On September 2, 2012-during the presentation of The First Night Honors-a new Nashville and Tennessee theater tradition was unveiled with the presentation of the First Night Robe. Fashioned after and inspired by the legendary Broadway Gypsy Robe, the First Night counterpart is presented to someone who is Making Their first appearance on a Nashville-area stage.
The robe, designed and built by Laura Spencer Higgins and Cat Arnold, is royal blue lined with pale silver and accented with gold brocade trim. It represents the history of theater in the Volunteer State and the continuing sense of community and tradition that reverberates throughout Tennessee every time an actor steps upon the stage.
Broadway veteran Bailey Hanks (Legally Blonde), who made her Nashville stage debut at The First Night Honors, was the first recipient (subsequently, she was presented with the robe again on opening night of 9 to 5: The Musical at the Roxy Regional Theatre in Clarksville), followed by Taylor Tracey, who made her Nashville debut playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at the Larry Keeton Theatre.
Justin Boccitto, who plays Ken in Blackbird Theatre's production of Red, was the next recipient, receiving the robe on opening night of the show at Lipscomb University's Shamblin Theatre. Paul J. Cook, playing Leo Frank at Boiler Room Theatre, accepted the robe on the second night of Parade, while Enoch Porch and Kevin J. Thornton, creators of Into the Darkness: A Vampire Musical, shared the First Night Robe on their very own First Night at Chaffin's Backstage at the Barn.
photos by Johnny Benton/Studio Benton Photography; Rick Malkin; Faith Kelm; Anthony Just; and Amanda Lamb
Hugh Britt, Cary Street, Bailey Hanks and Angela Gimlin
Jeffrey Ellis, Enoch Porch and Kevin J. Thornton
Justin Boccitto autographs The First Night Robe
Ronnie Meek, Jeffrey Ellis and Jusin Boccitto
Paul Cook reads the autographs on the First Night Robe
Sondra Morton, Paul Cook and Jeffrey Ellis
Kate Adams, Jeffrey Ellis and Taylor Tracey
Jeffrey Ellis, Paul Cook and Sondra Morton
Jeffrey Ellis and Bailey Hanks
Cary Street, Bailey Hanks and Angela Gimlin
Hugh Britt, Cary Street, Bailey Hanks, Angela Gimlin and Jennifer Richmond
Hugh Britt, Bailey Hanks, Jennifer Richmond and Angela Gimlin