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. Soulful and funny, BETSY! grapples with a surprising, many-layered narrative that links an orphaned teenager tricked into leaving Ireland in the 18th century, her seducer, and their descendants, all the way down to Betsy, our sassy protagonist, finding her bearings in the rhythmic pulse of 21st century New York. This fresh new musical is alive with the fire of Jazz, Bluegrass, and Latin music compositions delivered by three powerful vocalists and a 5-piece Appalachian-Puerto Rican band on piano, violin, guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, drums, and percussion.
Dreamed up by Roadside Theater ensemble artists Ron Short and Dudley Cocke, together with legendary Nashville pianist Beegie Adair, and Pregones Theater ensemble artists Rosalba Rolón and Desmar Guevara, BETSY! exemplifies a collaborative creative practice that grows over time, engages an audience during the formative process, involves multigenerational artists of a high caliber, and results in a musical theater experience that is out of the ordinary. The team’s prior musical co-creation, Promise of A Love Song, toured nationally in 1999-2002 and is published in Ferdinand Lewis’ Ensemble Works: An Anthology (Theatre Communications Group, NY).
With its own arts facility in the South Bronx, Pregones Theater is home to a multigenerational network of Latino artists known for mining connections between theater and popular culture, creating plays of dynamic visual and rhythmic character, and growing strong and diverse local audiences. Building on a rich tradition of popular and experimental theater, the ensemble has 80 original premieres and more than 500 national and international touring credits since 1979. This year, Pregones is finalizing merger with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in Manhattan. www.pregonesprtt.org
Based in the mountains of Kentucky and boasting deep roots in the local culture, Roadside Theater has created the single largest existing body of drama about Appalachia. With 60 new plays to its credit, the ensemble has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe, performing in small towns and big cities alike since 1975. Mastery of the Appalachian storytelling craft and musical traditions, involvement with audiences of diverse cultural background, and a distinct call for social justice distinguish Roadside's art and ensures its popularity. www.roadside.org