The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

Baker, Davidson, Egerton, & Wright 5

Department just put on as diverse a program as Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House , Kiss Me, Kate , and Mary Zimmerman’s The Arabian Nights . Pittsburg, again, is home to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburg, two of the most prestigious theatre programs in the country. There are also East Tennessee State University and University of South Wales Swansea; their current season including Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well and a new work about the children of Terezin. There’s Virginia Tech, whose current season includes Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and the farce Boeing-Boeing . Hollins University, Shenandoah, Western Carolina, Warren Wilson, Marietta. I would include the schools represented at this conference as well: Berea College, Appalachian State, and Emory & Henry. Technically, since they’re part of the region, I have to note the theatre programs in the southern tier of New York: Ithaca College, Cornell, Binghamton. A discussion of schools and their seasons would, therefore, report productions covering every genre and style, from the classics and O’Neill to postmodernism, musicals, contemporary playwrights, farce, and murder mysteries. There’s even an annual “Gay in Appalachia” event held in Blacksburg, Virginia, that explores through song, storytelling, and drama the resilient but often overlooked LGBTQ+ population in the region. In other words, if we were to ask what was being done in Appalachia, the answer would be a resounding “everything.” But since this study is turning in my hand like a snake, I will look only at a few locations as representative. What is missing from this examination is overwhelmingly more populous than what is actually in the examination, but I am nonetheless going to further break down the region into three major subregions: the north, the middle, and the south. The middle also kind of bisects North Carolina and eastern Tennessee (“Subregions”). I want to point out that the material I have used—this map—has been borrowed from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which was established in 1965 and reflects the ARC mission, which was “to address the persistent poverty and growing economic despair of the Appalachian region” (Burnette). Their maps therefore tell a slightly modified though related tale, a tale whose particular hue has colored much of the outside perception of the region. When we think—when we close our eyes and think Appalachian, we think a particular image—“we” being also a monolithic “we.” I’m also going to show you very briefly only theatres that are professional theatres, and I’m going to ignore those college programs and university programs. I’m also,

woefully, missing a discussion of the origins of theatre in this region which start as far back as the 1830s with the birth of showboat theatres, by Pittsburgh, that plied the Ohio River. I’m going to overlook such brilliant work as Roadside Theater and Appalshop. Hopefully, you will touch a little bit on that today. Also, I’m not going to talk about Richard Owen Gere’s wonderful work with Community Performance International, all deserving a panel, a semester of talks of their own. Although it is part of my larger research, I will do little more than mention the history of the Appalachian as typology as well. But I would direct you to the work of Anthony Harkins. His Hillbilly: The Cultural History of an American Icon (2004) summarizes very nicely that typology going all the way back to colonial days and the amalgam of the early frontiersman and the northern Yankee, a very interesting study. I will, therefore, examine very briefly the following theatres: the Oldcastle Theatre Company, the Contemporary American Theater Festival, the Barter Theatre, and the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre. Oldcastle is a professional theatre company in Bennington, Vermont. It has been in existence since 1972. It has a solid tradition of touring as well. In its early years, it confined its tours to New England states, but it’s expanded its travel to all over the world. It dedicates itself to performing new works, recently producing an original work, Ethan , about Green Mountain boy and revolutionary Ethan Allen. And it did Civil Union, a play examining the effect of Vermont’s same-sex union law on the residents of the state. So, in other words, it is performing a service for its own community in a very real and interesting way. I would like to highlight the work of the Contemporary American Theater Festival as one of the most exciting festivals in the country, as far as I’m concerned. This annual festival, begun in 1991 by Ed Herendeen, does exciting new work. In fact, “to produce and develop new American theater” is their sole mission (“Mission”). Located approximately seventy miles northwest of Washington, DC, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, it caters to sixty percent of its audience members, which are from outside the state—in other words, tourists. I’ve mentioned the Barter Theatre just to whet the appetite of the panel tomorrow and this weekend’s performance from Barter Theatre’s own playwright Catherine Bush. This is a theatre that has an age of lineage. It was created in 1933 by Robert Porterfield. It does every kind of theatre you can imagine, from tragedies to classics to musicals. But, additionally, it has hosted an annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights every

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