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2009 Recipient - Roadside Theater

Roadside Theater is creating a body of drama based on the history and lives of Appalachian people and collaborating with others nationally who are dramatizing their local life.

Roadside Theater was founded in 1975 in Whitesburg, Kentucky, as a part of Appalshop. Appalshop, founded in 1969, is a multi-disciplinary, rural arts and education center which, for the past 34 years, has been producing and distributing (nationally and internationally) film, video, audio recordings, radio, and theater that celebrates the culture and voices the concerns of the 20 million people living in the 13 state Appalachian region.

Roadside Theater is a professional ensemble theater located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountain coalfields of rural eastern Kentucky. Since 1975, the company has been writing, performing in its home theater, and touring nationally (and occasionally internationally) original plays drawn from the history and rich culture of its mountain home.

It is the character of Roadside's relationship with its audiences that defines its work. Roadside's audiences are a broad cross-section of the American public, including a significant number of habitual theatergoers as well as many attending professional theater for the first time.

Based on six years of tracking (1991-1997) by the AMS Planning and Research Corporation in Connecticut, 70% of Roadside Theater's national audience live in rural communities and 33% are people of color. 43% of Roadside's national audience earn between $25,000 and $50,000 annually; 30% earn less than $24,000 a year. Roadside Theater draws 73% of its audience from 85% of the population, measured by income.