The Ryman Diaries

A Multi-Media Musical Stage Play

By Debbie Mathis Watts & Tom Dolan

Captain Tom Ryman's dream was to build the Union Gospel Tabernacle (now the Ryman Auditorium).

Award-winning actor/playwright/director Tom Dolan and author/musician/educator Debbie Mathis Watts portray Music City legends Captain Tom Ryman and Bettie Baugh Ryman in the multi-media musical stage play "The Ryman Diaries". The play is being staged at various venues, including the downtown Nashville Public Library.


"The Ryman Diaries" is a historical drama that depicts the life and times of Cumberland riverboat Captain Tom Ryman as told through the eyes of his wife, Bettie Baugh Ryman. The story covers 70 years of the couple's lives through film media, stage acting, and original musical numbers. It tells of their unlikely romance, marriage, entrepreneurship, raising seven children on a riverboat, ultimate success, Christian conversion at a tent meeting, and the building of the Union Gospel Tabernacle.


The play is based on Watts' book, with additional dialog from Dolan. The actors penned seven original songs for the production. Film clips feature flashbacks of young Bettie and historical stills provided by the Metro Archives. "Both Bettie and Tom had the hearts of musicians, so it was totally fitting that they would play and sing," said Watts, who worked as a writer-producer at TNN: The Nashville Network. "They were true romantics who laid the musical foundation for Middle Tennessee."


A veteran educator, professional pianist-vocalist, and author, Watts' theatrical roles include Mollie in "Mousetrap" and Agnes in "I Do, I Do". Dolan has received national acclaim starring as Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey", Dr. Albert Schweitzer in "Memoirs from Africa", and Sam Clemens in "Mark Twain Live".


2018 Shows

Palace Theatre, Crossville, TN

April 20, 21

STAAR Theatre, Antoinette Hall,

Pulaski, TN

Aug 24-25

Arts Center, Murfreesboro, TN

Sept 20, 21, 27, 28

4th Story Theatre, Nashville, TN

Oct 12, 13, 14

Call: 615-397-8259 for private bookings

To book The Ryman Diaries,

send an email to:

Like us on Facebook 


The Ryman Diaries

Thanks to our partners this year:

Lakewood Theatre

Miss Jeanne's Theatre

Indian Lake Elementary School

Fort Negley

Nashville Convention And Visitors Corporation

Cumberland River Compact

Bibb Performance Center

TN Dept. of Tourist Development

United Methodist Churches

Special Thanks to:

Metro Nashville Council

for their proclamation:


October 12, 2016

Captain Ryman Day in Nashville

Info: (615)-397-8259