By Rhonda Blair
I hope all of you are heading into summers that are productive and restorative. I continue to be rewarded by working in this office, and am regularly so invigorated and awakened by the work you all do. Now some news...
Executive Committee Meeting: The officers, Executive Committee members, and Nancy Erickson had a productive and congenial meeting on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas this past February 26-27. We took care of a good number of nuts-and-bolts issues, but also had time to consider the state of the Society and of theatre and performance studies in the academy. I'm hopeful that you will see the benefits of these discussions over the coming year in a number of ways.
Membership outreach: If you have questions about ASTR or would like to become more involved, we're planning two initiatives. This late summer I'll be sending out a Volunteer questionnaire to the membership to continue to add to the list of names of those of you who'd like to become more formally involved (I happily continue to take names at any time). We also hope to hold a Leadership Breakfast at the conference in Montreal in November; other officers, EC members, and I will be there to talk with any of you who have questions or just want to get connected a bit more.
Ad Hoc Committee for New Paradigms in Graduate Education - Three Items
New Paradigms in Graduate Education Questionnaire: Chair Heather Nathans and members J. Ellen Gainor, Odai Johnson, Esther Kim Lee, and Charlotte McIvor of the ad hoc Committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education have completed a questionnaire that we'll be sending out very soon that should provide us with useful information regarding doctoral education, curriculum and program support, and employment that will help guide our future planning. We view this as a correlate to last year's general member survey. It is my hope that what we learn about structural and employment issues faced by the membership will help us to be more effective in serving you all.
Mentorship Workshop: There will be a workshop on November 16-17, preceding the Montreal conference, for faculty who mentor doctoral students in their research. Among other things, the workshop will address how to establish expectations, assess understanding, address diversity, foster independence, and promote professional development. Immediate past president Tracy Davis, who has been working intensively with a mentorship program across disciplines at Northwestern, will be leading this workshop. More information will be forthcoming this summer. I encourage those of you who mentor PhD students to consider this seriously - it promises to be valuable.
Regional Events: In an initiative launched by Mike Sell and Charlotte McIvor, plans are afoot for one-day regional events. It is hoped that these localized gatherings - coming from and organized by the membership - will provide a place for members to gather with their "neighbors" and discuss issues of common concern, to share insight and information, and to provide support. We are in the very preliminary stages of this. More information will be forthcoming later, but this could be a great networking and community-building mechanism.
I want to thank Heather for her great work in riding herd on and coordinating all of these New Paradigms activities.
Website: As of June 1, we have a new webmaster, Shaun Franklin-Sewell. Jim Groom has completed years of good, generous service for us, and I want to thank him publicly for all he's done for ASTR, particularly in helping with the website update last year. I look forward to working with Shaun, who is also communications manager for ATHE; among other things, we should benefit from Shaun's solid working relationship with ASTR administrator Nancy Erickson. Publications chair Susan Bennett, ASTR Online editor Matt Omasta, Kimi Johnson, and Nancy Erickson continuing to refine and tweak the new website.
Publications: The editors of Theatre Survey are progressing toward the expansion to three issues a year.
Fellowships and Awards: The financial success of the 2010 conference allowed us retroactively to fund 2009 and 2010 awards that had been temporarily defunded. F&A Director Dorothy Chansky has notified the appropriate award recipients, who have expressed gratitude (and happy surprise). At the February meeting the EC decided to combine or modify a number of award categories to reflect more accurately the nature and number of applications and to respond more effectively to the needs of the membership (you can see these changes on our awards page). I think these changes also reflect some of the priorities expressed on last year's member survey.
American Theatre Archive Project: Sadly, we did not receive the National Endowment for the Arts grant we requested for this project, but were encouraged to apply again next year. Happily, since the time of the application, ATAP had already in fact addressed some of the questions raised by the NEA. ATAP continues to amass volunteers from the ranks of ASTR and affiliate organizations, and preliminary local teams are working on this project. If you would like to get involved with this project to archive materials from U.S. theatres, please contact co-chairs
Have great summers, and I hope to see you in Montreal.
About the President
Rhonda Blair is Professor of Theatre at Southern Methodist University. Recent publications include The Actor, Image, and Action: Acting and Cognitive Neuroscience (Routledge), articles in TDR: A Journal of Performance Studies and Theatre Topics, and she has edited a new edition of Richard Boleslavsky's Acting: The First Six Lessons: Documents from the American Laboratory Theatre (Routledge). She and John Lutterbie are currently co-editing a special section of the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism on cognition, theatre, and performance.