"Over the years, Roadside has excelled in using story to connect its community to others, across the country and around the world. . . It's a vision that builds on those that have come before, notably the work of Robert Gard and Hallie Flanagan."
—Todd London, An Ideal Theater
Since its inception in 1975, Roadside Theater – the offspring of Southern justice movements like SNCC and the Free Southern Theater – has used community story circles to make plays that dramatize the lives of poor, working class, and middle class Americans. The stories and characters in this canon of more than 60 dramas often stand in stark opposition to the stories and characters in the nation’s official history books and in its commercial culture. Common questions inform our plays: Who gets to tell what stories to whom? Why isn’t the U.S. theater audience more economically and racially diverse? What plays are produced and taught, and why those? And Why are certain ways of making theater valued and taught above others?
Roadside’s play making is a provocation to the nonprofit and educational fields to re-engage with grassroots arts; a tool to connect people across perceived cultural differences; and a living testament that the local and specific – rendered in faithful, imaginative voices – can touch audiences anywhere and bring to the stage the inherent genius of a region.
Current and recent productions: Summer 2018
THE FUTURE OF LETCHER COUNTY
The Future of Letcher County, developed by Roadside in cooperation with the Letcher County Culture Hub, is a youth-led, interview- and story-circle-generated play about eastern Kentuckians’ search for sustainable lives in their mountain communities at the end of coal mining. The play is currently being developed in a series of staged readings throughout Letcher County.
BETSY! IN CONCERT
BETSY! tells the story of a Bronx jazz singer forced to confront her twin Spanish Caribbean and Scotch-Irish roots. Her dilemma stirs up the ghosts of six generations of American women, and musical currents spanning four continents. BETSY! ran off-Broadway at the Pregones and Puerto Rican Traveling Theaters from April 9-26, 2015. This concert co-production premiered at the Appalshop theater in August 2017.
In development: 2018-2019
THE CROSSROADS LAB
Bold and unapologetically feminist, the Lab is an interdisciplinary, first-voice exploration of 21st century Appalachian identity in live performance which will intentionally create producing, directing, writing, and performance opportunities for Appalachian-identifying women, womxn, and gender-nonconforming or LGBTQ, documented and undocumented immigrants, people of color, and other mountain people whose stories are seldom told on our stages.
To learn more about Roadside's body of 60+ original Appalachian and intercultural musical plays, visit our Living Library.