Los Angeles, CA
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The South is famous for our great storytellers, but the birth of a powerful story always begins with a great listener. The gift of good listening – of bearing witness and reflecting back what is seen & heard – empowers people to reveal authentic, beautiful, and sometimes messy parts of themselves that invite a genuine response and understanding. Actors Bridge Ensemble (ABE) was born of this exact ethos, and it is ingrained in our mission: to tell the stories Nashville needs to hear. We fulfill our mission by producing socially conscious plays that are responsive to the current cultural moment, creating new work, and becoming a safe home for artists and audiences to find their authentic voices on stage and in life.

Established 1995, ABE is a women-run institution dedicated to creating authentic, honest, and heartfelt art that showcases stories from under-represented and marginalized voices. Everything we do is strongly rooted in place. Co-Founder & Producing Artistic Director Vali Forrister is a native Nashvillian of 5 generations. In a city full of transplants, this deep connection to our home, from its social, political, and cultural scaffolding to its network of troublemakers, caretakers, heartbreakers, culture bearers, justice warriors, underground movers and shakers — all of it gives ABE the edge of authenticity needed to lead truly meaningful impact.

We have produced 27 seasons of mainstage programming with over 100 plays; 90% are Nashville or world premieres. Our Director’s Inclusion Initiative builds a more diverse pool of talented theater directors of color, through a two-year program of workshops, panels, ongoing mentoring, and a biannual showcase of their work. ABE also offers year-round training in the Meisner Technique, an acting method known for creating truthful, emotionally-connected actors. In recognition of her work, Forrister was selected from a national applicant pool to participate in the 2023 prof. development summer intensive at Neighborhood Playhouse, the NYC-based acting conservatory where Sanford Meisner developed his technique. In recognition of our history of important work in Nashville, ABE has received numerous Best of Nashville awards from the Nashville Scene, as well as lauds from the Nashville Business Journal, Vanderbilt University, and Broadway World.

Act Like a GRRRL (ALAG) is a three-week writing and performance intensive that offers girls ages 12-18 the rare opportunity to creatively reflect on their lives and develop a compelling autobiographical show. Using monologues, music, and dance, the girls boldly share their stories, striving to find their voices as artists and women. The culminating performances are a heartfelt, inspiring, and much-needed display of awesome “GRRRL power.” ALAG radically expands teenage girls’ potential, self-agency, and confidence at a time when the world around them tells them to be smaller, make less noise, and live up to an impossible feminine ideal. It helps them defy culturally imposed negative identities and begin to define themselves for themselves, creating positive self-identity, clear communication, and empathy.

For the past two decades, Nashville has been in a period of rapid development and gentrification. Since COVID alone, rental prices are up 25% in two years; housing costs are up 20% in just one year; gasoline is up 68%; and child care costs are up 41%. In that same time, Nashville wages are up only 3%, and minimum wage is still just $7.25 / hr. In all of this, we hear stories of displacement, where long-time residents have been driven out to suburban areas and artist communities are threatened – including ABE due to rising facilities rental costs. We continue to do everything we can – through artist payments, incubator programs, and being a hub for our vibrant artistic community – to sustain & support the marginalized culture bearers who help to give our community a sense of place and welcome residents into a shared sense of belonging.