In 2018, Actors Bridge was awarded a Catalyst Grant from Metro Arts to create a Directors Inclusion Initiative to train emerging directors of color.
Actors Bridge is a female-led company with a deep commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. In the last 5 years, at least 50% of our plays were written by, directed by and starring women or people of color, far outpacing the national averages where the majority of theater companies are still led by white men producing work written and directed by other white men. We are strong in terms of gender equity across our programming, but we are lacking in racial and cultural equity in the stories we tell.
As a training program, we offer year-round acting classes and writing workshops. It is a natural extension of our mission to add director training to our programming and giving emerging directors an opportunity to participate in our Meisner Technique training to develop a vocabulary and tools for eliciting truthful performances from actors.
Our process began in the fall with conversations with leaders of several African American theater companies to determine the most effective way to structure the program to deliver meaningful content.
In January, 2019 we began meeting with our initial cohort of 7 emerging directors. Each cohort member selected a local mentor. In addition, the cohort has monthly check-in meetings with project consultant Jon Royal and ABE producing artistic director Vali Forrister. Every-other-month, we convene a panel of local theater professionals to discuss their aspect of the playmaking process (designers, producers, actors, stage managers, etc.). There are also guest faculty from the Southeast who will lead weekend intensives.
In 2019, we received funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission and Metro Arts to produce a Festival of Plays directed by members of our cohort and to give them access to some of Nashville’s most established designers to bring life to their visions. The Festival will take place in May 2020. Date and location TBA.
Visiting Faculty and Workshop Titles:
Kristi Papailler, MFA, University of Louisville: “Directing African American Theatre: Tools for Engaging Afrocentricity, Blood Memory and Archetype in Concept, Blocking and Direction”
Millicent Jonnie, Florida State University, “Conventional and Unconventional Approaches to Directing”
Advisors to the Program:
Leah Lowe, PhD – Chair, Department of Theatre, Vanderbilt University
Paul Gatrell, MFA – Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance, Belmont University
Shawn Whitsell, Artistic Director, Destiny Theater Experience
Jon Royal, freelance career director
Pierre Johnson, board member, Actors Bridge Ensemble
Cynthia Harris, board member, Actors Bridge Ensemble
Funded in part by grants from: