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Johnna McCarthy, Madeline Marconi, Austin Williams and Ashley Joye, photo by Sam Frawley

Actors Bridge Ensemble's 20th anniversary season continues in April with the Nashville premiere of Meg Miroshnik's The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, directed by Leah Lowe and running April 15-23 at the Belmont Black Box Theater.

Once upon a time - in 2005 - a 20-year-old girl named Annie returned to her native Russia to brush up on the language and lose her American accent. Underneath a glamorous Post-Soviet Moscow studded with dangerously high heels, designer bags, and luxe fur coats, she discovers an Enchanted Motherland teeming with Evil Stepmothers, Wicked Witches, and Ravenous Bears.

Annie must learn how to become the heroine of a story more mysterious and treacherous than any childhood fairytale: her own. This subversive story haunts the audience and carries a powerful message for young women living in a world where not everything ends up happily ever after.

For the Nashville premiere of The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, Actors Bridge brings together the talents of two university theater department chairs: Leah Lowe, chair of the Vanderbilt Theater Department directs, and scenic design is by Paul Gatrell, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Belmont University and a 2010 First Night Honoree. ABE is professional theater in residence at Belmont.

"We are very proud of our ongoing collaboration with Belmont University. The fact that we were able to add Leah Lowe to the mix this year is thrilling," says ABE artistic director Vali Forrister, a 2011 First Night Star Award winner.

"Actors Bridge holds collaboration as a core value. To bring together the heads of two of our great academic theater programs with student actors and longtime ABE ensemble members to tell such a provocative and innovative story is a very gratifying feather in our 20th anniversary cap."

Lowe is an incoming member of the board of directors of Actors Bridge Ensemble, and Gatrell is a past board member.

"This was one of the first plays that our Technical Director, Mitch Massaro, worked on when he began his MFA at the Yale School of Drama in 2013. He sent me the script, saying 'THIS is such an Actors Bridge show.' He was so right," Forrister explains.

"Telling a girl's rite of passage story filtered through the lens of ancient Russian fairytales works to stunning effect in this play. Meg Miroshnik is brilliant. The fact that she is a member of the Kilroys is a bonus reason to appreciate her, given our commitment to the voices of women and girls."

Lowe's cast includes ABE ensemble members Rachel Agee and CJ Tucker and Belmont BFA performance majors Ashley Joye, Johnna McCarthy, Austin Williams and Madeline Marconi.

The ABE 20th anniversary season continues in June with ACT LIKE A GRRRL 2016 and in July with a collaboration with Nashville Repertory Theatre's Ingram New Works Project for the world premiere of Nate Eppler's The Ice Treatment.

Performance Schedule: Friday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. - no Saturday evening performance on 4/16 - Sunday, April 17 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 23 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Ticket Prices: General Admission - $25 in advance; $30 at the door. To purchase tickets, go to, or at the Belmont Curb Event Center Box Office.

About the Playwright: Meg Miroshnik's plays include The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, The Droll {A Stage-Play about the END of Theatre}, The Tall Girls, Old Actress and an adaptation of the libretto for Shostakovich's Moscow, Cheryomushki.

She is the recipient of a 2012 Whiting Award. Her work has been developed or produced by the La Jolla Playhouse, O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Rep, the McCarter Theatre Center, Alliance Theatre, Yale Rep, the Kennedy Center, Lark New Play Development Center, Chicago Opera Theater, the Moscow Playwright and Director Center, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Circle X, The Wilma Theater, Perishable Theatre, WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory, One Coast Collaboration, and published in Best American Short Plays, 2008-2009 (Applause, 2010). The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls was a finalist for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn prize and winner of the 2011-2012 Alliance/Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award.

Recent productions: The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls at Yale Rep (directed by Rachel Chavkin, 2014), The Tall Girls at Alliance Theatre (directed by Susan V. Booth, 2014), and a staged workshop of The Droll at Brown/Trinity Playwrights' Rep (directed by Mia Rovegno, 2014). Upcoming: Commissions for new plays for South Coast Rep, Steppenwolf, and Yale Rep. She holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama where she studied with Paula Vogel.

Meg hails from Minneapolis and currently lives in Los Angeles, where she is a member of the Playwrights Union and The Kilroys.

About Actors Bridge Ensemble: For the last 20 years, Actors Bridge has been a force on Nashville's cultural landscape. As an actor training program, we have worked with over 4000 students who have gone on to perform on local, regional and national stages as well as film and television. There are few local productions that do not include a performer in some way influenced by Actors Bridge training. As a professional theatre company, our mission is to tell the stories that impact our community by producing provocative and socially relevant theatre, creating new theatrical works, showcasing emotionally authentic ensemble acting and fostering a nurturing environment for theatre artists at any stage in their professional development to take creative risks. We have produced over 80 plays, including 14 world premieres and 45 Nashville premieres. Some notable Nashville premieres include The Laramie Project, The Vagina Monologues, Never the Sinner, Next Fall, Blackbird and 100 Saints You Should Know. The company is led by co-founder Vali Forrister.

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