In September 1988 Roadside performed in 16 communities across North Dakota as part of a special tour sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Dakota Council on the Arts, and Arts Midwest. The Council on the Arts’ initial concept was for Roadside to bring its rural plays to communities. After a statewide meeting of potential community presenters, it was agreed that a rural cultural exchange would be a more vital way to conduct the tour. 

Communities on the tour welcomed Roadside at social gatherings that featured traditional food, square dances, and spirited conversation. In addition to Roadside performances, each stop included exchange performances with some of the host communities' most accomplished artists, including cowboy poets, native American dancers, musicians, and storytellers. Set designs for the performances tapped local visual arts traditions. For example, the set for the Fort Peck performance was composed of Assiniboine and Appalachian quilts. 

Promotion for the tour began months in advance with a showing of Appalachian documentary films on North Dakota’s statewide PBS system, a poster featuring all the tour’s stops, and bookmarks in the public libraries listing the tour schedule. 

The tour itself was documented by a reporter for the statewide NPR service, who travelled with Roadside and regularly filed audio reports. What emerged from daily radio reports broadcast by the state’s Public Radio Station was a cultural portrait of North Dakota featuring each community’s special qualities. 

Most of the performance sites were small towns, and a variety of presenters participated in the tour including area arts councils, colleges and universities, community theater groups, and a state park. During the 25 day tour, there were 32 performances and 14 workshops for more than 7,000 people. Audiences represented the diversity of each community.

Cite This

“About: Roadside's North Dakota Tour.” https://roadside.org. June 3, 2014. https://roadside.org/asset/about-roadsides-north-dakota-tour.

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