Sunday, August 27, 2023

The Bridge Initiative Announces Leadership Transition and “Leaning In”

New Artistic Directors Launch The Bridge Cabaret Series

After eight seasons as Producing Artistic Director, The Bridge Initiative’s co-founder Brenda Jean Foley is transitioning to Producing Executive Director and the organization has named Elizabeth Brownlee and Amie Bjorklund as Co-Artistic Directors for the theatre company’s 2023-24 season. The group is launching a new series, The Bridge Cabaret co-presented by ASU Kerr in Scottsdale on September 18th at 7:30pm. The first show, entitled “Leaning In,” features Bjorklund, Brownlee, and Foley accompanied by Andria Fennig.

Foley, Bjorklund, and Brownlee are frequently seen on Valley stages, including Arizona Theatre Company, The Phoenix Theatre Company, and Don Bluth Front Row Theatre. Bjorklund and Brownlee have also directed at Mesa Encore Theatre and Chandler Gilbert Community College. The women chose to launch the first of four performances of Bridge Cabaret series with a trio that will celebrate female leadership and friendship in story and song. At the 7:00 preshow, the community is invited to bring sheet music to sing with pianist Fennig playing in a relaxed cocktail setting. Fennig brings piano performance experience that ranges from solo performance and chamber music to pit orchestra work for touring Broadway shows and national concerts at Carnegie Hall. The other Bridge Cabaret series artists will be announced at a later date.

The Bridge Initiative was founded in 2015 when Foley and co-founder Tracy Liz Miller received seed funding from Arizona Commission on the Arts to create a theatre company with the mission of amplifying female leadership and voices. When Miller relocated to the East Coast in 2018, Foley took the helm and has forged meaningful partnerships with numerous Valley creatives and companies including ASU Kerr, Tempe Center for the Arts, Estrella Mountain Community College, Arizona Actors Academy, and Childsplay. Bridge has proudly produced on professional contracts hiring union members of Actors’ Equity Association and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and fair compensation is one of the company’s core values.

Headlines of theatre closures across the country have been plentiful in recent months. The Bridge Initiative has small organizational overhead and was able to weather the pandemic and emerge with two regional premiere productions, a Broadway cabaret series, and many play readings over the last two years, along with a documentary film project. “I’m proud of what we have built,” says Foley, “and after almost a decade of being the face of the organization and steering its artistic vision, it’s healthy to enable other creative minds with fresh ideas.” Brownlee offers, “Now more than ever I am inspired and invigorated through collaboration with smart, strong creative people. One of the beautiful things about The Bridge Initiative in this ever-changing landscape is our ability to pivot and make changes quickly in response to the needs of our community. It’s an honor and a challenge I embrace wholeheartedly.” Bjorklund adds, “Art heals when we allow it to. Being able to co-helm a theatre company where that is lived daily is a blessing and one I work hard to uphold every day and with every production.”

“Leaning In” will be presented Monday, September 18, at 7:30pm (song share preshow at 7:00pm) at ASU Kerr, 6110 N. Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85253. Tickets $10-25 plus fees at, in person at the box office, or by calling 480-596-2660. The Bridge Cabaret will return December 2, February 12, and May 20, with artists TBA.

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