Plays, Films and TV Shows That Confront the Appalachian Region’s Complex Realities


The story of Appalachia can’t be summarized in one book, one article or one movie. Our region goes beyond just ill-considered stereotypes.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll learn about people who are digging beneath the surface, telling authentic stories about life in Appalachia. From women who are writing a new TV show about the realities of overcoming addiction and finding recovery, to a community theater company in Harlan County, Kentucky, that produced a play called “Shift Change.” It confronts racism, and neighbors who stand on opposite sides of politics. In this episode we’ll also hear from writers, playwrights, filmmakers and storytellers who confront the complexities of life here in Appalachia. They share why we should be proud of these complexities, and be willing to learn something new about Appalachia — even those of us who live here.

In This Episode:

Her Hope Haven


June Leffler/ WVPB
"Her Hope Haven" was filmed in Charleston at Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Earlier this year, we aired a story that featured a young woman named Ashley Ellis. Ellis passed away a few weeks ago. In this episode, we’ll listen back to a story about a project she helped write — a TV show called “Her Hope Haven,” which explores the opioid crisis from the point of view of people who are inside the recovery process.

It’s a fictional series, but the stories are based on the real-life experiences of those who’ve come through the process themselves, including Ellis herself.

Recovery from addiction is possible. For help, please call the free and confidential treatment referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP) or visit

Higher Ground

A local theater company in Harlan County, Kentucky called “Higher Ground” decided to make a play about 2020. For the cast, that meant coming to terms with a difficult year — from COVID-19 to police violence. When the ensemble decided to cover the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, a lot of feelings came up. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Katie Myers spoke with cast members and creators on how they reckoned with race, religion and community in their play called “Shift Change.”

Twilight In Hazard

Alan Maimon is an award-winning journalist who lived in and reported on Eastern Kentucky in the early 2000’s. He recently published a book, called “Twilight in Hazard: An Appalachian Reckoning,” which looks at how the past and current events might play into the future of the region. Co-host Caitlin Tan talked with Maimon about the book.



Beth Macy_creditTomLandon.jpg

Tom Landon
Beth Macy is a long-time journalist of Roanoke, Virginia and the author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America.

“Dopesick” is a new series streaming on Hulu. It details the rise of prescription opioids, namely Oxycontin, and the wreckage it has caused in Appalachia and across the nation. June Leffler spoke with Beth Macy, who helped create the show and wrote the book it is based on.


When Nicole Riegel was growing up in Appalachian Ohio, she couldn’t wait to get out. As an adult writer and film director, the place drew her back and she found herself re-connecting with her town and community in unexpected ways. The result is a film called “Holler.” Katie Myers spoke with the filmmaker about leaving, and returning to, your small hometown.

W.Va.’s Growing Elder Population

The Mountain State is home to a lot of older folks. More than 20 percent of the state’s population is over 65 and we are seeing signs of a crisis in health care. While our average age is going up, the number of younger workers is going down. And that’s a challenge for senior care facilities and home care companies.

Goshen Road


Courtesy photo

Author Bonnie Proudfoot began working on her new novel “Goshen Road” nearly 25 years ago, but she said she had to get older before she had the confidence to finish it. The story follows two teenage sisters growing up in the 60s in West Virginia. Proudfoot sat down with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Eric Douglas to talk about the novel. Proudfoot’s “Goshen Road” is now available. It was longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Hemingway Award for Best Debut Novel.

Gun Violence

The year 2021 is the deadliest for gun violence in America — and this is playing out in West Virginia’s capitol city. A group recently gathered at a local park in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, to raise awareness about the problem. Kyle Vass was there and brought back this story.

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Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music in this episode was provided by _____

Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

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