Young people from Louisville and Eastern Kentucky are working together this spring to share diverse life experiences and challenge pervasive and often harmful stereotypes through the practice of theatre.

Connecting Kentucky is a Walden Theatre education program offered in partnership with Hand in Hand Ministries to bridge 250 miles of the Bluegrass – and some big cultural differences – through the creation of an original theatre production that will be performed for the public in Louisville and Prestonsburg, Ky.


Guided by Walden Theatre arts educators throughout the 12-week program, teens from the town of Auxier, Ky. and surrounding communities will collaborate with students from the Walden Theatre Conservatory in face-to-face residency programs and regular correspondence to identify and explore stereotypes, gain respect for difference and dialogue, and expand the understanding of theatre through movement, improvisation, and storytelling.

“Being together and working together toward a common goal gives students the chance to create something new, to have fun together and do important work,” said Julane Havens, a Walden Theatre instructor and co-developer of Connecting Kentucky. “These are capable kids at Walden and in Auxier, and we’re proud to be able to bring together their perspectives and see what happens.”

Workshop experiences and correspondence among the students will serve as source materials for the final show, which will be crafted during an intensive devising process by Walden Theatre and Auxier students and then staged at the conclusion of the program. The Connecting Kentucky production will be performed April 3 at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg and April 5 in the Bomhard Theater at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Both shows are free and open to the public.

“The first step to eliminating cultural barriers is to discover what those barriers are,” said Allison Ridenour of Hand in Hand Ministries. “Our hope is for the students to share their Connecting Kentucky experience with audiences to better their communities.”

Hand in Hand has provided valuable support to Eastern Kentucky through its Auxier center since 2007. Partnering on Connecting Kentucky with Walden Theatre is a chance to expand existing housing, education, and food initiatives and also to give young people transformative experiences that enrich their lives.