Abstract

Roadside Theater is a populist theatre company. Refusing liberal elitism, activist vanguardism, and the authoritarian pseudo-populism of Donald Trump, Roadside works in grassroots partnerships that cross racial, political, and rural-urban lines. Combining theatre production, community organizing, and economic development, this work creates the conditions for residents of the Appalachian coalfields and neighbors nationwide to confront exploitative power structures and divisive culture wars, tell their own stories, build shared power and wealth, and create a future where “We Own What We Make.”

External Supplements

Three Approaches to Making Change

A chart contrasting Roadside’s populist approach to making change with more prevalent liberal and activist approaches.

Roadside Theater

The website of Roadside Theater, including extensive documentation of Roadside’s 45 years of populist theater-making, at home in the Appalachian coalfields and in cross-cultural partnerships across the country and international, along with resources for advocacy and education.

Performing Our Future

The website of the Performing Our Future coalition, initiated by Roadside Theater, including links to coalition delegations in Alabama, Baltimore, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, and a description of basic principles and methodology with links for further information.

The Future of Letcher County

Public reading of the play The Future of Letcher County by community residents, Cowan Community Center, April 2018.

On Cultural Organizing and Performing Our Future

A short summary of the theory and practice of cultural organizing, co-authored by Roadside Theater and the leader of the Performing Our Future coalition’s Baltimore delegation.

Discovering and Debunking Divides in the Heart of Kentucky Coal Country

Roadside Theater co-founder Dudley Cocke on the development of Roadside Theater’s community cultural development methodology.

Community Cultural Development as a Site of Joy, Struggle, and Transformation

Roadside Theater co-founder Dudley Cocke on the development of Roadside Theater’s community cultural development methodology.

How a Conservative Coal County Built the Biggest Community Solar Energy Project in East Kentucky

A brief study of Roadside’s cultural and economic organizing in the east Kentucky coalfields.

Appalachian Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Interview and video featuring Gwen Johnson, leader in the Performing Our Future coalition and Letcher County Culture Hub, on building a community center of power in the east Kentucky coalfields and its connection to racial justice.

How We Work

A diagram explaining the basic methodology of the Performing Our Future project, developed by Roadside Theater.

Putting the “Art” & “Culture” in Community Driven Development

A diagram explaining Roadside Theater’s definitions of “art” and “culture” and the roles they play in community-driven economic development.

How to Spot a Community Center of Power

A guide to identifying community centers of power, the building blocks of Roadside’s approach to populist theater-making, organizing, and development.

How to Organize for Community Cultural and Economic Development

Five first steps and five “best principles” in Roadside Theater’s approach to building a populist theater-making, organizing, and development project.

Kentucky Communities Unlock Their Cultural Wealth to Lead the Way Forward

PolicyLink report on the policy implications of Roadside Theater’s cultural and economic development work in the east Kentucky coalfields.

Building Democracy in “Trump Country”

Roadside Theater responds to the 2016 election.