The Appalachian region of Kentucky is well known for its strong cultural heritage in areas such as music and crafts. However, very few opportunities exist for eastern Kentuckians to be exposed to theater. Stephanie Richards changed that for one area in the mountains of Kentucky when she launched the Artists Collaborative Theater.
Located in Elkhorn City, Kentucky near the Virginia border, the mission of the regional theater is to advance exposure to and training in the performing arts for area residents and visitors and to provide educational experiences of the mountain Appalachian heritage. The Theater was created in 2001 and over the course of five years has established itself as a venue that provides Appalachia with cultural experiences for both artists and audiences through dramatic theatrical productions.
Education is a core foundation of Artists Collaborative Theater. Theater is one of the strongest vehicles in which young people can develop self-confidence, discover themselves safely and build strong character. The Summer Educational Youth Program works to instill in area youth an appreciation of their cultural heritage and the arts.
A lack of activities for youth is a common problem in rural communities and the Summer Educational Youth Program addresses that need by providing an opportunity for children and teens to express themselves creatively and create new relationships. In three weeks, the young people learn theater concepts, team building, self-confidence, trust, stage directions, script analysis, character studies and performance skills. Each year, their work culminates in a theater production for the entire community.
Thanks to a MACED loan made in partnership with Community Trust Bank, the Artists Collaborative Theater serves as a gateway for Pike County and Elkhorn City to develop and grow to their full potential. “The belief MACED had in us and the willingness to share the financial burden is what made this possible,” said Richards. “Risk takers are of vital importance in helping Appalachia develop and grow,” she said, adding, “Community Trust Bank and MACED are helping Appalachia.”
Richards has used the loan from MACED and Community Trust Bank to leverage a large matching grant from the state of Kentucky. With new funds in hand, the future is bright for Artists Collaborative Theater and the region it serves.