Jessika Malone Named Associate Artistic Director for Actors Bridge Ensemble

By: Sep. 09, 2016

2015 First Night Star Award winner Jessika Malone has been named associate artistic director of Actors Bridge Ensemble. Her new appointment was announced in late August by the company's producing artistic director - and 2016 First Night Honoree - Vali Forrister, the ABE Board of Directors and company members.

Malone, a native of Nashville, recently returned home after receiving her Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Theatrical Directing from the School of Theatre and Dance at Illinois State University where she directed for university and community audiences as well as inside the state's correctional facilities.

Most recently, Malone directed Edith Freni's This Is About You in Nashville Repertory Theatre's Ingram New Works Festival, co-produced the world premiere of Nate Eppler's The Ice Treatment at Actors Bridge, and curated the sixth annual Sideshow Fringe Festival, which she co-founded in 2011.

Malone began working with the Actors Bridge Ensemble in 2007, upon graduating from Belmont University. This season marks her 10th anniversary as an associate artist.

"I could not imagine a better a time to be recommitting to the city I love as it is exploding with tremendous growth and possibility," Malone says. "The energy of this moment is palpable, perhaps most so in our creative community where there's great promise of what possible futures lie ahead."

At Actors Bridge, what lies ahead is a 21st season brimming with the kind of forward-thinking theatre Malone and Forrister are known for delivering.

"Actors Bridge is committed to taking risks in all aspects of production: from the stories we tell to the emerging artists in whom we invest. One of the best decisions I ever made was the choice to invest in Jessika while she was still a student at Belmont. Even then, she had a bold vision and collaborative spirit that sparked greater creativity in everyone in the room," explains Forrister.

"The fact that she chose to return home to Actors Bridge when she could have had her pick of cities in which to work, is a beautiful testament to her loyalty and generosity to both Actors Bridge and Nashville."

Malone started as the company's business manager and has served on production and creative teams in nearly every capacity during her tenure with the organization, frequently producing for the company and directing at least one offering every season. As a director, she is known for embracing challenging, often provocative, contemporary work that forefronts the experiences of women and addresses issues of social justice.

In her new role as associate artistic director, Malone will assist Forrister with season selection and oversee a variety operations. This season, she will direct the regional premiere of Failure: A Love Story, continue to curate and produce the annual Sideshow, devise a new work based on Nashville's stories of hauntings funded by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission's Creation Grant, and teach in the company's actor training program. In addition to her work with Actors Bridge, Jessika will be directing the regional premiere of Will Eno's Gnit, a modern re-imagining of Ibsen's classic, Peer Gynt, for Vanderbilt University in early 2017.

"It really is a homecoming," says Malone, "familiar in all the best ways and yet, the beginning of something entirely new. I'm honored that Vali and the board are empowering me to take the next step in my professional journey at Actors Bridge because I do believe in Nashville and I believe in the artists who call it home."

Next up at Actors Bridge, Malone and Forrister produce the Nashville premiere of The Patron Saint of Losing Sleep by Diana Grisanti, directed by Leah Lowe, and opening tonight in the ABE Studio at Darkhorse Chapel at 4610 Charlotte Avenue. It runs through September 18.

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