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Tense Two-Hander ‘Blackbird’ Has Nashville Premiere at ABE

Blackbird2The tense two-hander Blackbird has been gripping audiences around the world for several years now. The award-winning play comes to Nashville Friday through June 15 thanks to Actors Bridge Ensemble.

Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. at the Actors Bridge Studio in the rear of the building at 4304-F Charlotte Ave. Click here to purchase $20 tickets in advance; at the door the price will be $25, and with limited seating capacity, the theater company recommends purchasing tickets in advance and arriving at the studio 30 minutes prior to showtime.

Hailed as “intense, masterly, and mesmerizing” by the New York Times and “haunting, powerful, incendiary, daring theatre” by the New York Post, Blackbird lays bare with brutal honesty (and without moral judgment) the complex dynamics of an unconventional love affair.

Fifty-six-year-old ex-con Ray lives quietly with a new identity he’s made for himself, thinking he’s safe from the life he left behind. Una, now twenty-seven, has been searching for Ray and for answers about the relationship they shared years ago. Seeking explanation and not vengeance, Una arrives unannounced at Ray’s office, unleashing a maelstrom of guilt, rage, and raw emotions…with shattering consequences.

Playwright David Harrower has said Blackbird is loosely inspired by the case of Toby Studebaker, an American ex-marine who, in 2003, ran off with a 12-year-old British schoolgirl whom he had met in an Internet chat room, but the play is in no way a literal dramatization of real events. With echoes of Paul’s Vogel’s extraordinary How I Learned to Drive and David Mamet’s incendiary Oleanna, Blackbird both earns its place among such fine works and distinguishes itself as one of the most controversial in the contemporary canon.

Showcasing Actors Bridge’s mission to present emotionally authentic acting, Blackbird’s 75 minutes feature Nashville onstage and onscreen actors Christopher Strand and Britt Byrd. The show is directed by Actors Bridge Artistic Associate Jessika Malone.

The show is part of Actors Bridge’s 2014 The Secret’s Out Season. Presenting stories that are often kept secret, this season explores cultural taboos in the service of creating community dialogue, inviting audiences to consider their preconceptions and connect with their neighbors despite their differences.

About the Playwright

David Harrower is critically acclaimed Scottish playwright. Blackbird was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival and premiered at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh in August 2005. The production then transferred to the Albery Theatre, London in February 2006. The show won Best Play in the Scottish Theatre Critics Awards and Best New Play at the 2007 Laurence Olivier Awards. It has since been performed worldwide with productions in Japan, Mexico, Australia, France, Sweden, India and elsewhere. Landmark Productions presented the second major English-language production of the play in February 2007 and it had its New York premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club later that year.

About the Director

Jessika Malone is the Artistic Associate at Actors Bridge and the Program Director/Co-Founder of the ABE’S Sideshow Fringe Festival. Her professional directing credits include many local and regional premieres including In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), The Flu Season, My First Time, Wonder of the World, The Book of Liz and She Kills Monsters among others. Her direction of Actors Bridge Ensemble and Belmont University’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice was named the 2011 Best of Nashville by the Nashville Scene. The Tennessean called her 2012 production of The House of Bernarda Alba “thoroughly engrossing, an evening of gripping drama” and Broadway World hailed it as both “fascinating and mesmerizing.” She has been celebrated as one of First Night’s “Unsung Heroes of Nashville Theatre” and has received numerous recognitions of excellence for her work as a theatrical event producer having produced the regional premieres of Standing on Ceremony (in collaboration with Tectonic Theatre Project) and Sheilan Callaghan’s Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake). She served 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 is currently pursuing her MFA in Theatrical Direction at the School of Theatre and Dance at Illinois State University where she most recently devised original personal narrative performance with the women of Logan Correctional in collaboration with ABE’s Act Like a Grrrl program. (Click here for Jessika Malone’s web site.)

Blackbird3*Photos by John Jackson Photography courtesy ABE.

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