In 1969, Dudley Cocke was hitch-hiking around the US and met Edward Wemytewa at a pick-up basketball game in Gallup, New Mexico. By 1984 Dudley was Roadside Theater’s artistic director, and the company decided to visit Edward at his home in Zuni, NM on the tail-end of a tour of Utah. Edward invited Roadside to tell stories at the Zuni Mid-School. As they say, the rest is history.
The ensuing 29-year exchange and collaboration involved multiple Roadside Theater trips to Zuni and multiple trips made by Zuni traditional artists to Roadside’s mountain home in east Kentucky and southwest Virginia; the founding of Idiwanan An Chawe, the first Zuni language theater; the creation and production of Zuni language plays; the creation and touring of Corn Mountain/Pine Mountain: Following the Seasons, an Idiwanan An Chawe—Roadside Theater collaborative play; the publication of the book, “Journeys Home; Revealing a Zuni—Appalachian Collaboration;” and co-performances at the National Museum of the American Indian in NYC, the National Museum of American History in Washington DC, the Zuni Senior Center in Zuni, the Appalshop Theater in Whitesburg, KY, Arizona State University, The New Orleans Environmental Justice Festival, and elsewhere.
By 2000, financial support for this kind of deep tradition-based work became difficult to secure. Idiwanan An Chawe continued to tell stories in the Zuni schools, but its program was diminished. While Idiwanan An Chawe and Roadside kept in touch, exchange in its previous form was no longer possible.
Working with the Appalachian Media Institute was a no-brainer. For the past 26 years, the Appalachian Media Institute has provided opportunities for young people from across Central Appalachia to explore their home communities, address local issues, and become thoughtful, engaged citizens through the process of place-based media making.