Cardinal Cross
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Cardinal Cross is a rural-urban theater company.

Our mission is to use interdisciplinary theater and rural-urban exchange to produce, amplify, and celebrate the art of womxn and other Appalachian people whose stories are seldom told on stage.



Developed in 2017 under the name “Crossroads Lab” within Appalshop’s award-winning theater wing, Roadside – and now an independent two-woman company – Cardinal Cross offers a dedicated space for interdisciplinary, first-voice exploration of 21st century Appalachian identity in live performance.

Cardinal Cross exists to seek out, collaboratively develop, and present new community-based plays and performance art that reflect the aesthetic and cultural values of contemporary Appalachian musicians, storytellers, performers, digital media makers and designers.

We direct, write, perform, teach, and produce in partnership with women, womxn, gender-nonconforming and LGBTQ+; documented and undocumented immigrants; people of color, particularly indigenous and Native; people with disabilities; incarcerated people; people informally educated or sustained by digital/alt-economies; non-rural ‘Metrolachians’; rural people with affinities for mainstream culture or tech; and all mountain folx whose relationship to Place is too complex, ambivalent, or flawed to fit into pat creative placemaking narratives.

There are so many stories we cannot tell "for" others – they don't belong to us. But we can and will bring our resources, skills, and passion for storytelling to bear in equitably developing new works of, by and for those with whom we stand in solidarity as mountain women.



  • What would an Appalachian avant-garde look like? That is, what movement, if any, are Appalachian artists at the vanguard of; and what principles do we reject? How does an Appalachian avant-garde draw on and diverge from folk roots?

  • How has immersive daily technology changed our relationship to Stories? to Community? to Intimacy? How can contemporary artists embody these changes in performance; and how do they affect our perceptions of the Rural places and natural world in which our work is grounded? What role does digital technology play in the art we produce and perform in communities with limited or unequal access to those technologies?

  • How can mobile, itinerant, or unrooted Appalachian residents and/or former residents connect with their birthright of mountain heritage? Through what new disciplines and perspectives do they view this heritage, and how can their truths be expressed onstage?


Lead Artists



Amy is the former Program Director and Dramaturg for Roadside Theater, the theater wing of Appalachian grassroots arts and media center Appalshop, where she currently works as a Communications and PR Associate. A West Virginia-New York cultural hybrid who returned to Appalachia just before the 2016 election cycle, Amy investigates the confluence of dramatic narrative (“What is the story we choose to tell onstage?”) and public narrative (“What is the story we are called upon to tell about ourselves, our community, and our future?”) in intercultural rural-urban performance. Amy holds a BFA in acting from West Virginia University and an MFA in dramaturgy from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she co-founded and produced the first two seasons of the UMass New Play Lab. She is the former Humanities Director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV, and received the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA)’s 2016 Residency Program Grant and 2017 Bly Creative Capacity Grant for her work with Roadside Theater. Amy currently serves as the Executive VP of Conferences for LMDA and is 2018-19 fellow of the Intercultural Leadership Institute, a year-long intensive training program for artists, culture bearers and other arts professionals co-led by Alternate ROOTS, P’AI Foundation, First Peoples Fund, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures.



A lover of the interdisciplinary, Hilarie Rose Spangler is a musician, theatre artist, visual artist, storyteller and activist interested in the connection between rural, urban and international art practice. A native of Appalachia, but currently working in New York, Hilarie co-launched the Crossroads Lab with Roadside Theater and Amy Brooks in 2017, now known as the “in between: rural- urban feminist” two woman theatre company, Cardinal Cross. She holds a BA in Theatre and Community Arts from Western Kentucky University and will be pursuing her graduate degree in Arts and Cultural Management at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY in August. Other notable work includes: working with South Central Music and Arts as a piano and vocal instructor, working with HERE Arts Center as a Programming assistant to Kristin Marting, festival assistant for PROTOTYPE: Opera, Theatre, Now festival, and founding Living Stories—a collaborative storytelling workshop. Hilarie has directed, performed, music-directed, produced and stage-managed for theatrical productions in New York, Nashville, Louisville, and surrounding areas. She is also the Music Director of the annual Appalachian Youth Performing Arts Camp in Cumberland Gap, TN.  Hilarie has told stories on campus, workshops, in Northern Ireland and in the Moth's Young Women's Voices festival. She also serves as the Quadrant 1 Director of the Kentucky Storytelling Association.

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The TEAM’s “Devising Within a Democracy” workshop ( photo courtesy of The TEAM )

The TEAM’s “Devising Within a Democracy” workshop (photo courtesy of The TEAM)

In March 2019 Kentucky-based artists Amy Brooks and Hilarie Spangler – aka Cardinal Cross Arts Co. – will partner with Lincoln Memorial University’s Arts in the Gap program to produce Crossing Roots, a 3-day theater workshop and intercultural exchange in Cumberland Gap, TN, and various central Appalachian cultural sites.

Crossing Roots will feature NYC ensemble Theater of the Emerging American Moment (or The TEAM), as well as diverse Appalachian and Southern theater artists and cultural workers, training alongside performers from the National Theatre of Scotland.

The workshop, loosely structured around The TEAM’s “Devising In a Democracy” training, is currently seeking 20 diverse local, regional, and national participants with degrees of performance experience from amateur to professional on a sliding pay scale. Participants will explore devised theater-making; exercises which explore memory, trauma, and identity as embodied traits we carry and perform; and intercultural musical, culinary, and storytelling exchange as tools for transforming our rural and urban communities.

The TEAM and NTS actors will kick off the week with an intimate “pub” version of Anything That Gives Off Light at a ticketed public event on the LMU campus. The play’s intercultural themes, experimental form, and high-voltage musical backbone will serve as a framework for the 3 days of theater-making and community immersion to follow. Participants will attend two to three “master classes” per day in subjects drawn from the toolkits of artists including:

  • The TEAM

  • Brooks and Spangler’s Cardinal Cross Arts Co

  • The National Theatre of Scotland actors and musicians

  • Looking For Lilith Theater Company

  • Handbarrow Theater, Clear Creek Creative, and other Appalachian theater ensembles

  • more TBA

Intensives will address learning to move from intellectual or thematic ideas to dynamic theatrical moments; generating material through physical and written assignments; cultivating an ensemble bond and navigating emotional waters amidst a process; strategies for editing as a group; building dances; writing on your feet (and other approaches to improvisation); using story circles as a community cultural and ensemble development tool; and more.

TEAM, National Theatre of Scotland and Roadside Theater performers in 2016

TEAM, National Theatre of Scotland and Roadside Theater performers in 2016


Crossing Roots will further build upon a three-year relationship between New York-based ensemble The TEAM, the National Theatre of Scotland, and the community-based artists of eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and southwestern Virginia. It was in these hills, among such coalfield artists, that The TEAM first conducted its 2016 research tour for Anything That Gives Off Light, which examines Appalachian-American and Scottish national myths. The play was created from a series of talks with people across Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky – interviews with mountain people as far-ranging as conservative and libertarian "land-grant" farmers and a 70+ year old community organizer and cultural worker who has been fighting racism, capitalism, and the coal industry his entire life.

Amity Foodways chef AuCo Lai serves up Vietnamese-Appalachian cuisine

Amity Foodways chef AuCo Lai serves up Vietnamese-Appalachian cuisine


Workshop sessions will be interspersed with a broad range of local cultural immersion, site visits, social activities, and community events, including a meal hosted by LEE Award-winning Vietnamese-Appalachian chef and Amity Foodworks founder AuCo Lai; a public musical meet-and-greet for Cumberland Gap residents and Lincoln Memorial University students, faculty, and staff; conversation with leadership from Jonesborough, TN’s International Storytelling Center; a story circle with members of the eastern Kentucky organizing group the Letcher County Culture Hub; and a day working with the media makers of grassroots arts and cultural center Appalshop.


World Premiere at Edinburgh International Festival, August 16-26 2016.

Lincoln Memorial University’s Duke Theater • Cumberland Gap, TN • Monday, March 4, 2019 @ 7:00 PM

Every light casts a shadow…

Anything That Gives Off Light , Edinburgh International Festival, 2016

Anything That Gives Off Light, Edinburgh International Festival, 2016

Anything That Gives Off Light follows the story of a Scottish man who, after years of living in London, catches the sleeper train north to the heart of Scotland for a homecoming he’s been putting off for years. In a pub, an American woman drinks alone, trying to remember who she is while forgetting where she came from. When their paths collide they set off on a tour of the Highlands, slipping through the cracks between present and past, waking and dreaming, the real and the imagined. But as they shed the layers of their national identities, the ghosts of dead philosophers, crofters, cowboys, myth-makers and soothsayers get ever closer.

Featuring live music from the Scottish-American folk tradition, and the TEAM’s trademark athletic performance style, this foot-stomping collaboration explores the tension between self interest and sacrifice and the individual and the collective in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

Written by Jessica Almasy, Davey Anderson, Rachel Chavkin, Brian Ferguson, and Alexander Grierson. Created in collaboration with Matt Hubbs, Nick Vaughan, Brian Hastert, and Libby King. Directed by Rachel Chavkin with Associate Director Davey Anderson. Music and Lyrics by The Bengsons.

A co-production by the TEAM, National Theatre of Scotland, and Edinburgh International Festival

Development of Anything That Gives Off Light was supported, in part, by the School of Performing Arts, Center for the Arts, and the Women and Minority Artists and Scholars Lecture Series at Virginia Tech, and by the Global Connections – In The Lab program, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group.

“A fierce poetic snapshot of two contemporary cultures linked by history.”– The Scotsman

“Exhilarating…Raw, heartfelt and messy on several levels…Boldly theatrical.” – The Stage



Seating is limited – To secure your ticket, RSVP today.



Cardinal Cross gratefully acknowledges the support of our sponsors, partners, and creative partners-in-crime, without whom the Crossing Roots workshop would still be a dream: