Baylor Grad Wakes from Dreamland to a Dream Come True -- a Tony Nomination

  • Tony nominee
    Elizabeth A. Davis, left, a 2003 Baylor grad, received a Tony nomination for her performance in the musical Once.
  • Tony nominee -- mug
    Elizabeth A. Davis
May 1, 2012

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WACO, Texas (May 1, 2012) -- Baylor University graduate Elizabeth A. Davis was startled out of a sound sleep in her New York City brownstone on Tuesday morning by her downstairs neighbor.

"She came screaming up the stairs in her nightgown, and my husband and I thought the house was on fire," said Davis, a 2003 Baylor alumna. "We came out bleary-eyed. My neighbor told me, 'You've been nominated!'"

A sudden awakening, perhaps, but not a rude one, for her neighbor's announcement was that Davis had earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the hit Broadway musical Once. The production garnered a total of 11 nominations -- including Best Musical -- with Davis' nomination in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical.

The sleep-dazed Davis told her neighbor, 'I don't believe you."

"But then my husband Jordan (Jordan Richard, another Baylor grad) went online and saw it," Davis said. "I fell on the floor in a heap of tears."

The winners of the 66th annual Tony Awards will be announced in a ceremony broadcast live on CBS on June 10.

"I believe our show is an incredible piece of theater," Davis said of the musical, a screen-to-stage adaptation of a 2006 Academy Award-winning indie film about an Irish romance.

Davis "charms audiences nightly" in her role in the production, according to Broadway.com. "In addition to an alluring performance as Cristin Milioti's Czech roommate Reza, Davis dances full-out while playing a violin."

Members of the department of theatre arts at Baylor are thrilled -- but not surprised -- by the nomination.

At Baylor's department of theatre arts in the College of Arts & Sciences, "she was terrific," recalled Stan Denman, Ph.D., chair and professor of theatre arts. "She was always so poised in class. She's been a dancer, a violinist, and she's brought so many skills to whatever she did.

"She's so beautiful, and she was trained in ballet -- very refined. There were times when we had to say, 'That's too pretty. Roughen it up a bit.' There were times we had to beat her with an ugly stick," he said with a laugh. "But she learned such versatility while she was here, and she was such a hard worker. We're seeing that pay off for her."

Davis grew up in Channing, Texas, population 356, in the Texas Panhandle and is a graduate of Channing High School. Her dad was the school superintendent and her mom an English teacher, and they co-directed Channing's one-act plays for years.

"They directed their first one-act play when my mother was pregnant with me," Davis. "I was around that theatrical creation process every spring -- and this spring was no different."

Besides her bachelor's of fine arts degree from Baylor in theatre arts, Davis holds a master's degree in theatre performance from Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House.

In the beginning at Baylor, Davis had some trepidation, Davis said.

"In my first year, I had an undeclared major," she said. "I played the violin, and I'd been around theater and music all my life. I was confused when I got to Baylor about what I wanted to do, but in the spring of my freshman year, as I was sitting on the bed in my dorm room praying, I just had this peace wash over me that I was to pursue theater, that this was my path."

Initially, she said, she was concerned that her beliefs might be jeopardized by the theatrical world. But at Baylor, "I found a perfect fusion -- the guidance of people that understand the craft of theater, but still were grounded in their faith," Davis said. "I felt shepherded while feeling I could be a viable artist in our craft, and I'll always be grateful for that."

Denman recalled a time years ago when he took students -- among them Davis -- to New York City.

"We were sitting around in Greenwich Village, and of course the students all wanted to live in New York and be on Broadway," he said. "Even on that trip, Elizabeth had such a heart for Christ. I remember we were all eating pizza, and there was a homeless man nearby. None of us noticed him, but she did, and she went over and offered him part of her meal and had a conversation with him.

"She's the perfect example of what we want our students to do when we say we want them to fling that green and gold near and far."

To learn more about Once, visit

http://www.oncemusical.com/

To see a clip of the cast on Late Show with David Letterman, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch>v=HGWNJ_3vQ3A

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