New Play Creation From its inception, Roadside understood that the stories it told and the way it told them was different from mainstream theater. The company developed a unique theatrical aesthetic and fresh content based on what its company members grew up with – storytelling, ballad singing, oral histories, and church.

On the Road

Roadside Theater makes: Original Appalachian Plays; Inter-Cultural Collaborative Plays; and Plays that Incorporate Professional, Folk, and Amateur Artists

BETSY! tells the story of a Bronx jazz singer forced to confront her twin Spanish Caribbean and Scotch-Irish roots. Her dilemma stirs up the ghosts of six generations of American women, and musical currents spanning four continents. 


BETSY! The Concert tells the story of a night club performer uncovering secrets of her maternal family's history and twin Spanish-Caribbean/Scots-Irish-Appalachian roots.

The Concert premiered on August 11th at the Appalshop Theater in...

Christmas in Appalachia is about taking the time to get re-acquainted with ourselves, our family, our friends, and our community.

A 30-year cultural exchange, performance, playwriting, and national touring collaboration between Junebug Productions of New Orleans, Theresa Holden of Austin, and Roadside Theater  

Leaving Egypt tells the story of an Appalachian family facing the loss of their ancestral homeplace circa 1969.

Mountain Tales & Music

Mountain Tales & Music, an energetic performance of traditional tales and songs from the Appalachian Mountains.

New Ground Revival, a musical play with 28 songs and featuring the Mullins Family Singers of Dickenson County, Virginia

Pretty Polly

Pretty Polly, Roadside's first musical play, created musical compositions and harmony singing that became hallmarks of the ensemble's performances.

Performance of "Promise of a Love Song"

Promise of a Love Song, a collaboration with Junebug Productions and Pregones Theater -- New Orleans, The Bronx, and the Cumberland Plateau meet on the subject of love.

Red Fox/Second Hangin' is the true story of M.B. "Doc" Taylor, "the Red Fox" -- a red-headed, red-bearded, popular preacher, doctor, mystic, and U.S. marshall -- and the coming of the first coal boom to Central Appalachia in the 1890's.

South of the Mountain traces the lives of two generations of an Appalachian family living on a small farm as agrarian life gives way to coal mining and industrialization.

1000 Kites

This play’s true stories come from prisoners, corrections officers, and their respective families; and from people living in communities where prisons are sited.

Bringing different, even conflicting, points of view together to address domestic violence.

Community Cultural Development Roadside’s community cultural development work has been shaped by the company’s artistic residencies in communities struggling with issues of unequal opportunity, racism, incarceration, violence against women, and suicide.


A growing collection of Roadside's playmaking and community cultural residency methodology

A collaboration with Cancer survivors in North Carolina and West Virginia to create plays from their communities' cancer stories and perform them at cancer detection and prevention events.

Choteau, Montana

Artists from two rural communities, Choteau, Montana and Whitesburg, Kentucky, conduct a cultural exchange and playwriting project and two plays are written and performed for each others' audiences.

Corn Mountain/Pine Mountain Performance 1996

A 30-year cultural exchange with traditional Native American artists in Zuni, New Mexico and the founding of Idiwanan An Chawe the first Zuni language theater company.


An annual three-day performance and cultural festival in Fresno, California celebrating the traditions of indigenous and immigrant communities of the Central Valley

Appalshop and the Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project at Lafayette College form a partnership and create a strategic investment plan that simultaneously supports the economic development of Appalshop and its Appalachian region.

Community partners add the voices of Cherokee tradition keepers and descendants of African slaves to an annual Appalachian pre-Revolutionary War historical reenactment and trade fair.

New Mexico Residency

A 2012 Community Cultural Development residency in Albuquerque, NM ends with a performance, "From School House to Jail House."  

Holden Arts & Associates

From the late 1980's until the beginning of the 21st Century, Roadside Theater worked with Michael and Theresa Holden of Holden Arts & Associates (HAA) to create ground-breaking national Roadside tours and in-depth community cultural residencies, and to found the...

Letcher County Youth Leadership at Work

Roadside Theater works with Letcher County, Kentucky residents to create an original, youth-led play, The Future of Letcher County, that addresses the County's economic challenges.

March 2013 Company

Liberian artists address civil war, domestic violence, and other women’s issues through song and activism in the West Philadelphia refugee community.

Roadside Theater performs in 16 communities across North Dakota as part of a rural cultural exchange.

Performing Our Future is a multiracial coalition of rural and urban communities working through culture to build power and wealth. Our goal is a future where everyone belongs and everyone's contribution matters -- where together, we own what we make...

Since its founding in 1975, Roadside Theater has maintained a local program. The company’s original Appalachian plays and community cultural development methodology were, and continue to be, developed with people in southwest Virginia and east Kentucky, a...

If the story cannot be told fully and truthfully because the audience is too narrow, then the audience IQ has to be raised by including a broad cross-section of the community in its midst.

A huge arts festival draws attention to a massive urban renewal disaster that displaced 19,000 African Americans for an expressway that was never completed.

Our tested storytelling method for empowering community members.

From 1977-1984 Roadside theater produced a summer Tent Tour to build theater audiences at home in the mountains of East Kentucky and Southwest Virginia.

The American Festival Project used a careful process that encouraged communities to untangle the complex webs that oppressed and divided them, to imagine change, and to promote creative expression as a means of fighting injustice in all forms.

Local folk work together through low cost media to define and address the barriers that prevent their communities from enjoying such things as access to health care, a safe environment, new technology, economic development, and more.

Zuni Painting

Through a virtual and in-person exchange and collaboration, Zuni and Appalachian youth will get to know each other by creating and exchanging media productions that communicate elements of their places and cultures, their wishes and dreams, their fears and...

Teaching in Colleges and Communities Roadside's higher education Community Cultural Development programs depend on a balance of community engagement; training in artistic craft; and scholarship focused on the field’s history, animating ideas, and economic and policy environments.


Though there has been a rich history in the U.S. of attempts to create a grassroots theater that is open to and reflective of the concerns of ordinary people, much of that history has been lost or obscured.

New York University Tisch School of the Arts undergraduate students immerse themselves in the creation of grassroots film, theater, audio, and photography at Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY.

From 1990 to 1993, at Cornell University, Roadside developed and taught a course in popular theater and playwriting and hosted, with Cornell, a national symposium on popular theater.

Higher Education Curriculum

This report attempts to capture a phenomenon in formation: the integration of community cultural development studies into higher education in the United States.

 Roadside Theater, Junebug Productions, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and El Teatro de la Esperanza work with ASU and community groups to create original performing art focusing on untold stories.

Walk Together Children

What happens when William and Mary College students and local residents explore Williamsburg's 1950's Civil Rights era history through the stories of local residents?

Advocacy Because Roadside Theater is one of the few rural professional theaters in the United States and because its inspiration comes from a region with a history of economic disadvantage, advocacy has always been a part of its work.

"Roadside Theater is dedicated to artistic excellence in pursuit of the proposition that the world is immeasurably enriched when people and cultures tell their own stories and listen to the unique stories of others."


How do we support transformative action based on shared values, principles, and goals?

Roadside Theater advocates for cultural equity -- that all people everywhere have the right to inherit and develop their intellectual, emotional, material, and spiritual traditions.

Movement Meeting

Roadside's Artistic Director participated in two White House meetings to discuss arts and culture policy with the administration.

Roadside Theater's work addresses civil rights, social justice, and human rights issues.

Roadside Theater uses first-voice narratives to develop advocacy campaigns in multiple media.

Telling the Central Appalachian Mountain region's story from the inside out.