Thursday, October 1, 2009

Watch the National Summit on Arts Journalism Here!

Tomorrow from 11AM to 3PM CDT you can watch the first-ever National Summit on Arts Journalism at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles. They are presenting ten projects in arts journalism from around America, and each has something to say about the future of how journalists cover the arts.
Come back then to watch the streaming video. For more info, or if you have any problems viewing it from this location, go to

Live video by Ustream

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New York Here I Come!

I'm really thrilled about being selected as a 2009 Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. I found out I'd been selected earlier this month and the press release came out today. I'll be in the Big Apple Oct. 17-27.

I know from my experiences at the 2006 NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles that this will be a professionally enriching and personally exciting opportunity.

There are several folks who've aided, encouraged and supported me during my time as an arts critic. My wife Ann is chief among them, and I thank her and them. For my successful application to this program (and everything else they've done to help me) I also want to thank my editor/friend Linda Zettler and my friend/mentor Kevin Nance who wrote recommendation letters on my behalf. And of course I'm grateful to the good folks at Columbia for letting me come. I look forward to meeting them and the other fellows in NYC!

The full release follows:

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism
Announces Fellows for the
Sixth NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera

NEW YORK, September 24, 2009 - Columbia University’s Journalism School has announced that 24 critics, editors, reporters, and producers have been chosen to participate in the sixth annual National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera. The program is one of four NEA-funded, discipline-specific institutes for arts journalists.

Through the generous support of the NEA, the music institute will take place at Columbia University from October 17 to 27, 2009. National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman said, “At a time when journalism is roiling with waves of dramatic change, it is especially important to invest in these NEA arts journalism institutes. Informed voices, in whatever media venue they reside, are critical to the health and vibrancy of the arts.”

The 2009 fellows for music and opera hail mostly from media markets outside the nation’s largest cities, though the program now accepts a limited number of journalists who work in major metropolitan regions. This year’s participants represent every kind of news media outlet — print, broadcast and Web — in 21 cities and 16 states.

“The NEA has made it a priority to support arts journalism at a time of cataclysmic change in the press,” said Andras Szanto, who co-directs the Arts Journalism Institute with Anya Grundmann, executive producer of NPR Music, and artistic director Joseph Horowitz, classical music historian and critic. “The Institute at Columbia’s Journalism School has had a significant impact in communities across the United States.”

The 2009 Fellows in the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera are:
JJ Abernathy, feature columnist, The Spectrum, St. George, UT
Mike Allen, arts and culture columnist, The Roanoke Times, Roanoke VA
Amanda Angel, classical music writer, freelance, Time Out, New York, NY
Anne Arenstein, freelance classical music writer, Cincinnati, OH
Zach Carstensen, freelance classical music writer, Seattle, WA
Michael Clive, cultural reporter, freelancer, Waterbury Republican-American, New Preston, CT
Dan Cook, editor, Free Times, Columbia, SC
Geeta Dayal, freelance music critic, Boston, MA
Evans Donnell, arts critic, freelance, The Tennessean, Nashville, TN
Adam J. Goldmann, freelance classical music writer, New York, NY
Megan B. Helm, arts news editor,, Lawrence KS
Gregory Isaacs, classical music writer,, Dallas, TX
Zachary Lewis, classical music critic, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
Alan Lockwood, freelance, Time Out NY/ Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn, NY
Laura McDowell, music Professor, Brevard College, Brevard, NC
Rebecca Milzoff, reporter/listings editor, New York Magazine, New York, NY
Donald Munro, arts columnist, Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA
Margaret Myers, features editor, Amarillo Globe-News, Amarillo, TX
Susan Nisbett, music/dance writer, freelance,, Ann Arbor, MI
Rosemary Ponnekanti, arts reporter, The News Tribune, Tacoma, WA
Ronni Reich, music writer, freelance, Washington Post/ Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ
Graydon Royce, theater critic and arts writer, Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN
Adeline Sire, producer, “The World,” WGBH, Boston, MA
Jonathan Turner, arts reporter, Moline Dispatch, Moline, IL

The NEA also funds institutes for dance writers hosted by the American Dance Festival at Duke University, for theater writers at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication, and, starting this year, for visual arts writers at American University in Washington, DC. Fellows are chosen by a competitive application process. The programs cover most of the participants’ expenses.

“Although there is a lot of hand-wringing about the state of arts criticism, and although much of it is deserved,” says artistic director Joseph Horowitz, “this sixth year of the NEA Institute at Columbia has yielded one of the strongest pools of applicants we have yet seen. I can’t wait to work with so many eager and articulate writers. One thing this confirms, for me, is that classical music itself is at a point of transition that’s invigorating and open-ended.”

“It’s thrilling to watch journalists return home after the Institute not only having heard great music, made new contacts, and learned new skills, but also filled with a renewed sense of purpose about the importance of sparking a conversation about music and culture in their own communities,” added co-director Anya Grundmann.

Institute fellows work with senior journalists and faculty members to improve their listening, analytical, and writing skills. They attend performances that cover a variety of genres and styles, as well as rehearsals and behind-the-scenes meetings with artists and administrators. Finally, the participating journalists develop a firsthand understanding of artistic creation through a physical learning component, specifically, a voice coaching session with a distinguished Julliard voice coach.

Highlights of this year’s Institute performance program include:
• Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Symphony No. 9 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.
• Renee Fleming performs in Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan Opera.
• Murray Perahia solo piano recital at Carnegie Hall
• West Side Story on Broadway
• Clarinetist David Krakauer chamber music recital at Alice Tully Hall
• Wu Man, Pipa virtuoso, at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall

Feedback from past participants:
“I have attended quite a few professional meetings, conferences and writing workshops. The NEA Institute was the most energizing, inspiring experience of my 15-year career in journalism. I didn’t want it to end!”
Elaine Guregian, Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH

“I cannot say enough good things about this fellowship. It has changed me in profound ways. It was like a crucible that formed a new journalist.”
Edward Ortiz, Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, CA.

“We wolfed down more music and more understanding in 12 days than I thought was humanly possible.” Thomas Small, Freelance, Concertonet, Laguna Beach, CA

# # #

About the NEA Arts Journalism Institute
The Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera is a 10-day intensive workshop which brings writers and editors from across the country to New York City for a total immersion in the world of classical music and opera. The fellows attend nightly performances, participate in writing workshops, take short classes in music history, and meet with leaders in the field, from administrators of New York's primary music institutions, to critics and writers at major U.S. publications. It encompasses a rigorous schedule of classroom seminars, meetings with arts leaders and writing workshops to help the participants develop their critical skills and report on the world of classical music. For additional information, visit

About the Graduate School of Journalism
For almost a century, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has been preparing journalists in a program that stresses academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded by Joseph Pulitzer in 1912, the school offers master of science, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy degrees as well as dual degree programs in environmental, religion and international reporting. For more information, visit

About Columbia University
Founded in 1754 as King's College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and today is one of the world's leading academic and research institutions. For more information about Columbia University, visit

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shelean Newman: Anything Goes

I've known Shelean Newman for quite some time - I had the privilege of working with her at Tennessee Repertory Theatre several years ago. She has one of the most versatile and engaging voices I've ever heard. She's also a great person. The video below promotes her new album, Anything Goes, which comes out June 9. My opinion? A must-buy CD!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

LaLonde Wins District 18 Seat

I came out of a play presented by Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, FL, turned on my cell phone and found out that Kristine LaLonde is the newest member of Metro Council.

Kristine's margin of victory increased in the runoff win over Stephenie Dodson from her March 26 tally. It's a no-brainer looking at the numbers to say that both times she was the clear choice of voters in District 18 -- though I'll never understand why so few residents turn out for these races when we're electing the representative that may have more to do with our everyday lives (traffic, parking, zoning, etc.) than any other political office, no matter who wins.

I strongly supported Stephenie, and I'm proud to have voted for her and to call her my friend. But I'm no Rush Limbaugh. Kristine is our new district councilmember and I want her to succeed. I wish her all the best as she prepares to take office.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Six Days To Go!

From an email sent out today:

To the good folks of District 18,
Early voting ends tomorrow and our Run-Off Election Day is just 6 days away! There’s not much time left in our campaign but there’s plenty to do.

Before getting to that, though, I want to say what a great time I had at the Belmont-Hillsboro Spring Cleanup. A lot of campaign folks joined with their friends and neighbors to collect and dispose of trash and other items, and the cookout at Brett Sheriff’s house afterward was wonderful! Thanks to all who participated in that great annual event.

If you can “bank your vote” by tomorrow that means you’ll be able (a) to not worry about getting to the polls to vote next Thursday and (b) be able to focus on getting your friends and neighbors to the polls that day instead. I don’t have to tell you that actually getting out the vote is what matters most!

You can go to the Metro Election Commission office which is on the first floor of the Metro Office Building at 800 Second Ave. South next to the old Howard School site that’s being renovated from 9AM to Noon on Saturday. After that, it’s on to Thursday for final balloting.

You’re probably just as excited as I am about the annual Country Music Marathon. I’ll be on Belmont Blvd. as the runners go through our area after their 7 AM start at Centennial Park. For more details on the race visit

We’ve all been wearing out our shoes as we take our message of serving all of District 18 all the time to voters. Please join me for some final canvassing this weekend from 11 AM to 4 PM Saturday or 1 PM to 4 PM Sunday. We’ll meet at my house (3434 33rd Avenue South). Please let me know you’re coming by calling 582-8892 or emailing, or just show up!

We’ll be calling friends and neighbors from my house each night through Election Eve starting at 7 PM. If you could spare a few hours to help us reach out to others in the district that would be great. Just call or email me using the aforementioned contact info to let me know you’re coming and thanks in advance for helping us get the word out!

We need your vote, but we also need your help one last time on April 30! Hold a sign at one of the district’s three polling places anytime from 7 AM to 7 PM. Give friends and neighbors a ride to a poll if they need it (let us know if you need one and we’ll be glad to arrange it). Call or email me to sign up for one last time!

Brown’s Diner (2102 Blair Blvd.) has been where we’ve gathered throughout this campaign. Join us Thursday after the polls close at 7 PM.

We’ve all put in a lot of hard work, and it’s been great talking to people about what they need from their next District 18 Metro Councilmember. I want to thank all of you once again for your support and efforts.

In just 6 days we’ll see the end of this campaign and the beginning of our work to make our district, and Nashville, stronger and better than ever. How exciting!

Warmest regards,
Stephenie Dodson
Working Hard For You

Friday, April 17, 2009

SAG, AMPTP Reach Tentative Accord

I hope the long wait for a new Screen Actors Guild TV/Theatrical Contract is finally over. Of course, the guild's national board and then members nationwide like myself will have to vote on it, but reports out of Los Angeles today are encouraging about the tentative deal with AMPTP.

Come Early Vote On Saturday!


It's quick, it's easy and it does your community good. Come with us on this beautiful Spring Saturday as we vote for Stephenie!

Where: Davidson County Election Commission, Metro Office Building, First Floor, 800 Second Ave. South (next to old Howard School building)

When: 9 AM to Noon tomorrow!

Bring your driver's license or voting registration card with you and vote to keep our progressive neighborhoods on the move!

If you need a ride, we'll be glad to provide! Email

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brenda Gilmore Will Moderate Forum

Michael Cass spreads the word that State Rep. Brenda Gilmore will be the moderator at Sunday's District 18 runoff candidate forum.

Logistics For Dave Matthews Band At Vandy

From the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association email list:

Dear Neighbors,

As you may already know, we are promoting a Dave Matthews Band concert (with special guests Jason Mraz and Robert Earl Keen, Jr.) at Vanderbilt Football Stadium on Saturday, April 25th at 6:00 pm. Over the past decade, AEG Live has become the largest producer of festivals in North America. AEG Live boasts a catalogue of the most critically acclaimed music festivals in the U.S., ranging from the New Orleans staple, Jazzfest, to Southern California's cutting edge Coachella Music - Arts Festival. And closer to home, AEG produced the popular Nashville Riverstages.

In an effort to minimize the event’s impact on your residence and business, we are working with Vanderbilt regarding ingress/egress of traffic, crowd management, monitoring of sound levels in the neighborhood and police coverage throughout the area. In addition, we wanted to give you advance notice of the following street closures that will take place Saturday, April 25th in relation to the concert:

Natchez Trace will be closed from Children’s Way to the Marriott driveway.
Jess Neely will be closed from Natchez Trace to 25th Avenue South.
Kensington Avenue will be closed from Natchez Trace to the Marriott Parking Garage Entrance. Drivers will still be able to access the garage by taking 25th Avenue South to Kensington.

In addition to these closures, there is no parking allowed on Vanderbilt Place.
Please note that these closures are in addition to the normal closures related to the Country Music Marathon which takes place the morning of April 25th.

Traffic flow before and after the concert will be the same as the plan put in place for Vanderbilt Football games.

If you have specific concerns that are not addressed in this letter feel free to contact me at 445-5077 or via e-mail at If you wish to speak to someone from Vanderbilt, please call Mary Pat Teague at 322-8337 or via e-mail at


Dennis Freeman
Concert Logistics Coordinator
AEG Live

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle Dreamed A Dream...

...And it came true on a TV show called Britain's Got Talent (the sister show to America's Got Talent). I can't embed the video, but if you want to see - and hear - something wonderful click here.

Eakin Carnival This Friday!

The Eakin Elementary School Carnival is this Friday! The details are here for getting involved with this annual rite of spring. It's all in a good cause so come on down!

Stephenie Dodson: Yes on Permit Parking and Green Construction

From an email Stephenie Dodson sent out last night:

To the good folks of District 18,
There are about two weeks to go in our Metro Council District 18 Run-Off campaign. Our support continues to build and your efforts are the reason!

There are some important events coming up this week to remind you about. I need you out in force as we move forward to April 30. But first I want to briefly talk about two of the issues you’ve been talking to me about as I’ve gone through the district during this campaign.

I wholeheartedly support Residential Permit Parking. It’s quite simple – we should be able to park in front of our own homes. There is already a law that enables residents of any Metro district to enact permit parking. As your council member I will do all I can to make that law work for you. I’ll hold various district institutions’ feet to the fire on their use of employee & student parking so that residents don’t feel crowded out of their own streets.

We can be proud of the fact that Vanderbilt University has been Nashville’s leader in green construction. As your council member I will continue to encourage renovators and developers to use green construction within the context of our conservation overlays. Sustainable building matters in our neighborhoods. Let’s continue to set the trend for our progressive city.

The 18th District Special Election Run-Off Candidates’ Forum will be held on Sunday from 3 to 4 PM in the Eakin Elementary School Auditorium (2500 Fairfax Ave.). It’s sponsored by the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association; Belmont-Hillsboro Neighbors; Hillsboro Village Merchants; Belmont University; and Vanderbilt University.

You can submit questions in advance at through Thursday. You can also submit questions in writing at the forum until 2:55 p.m., which is five minutes before opening statements.

I need you to submit strong questions and attend this important event. It will be the last time the candidates come together to answer your questions before we decide who our next council member will be.

Belmont-Hillsboro Neighborhood Spring Cleanup Day is this Saturday from 8 AM to 12 PM. I’m going to pitch in and I hope you will too.

The event involves a bulk cleanup as well as e-waste and household waste collection areas. The location is behind Helios Artglassworks rear parking lot (3108 Belmont Blvd.) For more details visit the Belmont-Hillsboro Neighbors, Inc. website at

Early Voting continues at the Davidson County Election Commission offices (Metro Office Building, First Floor, 800 Second Ave. South) Friday through April 25:

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

THURSDAY, APRIL 16: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

FRIDAY, APRIL 17: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

SATURDAY, APRIL 18: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

MONDAY, APRIL 20: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

TUESDAY, APRIL 21: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

THURSDAY, APRIL 23: 8:00 AM – 4:30 P.M.

FRIDAY, APRIL 24: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

SATURDAY, APRIL 25: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

We need your help as a volunteer and your contributions now more than ever. Getting our voter out to the polls is the key to victory on April 30. You can email me to volunteer at or visit my website ( and click the “Volunteer” link at the top of the page to enter your information.

To contribute, click the “Donate” link on my home page or enter the following into your web browser:

Thanks for all you’ve done and all you’re doing! Just two more weeks until we take our collective voice to Metro Council!

Warmest regards,
Stephenie Dodson
Working For You

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And The Votes Are Trickling In ...

My wife Ann and I went down to the Davidson County Election Commission around 11 AM to cast early voting ballots for Stephenie Dodson in the Metro Council District 18 Special Election Run-Off. We brought the number of voters casting early ballots since Friday morning to 22.

It appears the pace is about as sluggish as it was for the March 26 ballot when there were only 187 early voters. Early voting ends April 25 for the April 30 run-off.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Stephenie Dodson's Latest Update

From an email sent out today by Stephenie Dodson:

To the good folks of District 18,

It’s been great hearing from and seeing so many of you during the first two weeks of the run-off campaign, and now it’s time to start voting! Your support means so much to me, and as we gear up for early voting I know our momentum is growing.

Early Voting starts at the Davidson County Election Commission offices (Metro Office Building, First Floor, 800 Second Ave. South) Friday and runs through April 25:

FRIDAY, APRIL 10: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 11: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

MONDAY, APRIL 13: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
TUESDAY, APRIL 14: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
THURSDAY, APRIL 16: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
FRIDAY, APRIL 17: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 18: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

MONDAY, APRIL 20: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
TUESDAY, APRIL 21: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
THURSDAY, APRIL 23: 8:00 AM – 4:30 P.M.
FRIDAY, APRIL 24: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 25: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

I hope you can join me at the home of Brett Sheriff (1504 Linden Ave.) tonight from 6 to 8 PM for an Early Voting Kickoff Event! And please invite your friends and neighbors to come and talk to me. Bring the children, as Brett will be grilling hot dogs. After all, I don’t need to “educate” you and your friends and neighbors on our district; I need to listen to all your needs and concerns and take them with me to Metro Council.

Former District 18 Councilmembers Betty Nixon and Ginger Hausser Pepper will be there in support of our campaign. They will be joined by other friends and neighbors including Burkley Allen, Bonnie & Bill Myers, Linda & Darrell Bengson, Melinda Newpher, Russanne Buchi-Forte’, Nancy & Mike Noland, Jan Bushing, Gary Bynum, Jon Norris, Ann & Evans Donnell, Ross Pepper, Mark & Diana Duren, Cameron & Nathan Phillips, Nancy Fullerton, Will Pinkston, Elizabeth Gilbreath, Abby Rubenfeld, Gill Geldreich & Glenn Swann, Lynne & John Shaw, Joe Kovalick & Sunday Camp, Sandra Shelton, Judy Locke, Sharan & Tony Martin, Laura & Eric Swanson, Wayne Morris and Bertha Walker.


Let’s keep the momentum growing! You know I’ll represent all of us all of the time. And you know I’ll take your voice to Metro Council, whether it’s the opposition to LED signs I wrote about in my Feb. 18 email message or the continuing crusade to make our Hillsboro Cluster schools the best they can be. We’re going to do great things together!

Warmest regards,
Stephenie Dodson
Working For You

P.S. Remember to “save the date”
18th District Metro Council Candidate Run-Off Forum
3 to 4 PM on Sunday, April 19
Eakin Elementary School Auditorium

Please come and invite as many people as you can!

Dan Miller (1941-2009)

A classy gentleman and terrific journalist is gone. Now Dan Miller and John Chancellor are together again. I wish we had more like them still around.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Run-Off Forum in District 18!

From the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association email list:

Please save the date
18th District Special Election Run-off
Candidates’ Forum
Sunday, April 19th at 3 p.m.
Eakin School Auditorium

Please attend the 18th District Council run-off election forum on
Sunday, April 19th at 3 p.m. at the Eakin School auditorium. This
event is sponsored by Hillsboro West End Neighborhood; Belmont
Hillsboro Neighbors; Hillsboro Village Merchants; Belmont University;
and Vanderbilt University.

Candidates Stephenie Dodson and Kristine LaLonde will discuss issues
of concern to the 18th district and Nashville. To submit a question,
please e-mail it to by Thursday,
April 16th or you may submit questions at the forum up until to 2:55

For additional information, please contact Mary Pat Teague at 322-8337

UPDATE: A press release put out by Vandy today (April 8) says my former boss Howard Gentry will moderate the forum. I'll take that as a good omen, though I know he'll be fair and impartial as a moderator should!

Early Voting Kickoff Event This Thursday!


Early voting starts April 10th & we're kicking it off with a
Dodson fund raising rally

Join us as we rally 'round Stephenie in a show of support

Stephenie will represent ALL of us ALL of the Time

 Thursday, April 9, 2009

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 

 Home of Brett Sheriff

   1504 Linden Avenue

  Please invite your friends and neighbors to meet Stephenie and learn how she'll represent us in Metro Council 



Burkley Allen

Bonnie &

Bill Myers

Linda &

Darrell Bengson

Melinda Newpher

Russanne Buchi-Forte’

Nancy &

Mike Noland

Jan Bushing

Betty Nixon

Gary Bynum

Jon Norris

Ginger Hausser Pepper &

Ross Pepper

Ann &
Evans Donnell

Mark &

Diana Duren

Cameron &
Nathan Phillips

Nancy Fullerton

Will Pinkston

Elizabeth Gilbreath

Abby Rubenfeld

Gill Geldreich &

Glenn Swann

Lynne &
John Shaw

Joe Kovalick &

Sunday Camp

Sandra Shelton

Judy Locke

Brett Sheriff

Sharan &

Tony Martin

Laura &

Eric Swanson

Wayne Morris

Bertha Walker


Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Song of Extinction" Wins Steinberg/ATCA

From an American Theatre Critics Association press release:


Playwright receives $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award;
$7,500 Citations for Lee Blessing and Tracy Letts

The American Theatre Critics Association has selected E.M. (Ellen) Lewis’ "Song of Extinction" to receive the 2009 Harold and Mimi Steinberg /ATCA New Play Award. The announcement was made April 4 at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. The award includes a plaque and a cash prize of $25,000 -the largest national award for a new play.

Lee Blessing’s "Great Falls" and Tracy Letts’ "Superior Donuts" received Steinberg/ATCA citations and $7,500 each. Both Lewis and Letts are first-time winners, but Blessing previously won the 2006 Steinberg/ATCA Award for "A Body of Water," and in 1987 he won the predecessor ATCA New Play Award for "A Walk in the Woods."

The award was started in 1977 to honor plays that debut at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many new play awards. No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year (in this case, 2008).

“The long-standing partnership between the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust and the American Theatre Critics Association has recognized some of today’s greatest writers, and helped identify the great playwrights of tomorrow,” said trustee Jim Steinberg. “We’re delighted to help support the unique telling of tales on the American stage.”

Lewis’ "Song of Extinction" debuted in November at Moving Arts in Hollywood after having been featured in NYU’s hotINK International Festival of New Plays and receiving a reading in the Atlantic Theater’s Next Page series. It has already won several awards, including the EcoDrama Playwriting Competition, the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Ted Schmitt Award for a world premiere and the LA Weekly award for production of the year.

Blessing’s "Great Falls" is a wry drama about a stepfather and his disaffected stepdaughter trying to make connections on a road trip across the American West. It was produced in February 2008 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Letts’ "Superior Donuts" is a comic drama portraying the resurrection of a former ‘60s radical who is hiding from disappointments and tragedies byrunning a tiny Chicago doughnut shop. His isolation is challenged by a young black man seeking a job and running from some secrets of his own. It premiered in June at Steppenwolf Theater.

In Lewis’ "Song of Extinction," Max, a musically gifted high school student, is falling off the edge of the world, and his biology teacher is the only one who’s noticed. According to the ATCA New Play committee, it starts as a realistic examination of ecology, genocide, isolation, music, family relationships and more, but it morphs into a dreamscape which weaves the disparate strands into a pattern of inter-connectedness.

“I’d like to thank the Steinberg family and ATCA,” said a visibly excited Lewis. “I feel so honored to receive this award for my play. It is an amazing gift.”

Lewis has accomplished a lot in a short playwriting career. Last year, she won ATCA’s $10,000 Francesca Primus Award for "Heads," a hostage drama set against the war in Iraq that Edward Albee called “provocative and wonderfully threatening.” Her "Infinite Black Suitcase," a large ensemble play about grief and survival in rural Oregon, received its world premiere in 2007. On her web site ( Lewis quotes James Baldwin: “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.” She comes from Oregon but now lives in Santa Monica, California.

Some two dozen scripts were nominated by ATCA members, and the winners were chosen by a committee led by Wm. F. Hirschman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Other committee members are Misha Berson, Seattle Times; Bruce Burgun, Bloomington Herald Times and Back Stage; Michael Elkin, Jewish Exponent (Pa.); Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Pam Harbaugh, Florida Today (Melbourne); Leonard Jacobs, New York Press, Back Stage and The Clyde Fitch Report; Chad Jones, Oakland (Cal.) Tribune; Elizabeth Keill, Independent Press (Morristown, NJ); Elizabeth Maupin, Orlando Sentinel; Wendy Parker, The Village Mill (Midlothian, Va.); Michael Sander, Back Stage (Minn.); and Herb Simpson, (Rochester, NY).

Honorees since 1977 have included Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Jane Martin, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Lynn Nottage, Horton Foote and Craig Lucas. Last year’s winner was Moises Kaufman for "33 Variations," now being staged on Broadway. Each year’s honorees are chronicled in The Best Plays Theater Yearbook, edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, alongside the 10 best plays produced that year in New York City. For a complete list of the 80 plays cited from 1977 through 2008, go to, under Awards.

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust was created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of himself and his late wife. Pursuing its primary mission to support the American theater, it has provided millions of dollars to support new productions of American plays and educational programs for those who may not ordinarily experience live theater.

ATCA was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of critics’ functions and responsibilities and to recognize excellence in the American theater. The only national association of professional theater critics, with several hundred members working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and websites, ATCA is the U.S. national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ricky Gervais and Elmo

A dream team if ever there was one. Outtakes from an interview that coincided with the co-creator of The Office and Extras taping an appearance on Sesame Street for their 40th anniversary season.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Stephenie, David, John and District 18

Stephenie Dodson wants David Glasgow, John Ray Clemmons and the voters that supported them last Thursday to know that their priorities are also among hers. From a message she sent out today:

To the good folks of District 18,

Here’s an old adage you’ve probably heard – since we each have two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk. I’ve been listening to voters throughout the district during this campaign. I’ve also been listening to the other candidates.

It’s vital as a leader to know that’s it’s not just your ideas that are the only good ideas. When I read the thank you message David Glasgow sent to his supporters on Sunday, I was once again reminded of just how passionate and insightful David is about District 18 and Nashville.

He said in that letter he planned to ask me if I supported the measures he and his supporters have been concerned about. The answer to David is a resounding, “Yes!”

David and I agree these actions are among those that should be taken (and I’m basically quoting from David’s message for the following to show we’re in complete agreement on these matters):

-- Make our streets safer for walkers and bikers by adding crosswalks, at least at 21st and Bernard, Blair at Harris Teeter's back entrance, and two more along the south end of Belmont Blvd. The new crosswalk on Blakemore must also be made safer.

-- Clean up Love Circle for good by breaking through the bureaucratic impasse that keeps the area in limbo. Work with the neighbors to solve the new traffic and parking issues created by new development.

-- Improve traffic safety at Chesterfield/Fairfax by adding a traffic mirror added at the bend in the alley between there and the Continental.

-- Add parking along Magnolia. Institute 2 hour parking between 9am-4pm and longer parking available between 6pm-6am in the outer lanes. This would help merchants in the Village, provide places for more people to start their jog or walk and help visitors and Belmont students avoid residential streets.

-- Adopt the green space on the Brightwood overpass as a demonstration project. This requires gaining the necessary permissions from metro, state and federal agencies, inviting Civic Design Center staff to develop ideas for using this neglected space up to its full potential, and bringing together neighbors from the bordering neighborhoods to raise the funds and donate the time needed to put the plan into action. This could be used as an example of what can be done with other green spaces around our neighborhood and the city - including Love Circle.

-- Social issues. Our representative should take the lead on social issues that hurt Nashville's reputation and ability to attract new businesses and commerce. English Only was a huge waste of taxpayer dollars and time. Discrimination should not be tolerated in any guise.

-- Work with Metro Transit Authority to develop a pilot project to take people from residential neighborhoods to commercial districts from 6pm-2am on Thursday through Saturday nights.

John Ray Clemmons said the following when The Tennessean asked him for the top three things he’d want to do in District 18:

“We must support and strengthen our public schools. I also believe we should focus on parking and traffic issues that plague certain parts of our district. Permit parking is a solution that may not work everywhere, but if a residential street or neighborhood wants to enjoy their fundamental right to park in front of their own home, I will champion it. Also, there are improvements that can be made to make the district friendlier to bikers and pedestrians.”

I concur with those statements as well.

I salute the commitment to and the ideas for our district voiced by David, John and many others throughout our vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. Their causes are mine, theirs, yours and ours. What an exciting future we’ll have in District 18 and Nashville as we work to make these ideas realities!

Warmest regards,

Stephenie Dodson
Working For You

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Run-off Forum For District 18

That's what Stephenie Dodson and others want. Even if I wasn't one of her supporters I'd agree. She notes the "unfiltered" nature of such live encounters in a statement today. As someone who witnessed many such events during the last mayoral campaign, I concur that it's a good chance to size up the candidates without the filters that polished campaign materials and messages possess.

Here's the text of the email she sent out this afternoon:

To the good folks of District 18,

As I’ve gone through our neighborhoods talking with residents one thing is clear – the people here care deeply about the direction in which we take District 18 and Nashville. They’ve got needs and concerns they want government leaders to know about. They have questions they want answered.

There were two terrific candidate forums with the four people on last week’s Metro Council District 18 special election ballot. In those forums residents got to hear from each of us and ask questions. They also got to talk to us one-on-one before and after each forum.

Now Kristine LaLonde and I are in the April 30 run-off to decide who will represent you as we deal with budget, safety, education and other important matters in the challenging years ahead. I’ve already heard from many people across District 18 that want the chance to see us both in another forum now that the final candidate slate has been decided.

I think that’s an excellent idea.
I’m ready to meet Kristine anytime, anywhere to discuss and debate the issues that matter to you. I’m ready to answer the questions you want to ask in a public, unfiltered setting where you can see us “in action” and decide for yourself who will best serve your needs in Metro Council.

Let’s get this done to give all residents the chance to assess the two of us before casting their final ballots. Early voting begins April 10, so we should have our forum as soon as possible.

Together we’re going to make our wonderful district and city the best it can be!

Warmest regards,
Stephenie Dodson
Working For You

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stephenie Dodson: The Real Work Begins Now

Here's the message Stephenie Dodson sent out today:

Thank you so much for all you’ve done to get our campaign this far. I wasn’t the first to enter this race, and we didn’t spend the most money. But our message about schools and neighborhoods certainly gave us a strong run in the backstretch. Now we’ve got the momentum as we make the turn for home! Visit and get involved with our campaign.

The real work getting our message out begins now.

With the run-off on Thursday, April 30th, early voting will start less than two weeks from now. Our opponent, Kristine LaLonde, has run a first-rate campaign and is well-financed.

I welcome the supporters of David Glasgow and John Ray Clemmons to join our campaign. These two fine candidates ran good campaigns, and the issues they talked about matter. I want those of you who supported them to know that your needs and concerns will be voiced in council chambers along with those of other district residents.

We need to continue telling voters that our neighborhood experience is unique in this race. As I’ve said before, people can tout their professional or party political resumes, but I’m the only candidate who’s lived here and worked for our district concerns for more than two decades. My track record on issues that matter to District 18 is clear and extensive. That’s why the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund endorsed our campaign.

Also, there is absolutely no employment conflict of interest on matters that would be part of my duties as Councilperson. The after-care program I work for is funded by parents. I don’t work for a major institution in this district. It’s not just about recusing yourself from occasional council votes about Belmont; it’s about being able to work effectively on a weekly basis with the university and neighbors about issues like traffic, parking and the Institutional Overlay. These issues affect many neighbors daily. To effectively work with the universities and neighbors, you need a Councilperson who does not have to worry about their employer. I can represent all of us all the time.

Contribute money! I know times are tough. But every little bit you can give – $5, $10, $15 and so on – will have a great impact on our ability to get our message out over the next month. Please go to the
Donate page on my website. Every dollar is greatly appreciated!

Volunteer! We’re going to be knocking on more doors and continuing to spread the word! Help us with that or the other vital tasks we’ll undertake during this run-off. Call me at 582-8892 or email me at to sign up today!

There have been many great folks who’ve been alongside me as I visited with voters across this great District 18, including former District 18 Metro Councilmember Ginger Hausser Pepper who has been a great source of support and encouragement to me in the race. Thank all of you for believing in me and in our campaign!

Folks, it’s this simple – I haven’t, and can’t, do it without you. I need you once again in this run-off, and then I need you alongside me as I go to Metro Council. Thanks again for all you’ve done and all you will do, including voting for Dodson on April 30!

Warmest regards,
Stephenie Dodson
Working Hard For You

UPDATE: The Davidson County Election Commission already has the sample ballot with early voting schedule up on its website. Early voting begins April 10 and ends April 25.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stephenie Dodson in the Run-off!

The votes are in and Stephenie Dodson is in the Metro Council District 18 run-off! As she thanked jubilant supporters at Brown's Diner tonight, she noted, "The work begins now."

Indeed it does. While Metro mayoral runoffs have always gone to the candidate who finished first on Election Day, that's apparently not always been true of council run-offs. It will be interesting to see how the vote breaks down April 30.

Here are the unofficial results (first numbers are Election Day votes; second numbers are early and absentee votes):

Kristine LaLonde: 403 + 80 = 483
Stephenie Dodson: 283 + 49 = 332
David Glasgow: 239 + 62 = 301
John Ray Clemmons: 86 + 22 = 108

The 1,224 who cast ballots in the race represent about 11.1 percent of the district's registered voters. A low turnout, but not too surprising in a special election.

UPDATE: The Davidson County Election Commission has now posted updated figures that include one more vote for LaLonde and four-write in votes:

Unofficial Election Results - March 26, 2008
Special Election Council District 18

Registered Voters: 11,096
Voter Turnout: 11.09%

Candidate Name: Election Day + Absentee/PV + Early + FS = Total

John Ray Clemmons: 86 + 6 + 16 + 0 = 108
Stephenie Dodson: 283 + 5 + 44 + 0 = 332
David Glasgow: 239 + 6 + 56 + 0 = 301
Kristine Lalonde: 403 + 11 + 70 + 0 = 484
WRITE-IN: 4 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 4
Totals 1,015 + 28 + 187 + 0 = 1,230

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stephenie Dodson on Liberadio(!)

Liberadio(!) interviewed Metro Council District 18 special election candidates today. Here's the link to their segment with Stephenie Dodson. The election is Thursday, and if no one gets 50 percent plus one vote, there will be a run-off with the top two vote-getters April 30.