Roadside Theater is a professional ensemble of storytellers and theater makers hailing from the mountains of central Appalachia. In its decades since its founding in 1975, the ensemble has taken on the task of people’s theater, engaging social issues and abandoning the ‘fourth wall’ concept in order to bring audiences into the process of cultural production. Roadside Theater reflects Appalachian culture, but it has also worked over decades to build theater in solidarity with social struggles across social constructs, including in close connection with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and their associated theater troupes, Free Southern Theater and Junebug Productions. On today’s show, we’re joined by editors and contributors to a new book that documents that history, called Art In A Democracy. We’re joined by the book’s editor, Ben Fink, who worked with Roadside Theater from 2015 until 2020, and co-founded the East Kentucky–Western Massachusetts cross-partisan dialogue project Hands Across the Hills. We’re also joined by Donna Porterfield, the Managing Director of Roadside Theater from 1979 to 2019, with oversight responsibility for all of the theater’s personnel and financial matters; as well as AB Spellman, a poet and essayist as well as a jazz critic and enthusiast, and a figure in the Black Arts Movement who worked for about 30 years at the National Endowment of the Arts.
Learn more about Roadside Theater and Art in a Democracy: https://www.artinademocracy.org/
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