In order to pass on its learning to a new generation, Roadside is especially interested in mutually-designed collaborations that will help document and make accessible the theory and practice it has developed over four decades. Below are examples of Roadside’s expertise. Would you like to collaorate with us? Contact us at: [email protected]; Roadside Theater, P.O. Box 771, Norton, VA 24273; 276.679.3116
Roadside Theater conducts trainings in the Story Circle Methodology it has developed during 25 years of conducting community development residencies across 43 states. Story Circles encourage deep listening, verbal expression, respect for every participant’s story, and an appreciation for the cultural gifts and talents of diverse groups of people.
The circles have been used successfully by higher education, medical practitioners, artists, social clubs, community groups, teachers, and many others to positively discuss and reflect upon difficult issues, to collect oral history, to write plays, to teach listening and verbal skills, to empathize with the experiences of others – to learn.
Conference Design, Keynote Speeches, and More
Sharing the stories and lessons learned from four decades of work, Roadside Theater gives keynote speeches at major regional, national, and international conferences. For an example, see Dudley Cocke’s speech at the Lyric Theatre in Virginia. Speeches are tailored to the conference theme, and can be complemented by a demonstration performance or screening of archival videos, music, and photos.
Roadside Theater consults with organizations on designing conferences to foster an iterative critical discourse that builds and sharpens each participant and builds a movement for individual and collective action. Recently, Roadside helped design Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life’s 2013 national conference, A Call to Action, in Syracuse, NY attended by 400 college presidents, faculty, staff, students, artists, and community leaders. In addition to his conference planning role, Dudley Cocke moderated the opening keynote panel and facilitated two, three hour story circle sessions – one on higher education and the economy, and the other on race and class in higher education.
Higher Education: Institutes, Courses, Curriculum Development, and Projects
Roadside Theater’s higher education collaborations are informed by three key elements important to becoming a citizen artist: 1)Community engagement; 2)Training in both aesthetics and community organizing; and 3)Scholarship about the history, animating ideas, and policy and economic environments of the community-based arts field. This exemplar curriculum was endorsed by Imagining America’s 2008 national research study of which Roadside was a part, The Curriculum Project: Culture and Community Development in Higher Education.
Here are activities from a week-long higher education institute Roadside Theater developed for its parent organization, Appalshop: a 24-hour production period to create an original play, short film, set of photographs, music recording, or radio documentary in collaboration with Appalshop artists and their community partners; seminars about the community arts field’s history and national policy environment; visits to significant Appalachian cultural sites including coal mining operations; discussions with Appalshop’s documentary filmmakers; exchanges with Old Time musicians; appearances on Appalshop’s radio station; and square dancing at the Cowan Creek Community Center. Facilitated using Roadside Theater’s methodology, daily reflection and story circles help participants relate the activity to their own experiences and goals.
Roadside Theater has taught courses on Grassroots Theater, Culturally-Based Playmaking, Playwriting from Oral History, Community Cultural Development, Directing, and more. For example, at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Roadside helped lead a two-year curricular initiative in grassroots theater, which included the creation of several new courses; a community-based performance in NYU’s surrounding neighborhood, the Lower East Side; a weeklong exchange in New Orleans with NYU students and students from Tulane, Xavier, and Dillard universities; and a weeklong institute at Appalshop.
Community Cultural Development Residencies
When invited, Roadside Theater goes into other communities to share its artistic work and organizing methodologies with the goal of developing local leadership. Roadside Theater performs, facilitates story circles as part of community celebrations, and helps the community identify the stories it wants to tell in public. Such residencies can engage participants with a range of backgrounds, including those with no theater experience to highly skilled artists wanting to expand their craft to include collaborations with community.
Two examples: 1) In a Story to Performance residency in Albuquerque, NM, Roadside Theater helped community organizers with no theater experience construct a script from their stories and mount their original performance, From School House to Jail House; 2) In west Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Folklore Project, Roadside Theater is currently working with refugee Liberian artists to develop Women’s Chorus for Change.
Building Institutions and Coalitions
Roadside Theater has developed a number of large-scale organizations and coalitions for advancing values of cultural equity and social justice, including its parent organization, Appalshop, Alternate ROOTS, Voices from the Cultural Battlefront, and the American Festival Project. Roadside Theater consults with organizations in various fields on a range of topics including leadership development, nonprofit governance and management, risk assessment and management, philanthropy, and more.
For example, for six years Dudley Cocke worked with Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life to develop a Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals Statement; to activate the Board by designing Roles and Responsibilities and a Committee Structure with Charters; and the foundation for a Theory of Change.
Other organizations that have used Roadside Theater’s services include the Theatre Communications Group, Ruth Mott Fund, Bush Foundation, Rural Research Policy Institute, and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.