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


How to Catch a Flying Woman – Aug. 3-5

I am incredibly excited to debut my latest work, How to Catch a Flying Woman (HTCAFW).  It’s been a long time coming.  Here, I’ve written about my experiences in life, love and loss over the past decade.  In all my work, I try to get to the essential truth of a thing.  I need to understand the experiences that motivate human choices and set us on a certain course.  HTCAFW allows us to consider the experience of being a woman with a vision, one that may be challenged familial and cultural pressures to conform rather than soar.

As a beloved community, it is our responsibility to catch our flying women, should they fall from flight.  Flying women inspire and transform everything they touch.  Flying women are necessary.  Flying women will lead us into the future.

HTCAFW is a collection of meditations on flight, presented as a choreo-poem. Audience members are not only spectators, but participants in this community ritual of healing and transformation.

If you’re in Nashville August 3 – 5, please check us out.  Belmont’s Black Box Theater

Friday 8/3/2018 7:30 pm
Saturday 8/4/18 7:30 pm
**Sunday  8/5/2018 6:00 pm

Tickets are $20 and are available here.




She Said/She Said

Please join us this summer as Actors Bridge Ensemble celebrates women storytellers this summer!

by Cynthia Harris

Friday, Aug 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Aug 5 at 6 p.m.
Belmont Black Box Theater

Tickets: https://she-said-she-said.eventbrite.com

A woman casting her vision and tending to her passion is a woman in flight.  Flight, however, is not consistent. A flying woman needs her beloved community to provide places for safety and restoration. A flying woman inspires us and guides us all to our best and highest.  When she falls, will we do more than witness?


Lilith, but Dark: An Afternoon with Nichole Perkins

Saturday, June 23, 1 p.m.
Actors Bridge Studio at Darkhorse Chapel
Donations to benefit Act Like a Grrrl

Tickets: https://she-said-she-said.eventbrite.com

Lilith, but Dark is a new collection of poetry which reveals a series of confessions and penances, exploring a southern black woman’s tour through lover’s lament. It explores intimacies from home to the schoolyard to the bedroom. It is a journey through tornado alley, a search for power and peace in the eye of a southern storm.


Act Like a GRRRL – Indian Creek Camp

Stories, dances, and songs from the GRRRLS returning from Indian Creek Camp, Act Like a GRRRL’s first completely sleep-away camp.

Saturday, July 28 at 2 p.m.
Belmont Black Box Theater

More Info: https://actorsbridge.org/act-like-a-grrrl/


TN Women’s March 2.0

Healing Waters Founder, Cynthia Harris, MPH, will be participating in the TN Women’s March 2.0’s Artivism Panel, representing Actors Bridge Ensemble and their autobiographical writing program, Act Like a Grrrl, Inc.  Ms. Harris is excited to talk about her ongoing work with the arts-based youth development program and the importance of women coming to voice.  The Artivism panel will “explore the convergence of arts and activism in breaking the silence, healing division, and reclaiming creative energy.”

Please see details below and visit https://tnpowertogether.org/ for more information.


Before the march,
Power Together TN will host a half-day conference focused on educating and empowering attendees to become engaged on local and state levels. Conference session topics are artivism, faith and spirituality, grassroots organizing, youth, legislative skills and issues, understanding elections, and a federal and gubernatorial candidate forum. Several prominent organizations will host the sessions, including Emerge Tennessee, American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, Planned Parenthood, the Tennessee Immigrants & Refugee Coalition, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter. “The success of this year’s march is vitally important to continuing the work we started last year,” said Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood. “We are transitioning from a time of simply resisting the bad policies of this administration to
proactively moving forward with our vision in which every woman, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, disability or citizenship, is able to care for herself and nurture her family free from structural impediments.”

The conference and caucus luncheons will be held at Tennessee State University’s Avon
Williams Campus from 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Full registration details and tickets can be found at

About Power Together TN/Women’s March 2.0
Power Together Tennessee is the Tennessee chapter of the Women’s March, whose mission is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists and organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events.


Vagina Monologues benefit for Act Like a GRRRL 2/16/18


Actors Bridge Ensemble presents the V-Day Nashville 2018 benefit performance of the award-winning The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, directed by Vali Forrister, on Friday, February 16th. Doors open at 5 p.m. Show at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 – $40 and benefit Act Like a GRRRL scholarships.

For more information on Actors Bridge and Act Like a GRRRL visit www.actorsbridge.org



Girls to the Moon Campference – What is Consent?


What is Consent? Owning Your Body and Power
presented by Cynthia C Harris of Healing Waters Productions

 How do you tell someone no – to dating, to physical attention like hugging or pulling your pigtails, to sexual advances? This session is an age-appropriate definition of consent that will set her up for confidence and success now and throughout her life.

2nd Annual Girls to the Moon Campference

Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM (CDT)
Nossi College of Art

The Girls To The Moon Campference is back! Girls age 10-14 and their caregivers are invited to purchase tickets together and spend the day together, learning about everything from puberty and consent to confidence and creativity. You can also explore our interactive gallery, where we’ll have everything from robotics projects to a nail art bar.

What your ticket gets you:

  • A packed day of learning and sharing on topics including relationships, heath and wellness, creativity and innovation.
  • All-access pass to our Interactive Gallery of exhibits and activities (fashion! coding! so much more!)
  • Boxed lunch
  • Girls To The Moon T-shirt
  • Backpack filled with girl power goodies
  • Discounted price on future GTTM events

For more information: http://girlstothemoon.com/portfolio-item/2nd-annual-girls-to-the-moon-campference/


Girls to the Moon Campference – Nashville

When: Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM (CDT)
Where: Nossi College of Art
Tickets: http://girlstothemoon.com/portfolio-item/2nd-annual-girls-to-the-moon-campference/

The annual Girls To The Moon Campference is back! We’ll bring back a slate of community speakers and interactive booths on our signature topics of health and wellness, relationships, and creativity and innovation.

Girls age 10-14 and their caregivers are invited to purchase tickets together and spend the day together, but everyone is welcome to choose their own topics and interests and go where they feel most comfortable.

Past speakers and performers have included Project Runway‘s Amanda Valentine, Dr. Sheila Peters from Fisk University, The Cupcake Collection founder Francois Mignon, the young musicians from Southern Girls Rock Camp, and dozens of poets, engineers, scientists, civic and business leaders, and other phenomenal Nashville women.

What your ticket gets you:

  • Access to a packed day of programming for girls and caregivers, with themes including relationships, heath and wellness, creativity and innovation.
  • Entrance to all our hands-on exhibits and activities (fashion! art! so much more!)
  • Boxed lunch
  • Goodie bag and official Girls To The Moon T-shirt
  • Discounted price on future GTTM events

DC Theatre Scene Reviews ALAG in Capital Fringe 2016

Act Like a GRRRL, Capital Fringe (review)

Act Like a GRRRL isn’t quite like anything else you’ll see at the Capital Fringe festival. Its creators and performers are four girls between the ages of 12 and 16, who had two weeks to write about their lives and put together a show featuring autobiographical stories, dances, and songs.

The girls read their pieces directly from the journals they wrote them in, complemented by choreography and introduced by their adult mentors and directors, Jenna Stotts and Cynthia Harris.

The girls open up eloquently and poetically about their struggles with family turmoil, abuse, falling in with “the wrong crowd,” and finding their identity. I laughed out loud or gasped more than once.The result is remarkable and moving. It would be easy for a project like this to just be “good for what it is,” where you appreciate it mostly because the kids worked so hard. But I was genuinely blown away by the quality, beauty, and insight of their writing. It’s all in their own words, culled from spontaneous writing prompts, with no censorship and only light editing and revision.

Erin “Effy Sue” Forrister, Amirah “Aydee Mae” Banker, Faith “Faithy Jean” Sikes, and Josie “Josie Lee” Reganshaw have diverse backgrounds and stories, from Wales to Puerto Rico, from broken homes to white middle class comfort. And you can tell from watching their interactions that they’ve bonded tremendously over the last two weeks. They bring real joy, real friendship, and real solidarity to the stage, and it’s beautiful to see.

The lovely choreography emphasizes this bond. With their physical movements as well as their words, the young women lift each other up and support each other. They embody Act Like a GRRRL’s mission to bust the “competition myth” that tears girls down by making them tear each other down.

Some of the vignettes are admittedly more compelling than others. The show is better when the girls are speaking from deep personal experience or expressing their joy in song and dance than when they’re musing about what it means to be a “GRRRL,” for instance. And in the spirit of “show, don’t tell,” I could have stood to hear less from the teachers and more from the girls. It’s great to hear about the history, mission, and feminist themes behind the show, and interesting to hear about the prompts that led to the various pieces, but the girls’ work really speaks for itself.

Act Like A GRRRL is an annual project founded in 2005 by Vali Forrister in Nashville, Tennessee, that aims to help girls 12-18 years old “discover who we are and what we believe,” and to “cultivate strong voices and experience the power of creating something from nothing.” It seeks to explode “the box” of what our culture tells girls they can be — the limitations, the competition, the impossible tightrope of expectations between being too this or too that. Bravo to this project for doing that work, and bravo to the exceptional girls who made this version of the show their own.


Act Like a GRRRL . Directed by Jenna Stotts and Cynthia Harris. Starring Erin Forrister, Amirah Banker, Faith Sikes, and Josie Reganshaw . Devised by the performers . Show operator: Toby Clark . Produced by Rhonda Eldridge and Vali Forrister . Reviewed by Emily Crockett


DC Metro Theater Arts Reviews ALAG NoVa 2016 – 5 Stars

2016 Capital Fringe Review ‘Act Like a Grrrl!’

by Robert Michael Oliver

Act Like a Grrrl! by the Actors Bridge Ensemble opened at the Martin Luther King Library this Thursday.

More paratheatre than straight performance, this rendition of Act Like a Grrrl! represents the end of a two-week journey that began on July 11 when a group of four teenage girls—Erin “Effy Sue” Forrister, Amirah “Aydee Mae” Banker, Faith “Faithy Jean” Sikes, and Josie “Josie Lee” Reganshaw—gathered to explore the true dynamics of what it means to be a young woman.

Working together with Co-Directors Jenna Stotts and Cynthia Harris, these four young dancers, singers, and poets created a host of expressive pieces that addressed such ideas as “Where I Am From” and “Desires.” They then performed their revealing personal expressions of themselves as individuals and as women.

The performance began with a delightfully sweet dance entitled “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” which set the thematic tone of the event: girls grow-up under the burden of a narrow definition of how a girl can act.

Being a longtime high school teacher I can only applaud the work of this fine program, which was created in Nashville, Tennessee, by Vali Forrister.

The form of Act Like a Grrrl! allows the young women to address issues that have come up in their lives, to face them directly, and then to create dreams and goals of where they might go.

Beyond the dancing, the girls presented poems in the form of letters addressed to parts of their bodies; they spoke to their parents about things that upset them; they joyously celebrated what they would be if they were super heroines.

Act Like a Grrrl! is sincere, touching, spirited, and hopeful.

And those four fabulous young women were strong, confident, and as their performance clearly demonstrated, capable of achieving wonderful things in life.

Running Time: 65 minutes

Act Like a Grrrl! plays through July 24, 2016 at the Martin Luther King Library, Room A-9 – 901 G Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1550.gif


Act Like A GRRRL NoVA in Capital Fringe

We are so excited to be supporting Act Like a GRRRL, Inc. (ALAG) in northern Virginia July 11th – 24th.  ALAG NoVA is in its fourth year.  Our fearless leader, Cynthia Harris, has been a supporter and Guest Artist with the Nashville ALAG circle since the beginning. This is her first year the co-leading the program.   She reports that things are going well! In fact, she couldn’t be happier.  We hope she returns.

If you are in Washington, DC,  July 21st – 24th, you don’t want to miss the show.  The GRRRLs create original work, movement, and songs in one week.  During the second week that work is transformed into a show AND performed as part of the Capital Fringe Festival.

grrrls postcard 5