Apr
15

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“I Can Hear You”: Appalachian and Puerto Rican musical collaborations in BETSY!

The Music of BETSY! An interview with Ron Short and Desmar Guevara. Video content by Zhivko Illeieff

[Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of April, Art of the Rural will share a series of new writing and multimedia from HowlRoundabout the twenty-one-year artistic collaboration between Pregones Theater and Roadside Theater. The collaboration bridges two vast geographies and cultures, Puerto Rican and Appalachian, and two distinct aesthetics. Curated by Imagining America’s Jamie Haft and Dr. Arnaldo López of Pregones Theater/PRTT, the series explores the creation of BETSY!, a musical about a Bronx singer and performer uncovering the secrets of her family’s history. The musical premiered off-Broadway last week and continues through April 26, 2015 (purchase tickets by clicking here).

BETSY! offers an important lens on a long-term rural-urban exchange and the many threads of commonality along America’s rural-urban continuum. This series is part of a strategy to develop new scholarship and multimedia about the vision, values, practice, and complexities of intercultural artistic collaboration, which will eventually be digested into a learning guide for teaching BETSY!. We’re proud to share the work of HowlRound, Imagining America, Roadside Theater, and Pregones Theater.]

Ron Short in BETSY at Pregones Theater in the Bronx, 2006. Photo by Erika Rojas.

Today, we are pleased to share excerpts from Jonathan Bradshaw’s essay “I Can Hear You: Cross-Cultural Music and Complicated American Identities”, where he interviews musician Syvia Ryerson and musician/playwright Ron Short from BETSY! Within his narrative, he explores the challenging process of collaboration across cultures and genres:

“One of the reasons we have so much difficulty in understanding other people and other people’s cultures and religion is we’re not willing to loosen the choke-hold we have on our own, to give up some part of ourselves to learn something new about ourselves.”

“Appalachian writer and musician Ron Short first began writing the play for Roadside Theater by recovering his own great-great-great-Grandmother’s story as a prostitute and a part of a system of forced Scotch-Irish servitude in the late 1700s. “When I started looking for her,” Ron told me, I found that she had been buried in [. . . ] the Cumberland mountains there between Kentucky and Virginia—and they had not put a marker on her grave [ . . .] So I started looking for her grave and I couldn’t find it. And I was determined to do something and so I said, ‘Well, I’ll make a marker for her. I’ll tell her story.’… Ron’s marker became BETSY!, the product now of multiple collaborations.”

“My banjo teacher, Warren Waldron, once told me of playing traditional Old-Time music: “If you want to play music this old, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” I’ve always loved that idea—that being situated as we are in this moment does not mean we’re ahead of our heritages. Uncovering and recovering the voices that inform who we are requires a lot of intentional creative work. The story of BETSY! is one of uncovering voices and multicultural identities.”

To read Bradshaw’s full essay, visit: http://howlround.com/i-can-hear-you-cross-cultural-music-and-complicated-american-identities

Apr
13

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Reflections on the Year of the Rural Arts 2014

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THE YEAR OF THE RURAL ARTS 2014 was a program of events, conversations, and online features celebrating the diverse, vital ways in which rural arts and humanities contribute to American life. This inaugural effort connected citizens, artists, scholars, designers, and entrepreneurs and meet with audiences on the grounds of universities, museums and galleries, cultural organizations, and across rural and urban communities.

Coordinated by Art of the Rural and organized by a collective of individuals, organizations, and communities from rural and urban locales across the nation, the inaugural Year was a collaborative, grassroots effort designed to build steam over the course of 2014.

As a foundation for future work, we were motivated by two goals:

    • Build an inclusive and engaged rural arts and culture network During the Year of the Rural Arts 2014, we sought to expand participation in the national rural arts conversation by identifying rural arts and culture stakeholders and documenting their presence on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture digital project. Together, with this online resource as a road map, we built regional face-to-face relationships that contributed resources and support to our local places and also help establish a vibrant national network.
    • Expand artistic, cultural, and historical understanding We have yet to encounter a connective vision of American rural experience. The inaugural Year began the work of presenting these narratives and critical perspectives through partnerships with universities, academic and cultural organizations, and communities across rural and urban America.

Please help us measure the impact of the inaugural Year of the Rural Arts by participating in our 5 minute survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HMGR3S2

YORA Stamp 7.0

Thanks to all of you who collaborated with us throughout the year. Together, we mapped hundreds of annual rural arts events and projects, completed 5 Year of the Rural Arts Residencies, and staged 25 community events in 12 states. We facilitated 7 new projects on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture, worked with three new interns, and produced 36 feature articles on the Art of the Rural blog while showcasing 8 talented contributing writers. We also launched Next Generation and Middle Landscape Initiatives, and worked with partners across the nation in collaborations including the American Bottom project, the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, and the Mary Celestia Parler project.

For more information on our review of the Year of the Rural Arts, visit: http://artoftherural.org/year-of-the-rural-arts-2014/

 YORA composite

 

Apr
7

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Caridad De La Luz as Betsy

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Caridad De La Luz and Ron Short developing script in Norton, Virginia, February 2015.
Photo by Zhivko Illeieff.

[Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of April, Art of the Rural will share a series of new writing and multimedia from HowlRoundabout the twenty-one-year artistic collaboration between Pregones Theater and Roadside Theater. The collaboration bridges two vast geographies and cultures, Puerto Rican and Appalachian, and two distinct aesthetics. Curated by Imagining America’s Jamie Haft and Dr. Arnaldo López of Pregones Theater/PRTT, the series explores the creation of BETSY!, a musical about a Bronx singer and performer uncovering the secrets of her family’s history. The musical premieres off-Broadway THIS WEEK, April 9-26, 2015 (purchase tickets by clicking here).

BETSY! offers an important lens on a long-term rural-urban exchange and the many threads of commonality along America’s rural-urban continuum. This series is part of a strategy to develop new scholarship and multimedia about the vision, values, practice, and complexities of intercultural artistic collaboration, which will eventually be digested into a learning guide for teaching BETSY!. We’re proud to share the work of HowlRound, Imagining America, Roadside Theater, and Pregones Theater.]

Caridad De La Luz Spoken Word Piece On BETSY!

Today we share excerpts from Caridad De La Luz’s essay chronicling her journey as the actress playing the role of Betsy, where she describes “the past embracing the present for the future and forever without shame, answering the age-old question: “Y tu Abuela donde esta?” “And your grandmother? Where is she?”

“The play begins in Ireland where a fourteen-year-old Irish milkmaid is seduced by a sailor. She sails with him to America in 1794, and upon arrival in Philadelphia—the shining beacon of freedom—is promptly sold with her just-born child into indentured servitude. I’ve always felt—not even knowing that much of the history—that the Irish were the Puerto Ricans of Europe. Island to island, and now mountain to mountain.”

“On this trip, I met Ron Short in person, and he played his music—it was his family story and one-person performance that launched BETSY!. I am brought to tears several times, not even just by his singing, but by his spirit and authenticity. It’s been a beautiful experience. Being in these mountains has inspired so much creativity.”

“Now as the plane climbs over the mountains pointed toward the Bronx, I feel my grandmother, all my grandmothers, right here with me. We are all together, all the spirits, all my ancestors within me. We are all together, and together, like Betsy, we want to be free.”

 To read Caridad De La Luz’s full essay, visit:
http://howlround.com/message-from-the-appalachian-mountains