In 1987, the North Dakota Council on the Arts and Roadside Theater had several conversations about their mutual interest in reaching rural audiences, and the idea of a tour based on rural cultural exchange was conceived.
A plan was created for a statewide tour, and the Arts Council applied for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Upon securing NEA support, the Council contacted potential local sponsors to meet with Roadside to talk about the tour.
A Roadside staff member flew to the state to get acquainted with the sponsors, introduce Roadside's work, and continue discussions about the involvement of local artists. NEA funding made it possible for the Arts Council to subsidize fees for their sponsors. The Council's proactive role was important to achieving the goals of the tour.
For four months Roadside worked with each sponsor to coordinate the local aspects of the program. Artists in each community -- fiddlers, old-time swing bands, cowboy poets, storytellers, and Native American dancers -- were invited to participate in performances that included story swaps, concerts, and square dances.
In addition to North Dakota artists sharing the stage with Roadside, workshops exploring Roadside's method of adapting its local oral histories and stories to the stage were used to call attention to a community's own histories and storytellers.
Performances of Roadside's original plays, MOUNTAIN TALES & MUSIC and PRETTY POLLY, were enhanced by educational activities scheduled in each community, where Roadside visited schools to tell tales and talk about Appalachian culture and hear about North Dakota culture.
Workshops in storytelling, oral history collection, play development, and ensemble acting for community theater groups and drama students also encouraged exploration of local cultural traditions.
Since a priority for all Roadside touring is reaching ethnically and culturally diverse audiences, Roadside has developed presenter materials that are geared toward getting out an audience that represents a broad cross-section of a community.
North Dakota sponsors received Roadside posters, radio spots, press releases, publicity photos, and a manual with calendar detailing how to use the promotional materials. Radio and television spots, aired as public service announcements, helped reach a non-theater going audience. A special focus on reaching Native American people was accomplished by contacting community leaders on reservations.
Schools were sent study guides to help teachers incorporate the Roadside presentation into their curriculum. Workshop participants received support materials including bibliographies of Appalachian writings, background on Roadside Theater and its ensemble method of working, and, when applicable, script samples.