Douglas Waterbury-Tieman
- photo by Ronnie Nelson

One of the best things about living in a theater city such as Nashville - our city/region recently was ranked the number 4 creative community in the country, joining Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco and Minneapolis in the top 5 - is that it's big enough to attract a lot of artists who flock to the city to do what they do best. Unfortunately, the theater scene isn't quite vibrant enough to provide a comfortable existence for a large community of artists, dependent upon earning a living wage.

What that all boils down to, of course, is that we see a lot of journeyman actors weave themselves into the fabric of our city's creativity only to leave when opportunity or ambition summons them elsewhere. As a result, as a journalist covering theater in Nashville, we've met so many wonderful individuals who are here for far too short a time, but who have managed to leave an indelible impression on the creative community.

Douglas Waterbury-Tieman in SeaWife

Among such actors is Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, a graduate of the Belmont University Musical Theatre program, now living in Inwood, New York City, with his wife Annabelle Fox (also a Belmont grad and a recent subject of this series), whom he met in school in Nashville.

During his time in the Volunteer State, the self-described "Fiddler, Tapper, Singer, Actor" appeared not only on Belmont stages, but he also worked with Studio Tenn and Cumberland County Playhouse.

"I live with my wife Annabelle in Inwood, which is the northern most neighborhood on Manhattan Island. We love it there!" he says. "I am currently performing in a world premiere of Charles Mee's new play Soot and Spit at the New Ohio Theatre in Manhattan. I have been a part of the developmental cast for almost a year now playing the role of Nashville's own John Hartford. I am happy to announce that we were chosen as a New York Times Critic's Pick."

With Jessica Wockenfuss in CCP's
Backwards in High Heels

Coming up this summer, Douglas will be traveling as a member of the folk band The Lobbyists "to perform our concert-play SeaWife at the White Heron Theatre on Nantucket Island. It's a play with music about the whaling industry of the 1800s, I play fiddle and wrote some of the music for the piece."

He also plays with The Playbillies, the musical group that's gone viral many times over recently with their YouTube videos in which they perform Bluegrass-style covers of an eclectic mix of musical theater songs. And in his spare time - as if there were any - "I am also writing a new Musical called Johnny and the Devil's Box which I hope to share more news about soon!"

What brought you to Nashville/Tennessee in the first place? I came to Nashville in the fall of 2008 as a freshman musical Theatre major at Belmont University. I grew up about four hours away in Lexington, Kentucky.

How did your time in Nashville prepare you for where you are now in your career arc? My time in Nashville was defined by my theatre experience and training at Belmont as well as in productions at Studio Tenn and Cumberland County Playhouse. The hours of practice and work that I put in at school and in rehearsal gave me the diligence and work ethic that have made my career in NYC possible.

What's your most vivid memory of your time in the Volunteer State? Meeting my wife. It was in rehearsal for Belmont's production of Anything Goes. I played Billy and Annabelle was an incoming freshman. I definitely played the upperclassman/leading man card for all its worth. There was plenty of backstage flirtation but beyond that I could tell she was someone very special. Seven years later, we are happily married and support each other perusing our dreams onstage and off.

Studio Tenn's Sound of Music
- photo by Anthony Matula

Who were some of the people in Nashville/Tennessee who had a lasting impact on your and/or your career? There are so many. I'd have to say the first were Marjorie Halbert and Debbie Belue. Auditioning for them is the reason I came to Nashville in the first place. The instruction and wisdom they imparted to me still guides how I approach my craft.

But the list doesn't stop there. Nancy Allen, David Shamburger, Jo Lynn Burks and Emily Speck gave me the foundation of what has become a career I am proud to call my own. Also, Matt Logan and Jake Speck from Studio Tenn, the team at The Cumberland County Playhouse. Cynthia Curtis, Dr. Byrne, CJ Tucker, Terry Klefstad, Dr. Boan, Dr. Thorndike along with many many others.

What advice would you give to someone taking their first steps to becoming a part of the theater scene here? Make your own work. Find the thing that you love to do that no one else is doing and do it. If you don't know what that is yet then experiment and create and explore the limits of your abilities until you find it, then practice it until you can claim it as your own. Your individual perspective on the world is your greatest assets. No one in this (or any business for that matter) is going to hand you a tailor-made career. You have to make it for yourself.

The Playbillies

To keep abreast of what's happening in Douglas Waterbury-Tieman's career, check out his website at www.douglaswaterburytieman.com. You can also read more about his exploits at www.seawife.com and www.wearethelobbyists.com. To see some of his work with The Playbillies, go to www.youtube.com/channel/UCfb-9pNhrv65YarOigbOsqw.

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis

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