WHITESBURG, KY.: Roadside Theater has announced the completion of its first leadership transition in the company’s 46-year history. The transition began in 2019 with Becca Finney and Tiffany Turner, who will now be joined by Tommy Anderson and Tucker Leighty-Phillips in a four-person leadership ensemble. Finney will serve as Roadside’s artistic director, Anderson as associate artistic director, Turner as the company’s lead organizer, and Leighty-Phillips as the ensemble’s relationship development manager.
The new leadership team will further the company’s dedication to creating community-driven and community-owned theatre, with an emphasis on theatre’s place as an inclusive space. Founded in 1975 as part of Appalshop—a media, arts, and education center founded six years earlier as a War on Poverty/Office of Economic Opportunity job training program for youth—Roadside and Appalshop have been seen as a way for young Appalachians to share the region’s stories in the voices of the people living there. In 2021, the Roadside ensemble met with local community partners for discussion and play which will drive the ensemble’s future programming as they approach expanding the accessibility, communion, and possibilities of live storytelling.
Becca Finney (she/they) has spent the last decade as a maker of original, collaborative theatre in rural spaces. She is a character-based physical theatre artist who fashions her work from the images, sounds, stories, and textures discovered in her (local and global) neighborhood. Born and raised in central Kentucky, Finney believes that all groups possess an inherent genius: the creativity, experiences, and power to both envision together and organize toward that vision, without an authority figure telling them “how.” Finney earned her BFA in Dramatic Arts from Centre College (KY), and her MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell’Arte International (CA).
Tiffany Turner (she/her) is a Florida-born, Mississippi-raised Southern girl who previously worked as a healthcare professional (nurse) for 13 years in the fields of home healthcare, pediatrics, and geriatrics. Now a community activist in Columbus, Miss., she and her husband have spent a decade leading a youth-based nonprofit organization focused on growing the community through fun and festivals. A voting rights advocate who has assisted with voting rights restoration in both Mississippi and Alabama, she is currently lead organizer of Performing Our Future, a national coalition of four delegations (Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland, and Wisconsin) involved in co-creating and sharing knowledge to collectively own what they make.
Tommy Anderson (they/she) was raised in the sunshine and the shadows of the Pine Mountain ridge in Shelby Gap, Ky. As a creative youth facing unique challenges, Anderson’s passion and energy were brought into focus by Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute (AMI), where she learned to tell her stories and appreciate her Appalachian roots and identity in a way she never knew possible. After five years at AMI, Anderson left the Appalshop nest to study psychology and English at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, theatre/performance studies at UVA-Wise, and old-time mountain music and art at Mountain Empire Community College. While studying and working in the region, Anderson began teaching for the Wise County Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAMs) Program through Pro-Art Association until advancing to the position of Program Manager/Project Coordinator. After six years at Pro-Art, she came back into the Appalshop fold, taking on a number of important duties until her new appointment.
Tucker Leighty-Phillips (he/him) grew up in Laurel County, Ky., where he booked punk rock shows before becoming a road crew member for a number of national touring bands. In 2018, Leighty-Phillips graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in English Literary Studies after transferring from Harrisburg Area Community College. He returns to Kentucky from Tempe, Ariz., where he recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing and taught undergraduate fiction courses. He hopes his passion for storytelling and narrative will find a place among the community and engage a larger network of enthusiastic storytellers.
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