producing artistic director: vali forrister

Vali is the Producing Artistic Director of the Actors Bridge Ensemble, which she co-founded in 1995. She has produced over 90 productions for the company, has acted and directed over 30, and authored six. She founded and leads Act Like A GRRRL, an autobiographical writing and performance program for teenage girls and adult women to gain public voice by articulating their lived experience.

Vali is a recipient of the Nashville Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award as a “Trailblazer,” the Vanderbilt University Women Mentoring Women Award and was a finalist for the Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund to Empower Women and Change the World and the Jaffee Award. She is a recipient of the Broadway World STAR Award and is consistently listed as one of Broadway World – Nashville’s “Top Directors” and “Top Actors.” She is a member of Leadership Nashville’s Class of 2014. In 2016, she was an inaugural recipient of the Louisa Nelson Award honoring women of achievement, inspiration, and vision in Nashville who show exemplary successes in their field and leadership in the community.

Vali is a member of Actors Equity Association, and her work as an actor has been called “a tour-de-force,” and “seemingly effortless” by the Tennessean, “consistently excellent,” “major league” and “expert” by the Nashville Scene, and “a lesson on the acting craft without revealing that craft,” by BroadwayWorld describes her acting as “exhilarating and heartbreaking at the same time, giving audiences further proof of the sheer power of Forrister’s talents.”

ORDINARY HEROES, the original play she wrote with Amun Ra Theatre’s jeff obafemi carr about Nashville’s role in the civil rights movement, received the Tennessee Historical Commission’s 2008 Merit Award and created an historic partnership between Fisk and Lipscomb universities who co-sponsored the play.

Vali holds a Master of Arts degree in Performance Studies. Her master’s thesis work in the scripting and performance of intimate personal narratives as a means of personal and social change became the research basis for her highly-praised ACT LIKE A GRRRL program.

Vali serves as adjunct faculty in the Bachelor of Fine Arts programs at Belmont and Lipscomb universities where she teaches the Meisner Technique. She adapted her very successful Act Like a GRRRL program into a university course at the Tennessee Prison for Women through the Lipscomb Initiative for Education program. There are now versions of Act Like a GRRRL for adult women, middle school girls in an after-school setting and teenage girls in a multi-cultural bilingual setting (piloted in Bolivia).

Vali is often a featured speaker for organizations that work to end violence against women. She has presented at the National Organization of Victim’s Advocates national conference, the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence state conference, Nashville Voices for Victims Crime Victims Rights Week Ceremony and has served as keynote speaker at Take Back the Night ceremonies at Vanderbilt and Tennessee Technological University.

Vali is also well known in the Nashville community for her work with cancer survivors as the director of communication and outreach at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, a position she held for eight years while growing Actors Bridge into the thriving company it is today.

A native Nashvillian with 5 generations of connection to West Nashville, Vali is thrilled that Actors Bridge has moved to Charlotte Avenue, taking studio residence in the Darkhorse Chapel, just two blocks from her grandparents’ home. Actors Bridge continues to perform at the Darkhorse Chapel, Darkhorse Theater and at the Belmont University, where the company is a professional theater in residence.