We are committed to the proposition that the world is immeasurably enriched when all cultures tell their own stories and listen to the stories of others.

Roadside Theater started back in 1975 by asking ourselves:

“Could a small group of community-trained musicians, storytellers, and writers create a professional theater where there’d never been one?”

Our first plays were drawn from the traditions of our community; we told mountain tales and songs, touring in a tent through mountain hollers and throwing ticket prices to the wind. The actors learned their craft from the region’s storytellers, singers, and preachers.

Sitting in the audience felt like sitting with friends and kin, singing well-loved songs, spinning tales, and recounting oft-told family histories.

Roadside Theater began to tour productions, sharing stories of our homeland with other communities across the country. We got to know many towns like our own, with a shared history of resisting economic, environmental, and cultural extraction.

We met new artists who embodied and spoke from the complexity of their own cultural experiences and we started working together to create new art.

We asked:

“How do we learn more about each other by making things together?”


These questions have animated nearly fifty years of community-driven theater. We continue this tradition of inquiry today, meeting in local community spaces to surface, through discussion and imaginative collaboration, contemporary questions of our own. These new questions will continue to expand the accessibility, complex communion, and playful possibilities of live storytelling.

We asked:

“How do we learn more about each other by making things together?”


Roadside Theater is one part of Appalshop, the nonprofit cultural arts organization that also includes:

  • Appalshop Film and Video
  • June Appal Recordings
  • Appalshop Archive
  • The Appalachian Media Institute
  • Letcher Co. Culture Hub
  • Appalshop Marketing and Sales
  • Traditional Music Project
  • Community Media Initiative
  • WMMT-FM Community Radio

Appalshop's mission is to enlist the power of education, media, theater, music, and other arts to:

  • Document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia.
  • Tell stories the commercial cultural industries don't tell, challenging stereotypes with Appalachian voices and visions.
  • Support communities’ efforts to achieve justice and equity and solve their own problems in their own ways.
  • Celebrate cultural diversity as a positive social value.
  • Participate in regional, national, and global dialogue toward these ends.