Jessika Malone is the Associate Artistic Director of the Actors Bridge Ensemble, Co-Founder and Program Director of the Sideshow Fringe Festival, and an annual Co-Producer for ABE’S Act Like a Grrrl program. Hailed as a “serious theatrical talent” by the Nashville Scene, Malone is an award-winning professional director, producer, deviser, teacher and performer committed to creating innovative performance events that send light straight into the human heart.
Committed to theatrical performance as a catalyst for social change, she has been honored as one of First Night’s “Unsung Heroes of Nashville Theatre” and has received numerous recognitions of excellence for her creative civic engagement work, having spearheaded the collaboration of Nashville’s theatre community in a unified production of Standing on Ceremony (in conjunction with Tectonic Theatre Project) to benefit The Human Rights Campaign/TN Equality Project, co-hosted Stand (a true story of homelessness in Nashville) to benefit Room In The Inn, and co-produced A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer (featuring author Carol Gilligan) to benefit V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.
Jessika is honored to work frequently with incarcerated populations in the creation of theatre inside the prison system. At Logan Correctional Center, she served as director and lead deviser with the Acting Out Theatre Troupe to create an original autobiographical performance entitled Bruised (Not Broken) and directed the prison’s inaugural Shakespeare production, Much Ado About Nothing. She also served as a producer and assistant director to Act Like a Grrrl’s Vali Forrister on Our Stories, Our Selves at The Tennessee Prison for Women.
Jessika was named Nashville’s Best Director in 2011 by the Nashville Scene for her production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice (a collaboration between Actors Bridge Ensemble and Belmont University) and is consistently honored among First Night’s Best Directors of the Year in their annual top ten lists. Dedicated to bringing new works to Nashville audiences, her professional directing credits include the Nashville premieres of Wonder of the World, The Book of Liz, My First Time, Eurydice, The Flu Season, In the Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play), She Kills Monsters, Blackbird, Hearts Like Fists, and The Nether (among others). Productions under her direction have been unanimously praised as “thoroughly engrossing” (The Tennessean), “fascinating and mesmerizing” (Broadway World) and “guaranteed to provide the mature, thinking theatergoer with an experience that will last maybe well on into the century” (Nashville Scene).
Jessika is recipient of Nashville Scene’s Best Youth Theatre Movement Award for introducing “innovative” and “progressive new ideas to Music City’s theatrical culture” in her work as Co-Founder and the Program Director of the Sideshow @ Actors Bridge cross-training artists residency program for emerging theatre professionals which produces the annual Sideshow Fringe Festival. In her role as Program Director, Jessika represented Nashville as an official delegate to the inaugural World Fringe Congress in Edinburgh in 2012 and works continually with the United States Association of Fringe Festivals (USAFF) to develop opportunities for collaboration with theatre communities in various cities and to raise the visibility of fringe art throughout the Southeast. She was a featured panelist at 2013’s Nash Up conference, speaking on Art & The Urban Environment from her experience and expertise in fringe art and community building.
She has produced numerous regional premieres including Sheila Callaghan’s Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) and boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb with Sideshow @ Actors Bridge as well as co-produced and directed the Tennessee premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s In The Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play) in collaboration with Artists Cooperative Theatre and She Kills Monsters in association with the Nashville Children’s Theatre. Her work is consistently listed as a Nashville Scene “Critic’s Pick” and a Tennessean “Best Bet.”
Her work as an actor has been hailed as “absolute perfection” (Broadway World) and her professional acting credits include Actors Bridge Ensemble’s productions of A Bright Room Called Day, Marisol, Simpatico, Sailor’s Song, and Vincent In Brixton (Named one of Broadway World Nashville’s Top Ten Plays of 2010).
In the fall of 2014 she had the honor of being selected to conduct a colloquium event for the School of Theatre & Dance at Illinois State with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Lynn Nottage, on issues related to the representation of women in theatre and film. Jessika is a 2016 Kilroys List nominator and is committed to addressing issues of gender disparity in the theatre both on and offstage.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Drama with a Minor in Education from Belmont University, where she was named the 2007 Outstanding Graduating Senior in Theatre. She received her MFA in Theatre Direction from Illinois State University (2016) where her thesis production of Alice In Wonderland received special recognition from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Outstanding Ensemble Performance as well 8 Mask & Hammer Awards including Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Overall Production.
While calling Actors Bridge her heart’s home, Jessika embraces opportunities to collaborate with new individual artists and organizations whenever and wherever serendipity shines. She especially loves working in process with playwrights as they bring their new ideas to the stage and has been grateful for the opportunity to direct as part of Nashville Repertory Theatre’s Ingram New Works Festival.
Of her work as a theatre maker, Evans Donnell of ArtsNash writes, “If folks like Malone, Massaro and their colleagues are this good now, just think how much richer their work will become with the passage of time.”
Upcoming Directing Projects:
Failure, A Love Story @ Actors Bridge Ensemble, October, 2016.
Will Eno’s Gnit @ Vanderbilt University, February 2017.