Six of the leading lights of the theater world in Tennessee will be recognized as members of the 2011 Class of First Night Honorees August 27-September 4 as First Night, the Nashville Theatre Honors hosts a series of theatrical events to celebrate their achievements and accomplishments.
Honorees for 2011 include: Pam Atha, director, choreographer and actress, who has won seven First Night Awards; Daniel Brewer, longtime production stage manager at Nashville Children's Theatre; Gary Hoff, nationally acclaimed scenic designer for Tennessee Repertory Theatre; Danny Proctor, one of Nashville's favorite actors; Layne Sasser, First Night Award-winning actress; and Helen Shute-Pettaway, renowned actress, director and producer. The six honorees will be lauded at events that will kick off on Saturday, August 27 and will culminate on Sunday, September 4, with the Honors Gala - which features a cast of Tennessee stage favorites paying tribute to them - at Belmont University's Troutt Theatre.
"Last year, after a 14-year absence, we revived First Night for the 21st century," explains Jeffrey Ellis, founder and executive producer. "I often describe it as a combination of the very best of the Kennedy Center Honors and the Tony Awards, with a little bit of yard sale thrown in since we have a stellar silent auction that's a huge part of the Honors Gala."
In 2010, the inaugural eight honorees included Scot Copeland, producing artistic director at Nashville Children's Theatre; Paul Gatrell, chair of the department of theater and dance at Belmont University; Kathleen O'Brien, president and CEO of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center; A. Sean O'Connell and Robert A. O'Connell, actors/directors/producers and co-founders of both ACT 1 and GroundWorks Theatre; Mac Pirkle, co-founder of Tennessee Repertory Theatre and Southern Stage Productions; actor/director/producer and theater company founder Barry Scott, who is also nationally known as a voice-over artist; and Darkhorse Theater owner Shannon Wood, who has enjoyed a long career as a production stage manager among her other theatrical endeavors.
First Night 2011 will kick off on Saturday, August 27, with a staged reading of Picnic by William Inge, who did his graduate work in English at Nashville's George Peabody College, starring BoNita Allen, Alice Raver, Elizabeth Walsh, 2010 Most Promising Actor award winner Luke Hatmaker, Delaney Amatrudo, Evelyn O'Neal Brush, Ed Amatrudo, Joy Tilley Perryman, Lynda Cameron Bayer, Evan Taylor Williams and Christian Albright-Redden. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. The staged reading of Picnic is a pay-what-you-can event.
The six honorees will be the focus of First Night: The Symposium on Monday, August 29, during which they will be interviewed by Ellis, who has covered theater, opera and dance in the Volunteer State for more than 25 years and now is a contributing editor to BroadwayWorld.com, the world's largest theater web resource. In addition, the honorees will take questions from their audience. The Symposium will be held at The Black Box Theatre at Belmont's Troutt Theatre complex at 7:30 p.m., and the event is free and open to the public.