Roadside Theater

About Roadside Theater

In the rural mountains of Appalachia in 1975, a group of musicians and storytellers began experimenting with raucous versions of the centuries-old Jack tales they had grown up hearing. With no theatrical sets, costumes, or pretense of separation between the listener and the teller, performances were staged anywhere the actors hung their coats -- in community centers, school rooms, church halls, and hunting clubs.

In 1977, the company took its newest play – a docu-drama of two murders and the coming of its region’s first coal boom – to Manhattan, where it received extensive national press. Roadside next wrote and toured a cycle of plays that presented a radically different version of Appalachia’s history than the one published under the auspices of the absentee national and international energy corporations that continued to dominate the region’s economic and political life. These dramas became the first collection of indigenous Appalachian plays and travelled across the country to 43 states and Europe. In all, Roadside has created 60 plays, including a series of bilingual intercultural musicals with other national ensembles; dramas with traditional (folk) artists; and recently an experimental play with scores of historical re-enactors.

Roadside is part of Appalshop, the award-winning multi-media arts and humanities institution which will turn 50 years old in 2020. Appalshop’s staff and board of directors believe that the world is immeasurably enriched when people and their local cultures discover and tell their own stories and experience the stories of others.


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Norton, VA 24273

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