Sharing “Beyond Cliché: Dramatizing Our American Identity”

[Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of April, Art of the Rural will share a series of new writing and multimedia from HowlRound about 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.

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. BETSY! the musical premieres off-Broadway, April 9-26, 2015 (purchase tickets by clicking here).]

Today’s essay explores popular theater, the roots of intercultural artistic production and exchange, and Imagining America’s collaborative knowledge production through the collaboration of two unique ensembles committed to “a diverse, popular audience at the center of its process to make theatre, both at home and on the road.”

“Beyond Cliché: Dramatizing Our American Identity”
By Jamie Haft Arnaldo J. López

“How can we produce works of art that probe beyond clichés into the frayed ends of American pluralism? What kind of love-making work does it take to engender an artistic product that aspires to tell the story of us today—skeletons out of the closet and all?

Artists and scholars from across the country will discuss these questions articulated by noted folklorist and anthropologist Dr. Maribel Álvarez in the context of 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. Our series explores the creation of BETSY!, a musical about a Bronx Jazz singer and performer uncovering the secrets of her family’s history, which will premiere Off-Broadway, April 8­–26. Join us for discussion with artists and scholars about creating works of art that probe beyond clichés into the frayed ends of American pluralism.”

 Read more: http://howlround.com/beyond-clich-dramatizing-our-american-identity

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