accept if I was cast. Well, auditions were being held over two nights. I went to the first night of auditions and was asked to read the part of Anne quite a few times. When we returned home after the audition, the phone was ringing. The director told my mother that they didn't even want to hear anyone else read for Anne. They wanted me to do the part. I did, and the experience changed my life forever! Theatre was a part of my life from that production onward."

Kaul Bluestone, with Holly Allen, in The Last
Night of Ballyhoo

In these photos, the 2015 First Night Honoree is pictured with Holly Allen in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Todd Truley in Dancing at Lughnasa and with Thomas Clouse and Tammy Sutherland in Picnic.

About the 2015 First Night Honorees: 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.

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

The Class of 2015 Honorees will be honored on Sunday, September 20, at The First Night Honors Gala with staged tributes performed by a cast of more than 150 entertainers.

With Tom Clouse and Tammy Sutherland in Picnic

In addition to the 2015 Honorees, winners of the First Night Star Award were also revealed at last month's Preview Party at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre. 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.

Included among the list of 2015 Most Promising Actors, a group of younger actors who've displayed a wide range of talents and commitment to the theater: Bekah Purifoy, Logan Dowlen, Gerald Oliver, MacKenzie Lewis, Caroline Anne Sandrell, Harley Seger, Matt Henry, Tyler Russell, Arden Taylor Guice, Karissa Wheeler, Cameron Bortz, Emily Whitlow, Rhion Pinto, Scott Patrick Wilson, Jess Darnell, Lacy Hartselle, Zoe Garner, Shawn Michale Sookram, Collin Peterson, McKenna Harrington, Kimberly Rye and Rebekah Stogner. In addition to performing at the First Night Gala in September, Most Promising Actors will be featured in a special showcase performance on Sunday, August 23 at Darkhorse Theatre.

With Todd Truley in Dancing at Lughnasa

In addition to the 2015 First Night Honorees, the names of this year's First Night Star Award winners and the Most Promising Actors were announced during the Preview Party event, which was co-hosted by Britt Byrd, Joy Tilley Perryman, Kim Thornton Nygren, Ashley Bishop Diggs and Joel Diggs. They joined First Night producer/choreographer Kate Adams and founder and executive producer Jeffrey Ellis in revealing the names of the theaterati who will be in the spotlight during this year's First Night gala in September.

About the history of 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.

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