Seven Tracks: A Conversation Between Dudley Cocke and John O’Neal

This article was originally published on Roadside Theater’s blog and is reprinted with permission. You can keep up with Roadside by liking their Facebook page.  

In this podcast, Roadside’s artistic director Dudley Cocke and John O’Neal, co-founder of the Free Southern Theater and founder of New Orleans-based Junebug Productions, talk about their 38 years of collaboration. Their candid conversation covers a wide range of topics – from the role of theater in a people’s movement to their memories of traveling on the road.

When discussing present societal challenges, John notes that “we need to be a little bit more analytical and a little bit more challenging to each other and to the issues of the day.”  He talks about the historical demand for justice and equity, which makes him optimistic about the future.  Dudley emphasizes the importance of building people power through institutions and organizations in order to bring a shift in the status quo.  John and Dudley share how they were inspired by Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker, key figures in the Civil Rights Movement, and offer advice to the new generations of theater makers.  “Plow forward even in the darkest nights,” says John, “the darker the night, the more likely you are to find the jewel.”  Towards the end of the podcast, the two directors talk about the source of energy that propelled their work throughout the years.

Their conversation follows on the heels of ROOTS Week 2014 and is divided into seven topical segments interspersed with tunes by New Orleans jazz maestro Sidney Bechet.  Take a listen and let us know what you think.

What resources are there for young theater makers to learn the methodologies of veteran grassroots theaters?

How has online communication affected critical discourse in the arts?


Click here for a full transcript of the podcast. We have also compiled a slideshow with photos from John’s visit and the companies’ numerous collaborations.

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.