Pretty Polly was Roadside Theater's second full-length play and its first play with a female lead. The play combines tall tales, family remembrances, and traditional Appalachian songs accompanied by guitar, fiddle, and banjo to dramatize the life of a remarkable local storyteller, Polly Branham Johnson.
Aunt Polly, as she was called by all who knew her, was born on Big Beaver Creek in east Kentucky in 1864. She died in 1947, leaving behind a great wealth of stories and songs collected from her in the 1930s and early 1940s by the Federal Works Progress Administration's Writers Project.
Pretty Polly is the first play in Roadside's Pine Mountain Trilogy, which also includes South of the Mountain and Leaving Egypt. The Trilogy takes its name from the setting of the three plays, the 110 mile-long Pine Mountain that divides east Kentucky from southwest Virginia. This once isolated area of the Appalachians was one of the last pockets of the U.S. frontier.
From the arrival of the first European settlers to the Vietnam War era, each play in the Trilogy looks at a distinct period of time through the eyes of an Appalachian family. Roadside often works with historical material to illuminate current circumstances. The Trilogy is part of the body of Roadside’s work that presents a radically different version of the region's history than that published under the auspices of the coal companies.