HTCAFW in the News

Actors Bridge showcases women’s voices with ‘She Said/She Said’ by Amy Strumpfl

Full article available here

At a time when so many important issues are impacting the lives of women, it seems only natural that women should be leading the conversation. And that’s exactly what Actors Bridge Ensemble has in mind with “She Said/She Said: A Summer of Women’s Stories.”

“Our mission at Actors Bridge is to tell the stories that matter,” says Actors Bridge artistic director Vali Forrister. “And to me, that means opening up space for the stories of women and girls. All of the issues that we’re facing right now — whether it’s the separation of families or the #MeToo movement — have women at their center. So I really wanted to tap into those stories and themes, while working with some of Nashville’s most incredible artists.”

Those stories will take shape through multiple productions, including: “Frozen Moment,” a performance piece inspired by the #MeToo movement; “Highness,” an original fairy tale twist that explores “survival in a hierarchical society”; “How To Catch a Flying Woman,” a dramatic meditation on “women in flight”; plus a staged reading of Patrick Hamilton’s “Gas Light,” the 1938 thriller that gave rise to the term “gaslighting.”

“One of the things I love most is collecting interesting people, and connecting them to one another,” Forrister says. “So as I reached out to these amazing women, the energy was electrifying. It quickly became clear that everyone wanted to create some sort of devised work that would shine a light on these important issues. What an honor it is for me to be able to engage with people of such immense talent and passion. To be able to put our resources behind them, to help them bring their visions to life is incredibly gratifying.”

Playwright/performance artist Cynthia C. Harris agrees, calling “She Said/She Said” a “bold and diverse collective of talented women artists.”

“Vali always finds a way to make space for other people to be creative — and especially the women in her life,” Harris says. “I’m so excited to be part of this work. There’s such beauty and power in these stories.”

Harris refers to “How To Catch a Flying Woman” as a “choreopoem” — much in the style of Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”

“A woman casting her vision and tending to her passion is a woman in flight,” Harris explains. “But flight is not consistent. At some point, you’re going to have to land — and sometimes those landings can be pretty rough. I believe we have a responsibility to support and care for all those fabulous flying women, offering a safe place for renewal and restoration. But the fact is that our beloved community doesn’t always know what to do with strong women in flight. There’s all sorts of cultural information out there about what we should or shouldn’t be doing, especially if we’re brown or poor or queer.

“But a flying woman inspires us and guides us all to our best and highest. Empowered women change neighborhoods and cities every day, and women of color do it with nothing. These are the revolutionaries, the activists, the storytellers, and we all benefit from what they do.”

Olaomi Amoloku, Tasneem Grace Tewogbola, L. Opanike Shelton and Nailah Ajamu will join Harris onstage for “Flying Woman,” which is directed by Helen Shute-Pettaway.

“As a writer, it’s so exciting to have these phenomenal women place their trust in me,” Harris says. “And I’m so thrilled to be working with Helen again. She directed the first piece I ever wrote, when I was about 21 or 22 years old. She approached that piece so professionally. She took me seriously and pushed me to do my best, and I’ve never forgotten the experience. To connect with her again in this way is such an honor. That’s what ‘Flying Woman’ is all about.”

If you go

What: Actors Bridge Ensemble presents “She Said/She Said: A Summer of Women’s Stories”
When: July 20-Aug. 5. (Visit website for complete performance schedule.)
Where: Belmont’s Black Box Theater, 1575 Compton Ave., in Nashville
Tickets: $15-$20

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