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HAUNTED Heralds New Collaborative Effort by Cutting-Edge Nashville Companies

Haunted - the new collaboration between cutting edge Nashville arts organizations Actors Bridge Ensemble, abrasiveMedia, and FALL: contemporary - aerial - dance - may heralds fresh way of creating performances in Music City.

The world premiere production, running October 20-22, at Track One in Wedgewood-Houston, promises to be "the artistic event of the season," combining theatrical narrative with immersive art installations and innovative choreography to provide a one-of-a-kind event unlike anything seen before in Nashville.

Billed as a Southern Gothic, site-responsive performance event, Haunted is inspired by the nation's deadliest train crash at Dutchman's Curve in the Richland Creek area of Nashville.

"Our mission is to tell the stories Nashville needs to hear- sometimes the stories of our very own history," says Vali Forrister, co-founder and artistic director for Actors Bridge.

"I grew up hearing my stepfather talk about the train crash at Dutchman's Curve as his earliest memory. He was haunted by the sounds that reverberated through West Nashville that day in 1918 when he was three. What I didn't know was that it was the deadliest train crash in U.S. history, almost everyone who was killed was African-American, and the city did its best to forget the story as quickly as possible. I am proud that Actors Bridge is part of the collaborative team responding to the unsettled spirits of this forgotten American tragedy."

Jessika Malone

Director and producer Jessika Malone echoes Forrister's sentiments. "As a third generation Nashvillian, I have passed Dutchman's Curve thousands of times, never aware that the deadliest train crash in American history occurred so near the center of my life, in what was the backyard of my alma mater," she says.

"The events of Dutchman's Curve haunt us, and hauntings are often signifiers of an unresolved injustice that a community must address. In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the crash, our collective invites audiences to dance with our city's most restless ghosts. I'm honored to be among the many brilliantly diverse collaborators exploring the impact of this event on our city and ourselves."

The collaborative event will feature contributions from Nashville's experimental performance leaders Tony Youngblood (Modular Art Pods @ Oz Arts), Audra Almond-Harvey (abrasiveMedia), Rebekah Hampton Barger (FALL) and Kara McLeland (Performer & Musicologist).

Haunted will feature original music, dance, and immersive art installations with environment design by Mitch Massaro, of 1220 Exhibits and Actors Bridge technical director, with contributions from an array of Nashville's premiere visual artists. The experience is supported in part by a Metro Nashville Arts Commission Creation Grant.

Participating artists, curated by Youngblood and Almond-Harvey, include: Jennifer Bonior & Dycee Wildman who make up film duo Daisy Dukes, Alexis Colbert, Marlos E'van & Courtney Adair Johnson, Ashley Marshall, Beth Reitmeyer, Tank 615, and Southern Word. The confirmed performance company includes: Dwayne Benn, Diego Gomez, Margaret Horne, Alexandra Huff, Sejal Mehta, Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva and Shawn Whitsell. Additional performers and participating artists will be announced at a later date.

The collaborating artists have frequently been drawn to the work of Nashville historian David Ewing to learn more about the Dutchman's Curve crash.

"The worst train wreck in American history happened in Nashville in 1918, but many know very little about the story, why it happened, and why it was a tragedy," Ewing explains. "This event must never be forgotten and especially those who lost their lives that day."

"The Dutchman's Curve train wreck is a hub story with spokes that stretch out into so many aspects of Nashville's collective history and culture," notes poet, artist, and social entrepreneur Stephanie Pruitt. "Here we consider geography, technology, war, race and class, gender dynamics, the justice system, loyalty, generosity of a community, and so much more."

Audra Almond-Harvey, of abrasiveMedia, who is overseeing the narrative of the production and co-curating the artistic content, adds that "as a born and bred Southerner, I have a life-long interest in the art of storytelling.

"But as a storyteller, I cannot, and should not, use my voice solely for the purpose of telling my own tales. As my elders taught me, I must learn to listen well before any telling. In this project, I am called to listen not only by the tragedy at Dutchman's Curve, and the numerous black lives lost in the wooden 'Jim Crow' cars, but also by the truth that we are haunted by many stories that were so easy for people to erase, to forget, to gloss over," she continues. "The ghosts of our times, of the times before us, walk beside us. Can we hear them? Can we allow their stories to change us, and to affect the ways in which we create? Our work in HAUNTED is to explore this not only individually through our own art forms, but collaboratively, through what we may create together."

Rounding out the group of collaborative companies, FALL's Rebekah Hampton Barger will add movement to this retelling in Haunted: "I believe in the power of movement to communicate things that sometimes there just aren't enough words to express - the feeling of a community coming together in the wake of horror and tragedy, or the haunting knowledge that you have forgotten something imperative," she says. "When we forget, we run the risk of repeating the mistakes of our ancestors: the mistake of seeing each other as 'us' and 'them', and the mistake of being too anxious to move on to something more comfortable instead of honoring the devastation happening around us."

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.hauntedproject.com.

About Actors Bridge Actors Bridge Ensemble is a professional theatre company and actor-training program now in its third decade serving Nashville. 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 where theatre artists at any stage in their development may train and assist in the production of professional theatre. For more information, go to www.actorsbridge.org.

About abrasiveMedia Located in the Historic Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood of Nashville, abrasiveMedia provides a home for artists, a space for community classes and workshops, and a venue for bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together - fulfilling their non-profit mission of helping artist grow, connect, produce, and give back to the community. On any given day, the space may be filled with dancers, painters, writers, aerialists, actors, martial artists, photographers, poets, sculptors, or musicians. For further information, go to www.abrasivemedia.org.

About FALL: contemporary - aerial - dance Founded in 2010, FALL's mission is to present high quality contemporary and aerial dance that is accessible to all audiences through performances, community outreach, and artist opportunities. Based in Nashville, FALL is a nonprofit contemporary dance company that moves on the ground, in the air, and all the spaces in between, making work that is exciting and unexpected, blurring the line between art and life, flying and falling. Go to www.FALLdance.org for further details.



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From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)


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