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2015 Working Sessions
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Human Rights, Political Action, and Performance in the Americas
Ecology and/of/in Performance (on-going)
Sustainable Tools for Precarious Subjects: Performance Actions and Human Rights
Theatrical Labor and the (Perilous) Politics of Work in Academia
Race between Theatre and Performance
Theatre, Politics, Public Spheres
Replotting the Politics of Performance
Performance Studies in/from the Global South
Animals Perform II: Non-Human Agency and Advocacy in Performance
Collaboration, Evaluation, and Access in Digital Theatre Scholarship
The Stakes of Digital Scholarship of Theatre and Performance (Working Group)
Theorizing from the South: Contemporary Theatre and Criticism in Latin America
Debating the Steaks: Food, Sustainability, and the Question of Performance
Beyond the Postdramatic? The Stakes of Contemporary Performance
What is worth fighting for? Debating the stakes within theatres of war
Reclaiming the “F” Word: Historical and Contemporary Feminist Performance as Theatrical Activism
Mobilizing Effective Scholarship and Performance Today: Advocacy and Activism in Indigenous Research and Performance in the Americas
Contemporary Theatre and the Communist Hypothesis
The Shakespearean Performance Research Group
Feminist vs. F-E-M-I-N-I-S-T: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism, and Performances of Female Sexuality
Circuits of Abuse: The Politics of Human Trafficking
Transnationalisms and Performance
Traumatic Structures Working Group: “Cultural Trauma – High Stakes Performance and Research”
“For the Benefit of”: The Stakes of Theatrical Benefits as Social Activism

2015 Working Sessions

Please note: you may submit to only ONE working session.

1. Human Rights, Political Action, and Performance in the Americas

Conveners Noe Montez (Tufts University) and Katherine Zien (McGill University)

In recent decades, many nation-states in the Western hemisphere have experienced transitions from authoritarianism to democracy. Yet such shifts have not meant that the resulting political systems are just or sustainable. Rather, nascent democracies continue to be plagued by the precarious rule of law, widespread corruption, and failures to protect civil liberties. These issues have led analysts to label such democracies “liquid” or “delegative” (Litvinenko, 2012; Sznajder and Roniger, 2004). Democratization has had mixed implications, including both pervasive neoliberalization and diverse techniques of challenging unjust conditions, in keeping with wider aesthetic and social trends.

Our working group queries performance’s relation to the state and to political activism, in social contexts informed by the emergent and ongoing processes of democratization. How have artists, audiences, protesters, and passersby engaged in performance labor to analyze and contest political shifts and their ramifications? How have performers assessed the needs and challenges of their social, cultural, and political milieus in transitional justice and democratization contexts? What obstacles and opportunities for performance interventions present themselves currently? And how do contemporary performances engage questions of history and memory? While focusing principally on Western hemispheric practices, we are also interested in considering articulations with other areas of the world in which artists and audiences are responding to conditions of liquid, delegative, partial, or neoliberal democracy.

Abstract submissions may treat topics such as the following:

  • Transitional justice and memory politics
  • Performance and human rights: democracy; citizenship; quality of life; dignity
  • Performance’s political economy: cultural resistance to neoliberal regimes of inequality
  • Performance and activism in digital/virtual realms
  • Performance and nation: (trans)nationalism; postnationalism; performance against the nation
  • Sovereignty and states of exception
  • Entwinements of politics and aesthetics in postdictatorship societies
  • Environmentalism, rights and activism
  • Embodiment and the politics of health
  • Indigeneity, multiculturalism, critical race studies, and Afro-diasporic movements
  • Looking beyond the Americas: globalization; cosmopolitanism; comparative sites

Please submit a 250-word abstract, paper title, and short biography by May 31, 2015 to the Conveners:

Noe Montez
Katherine Zien

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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2. Ecology and/of/in Performance (on-going)

Conveners: Karen O’Brien (U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Lisa Woynarski (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London), and Courtney Ryan (University of California, Los Angeles)

Growing out of the performance and ecology seminar at ASTR 2005/Toronto, and continuing as a research group at ASTR’s 2010/Seattle, 2012/Nashville, and 2014/Baltimore conferences, this research group has been at the fore of the emergent field of performance and ecology. In 2015, in response to ASTR’s theme “Debating the Stakes in Theatre and Performance Scholarship,” we turn our attention to the ecological stakes in performance, with particular focus on recent developments in postcolonial eco-theatre, environmental justice, eco-materialisms, and the anthropocene/climate change. Drawing together research and performance from the Global South and the Global North, and building on the anthologies (such as Readings in Performance and Ecology, edited by Theresa May and Wendy Arons, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), publications, and research-engaged performance spawned by this working group over the past decade, this session will forward the conversation by calling for inquiries into how theatre and artistic performances, in an age of intense climate change, engage/critique/reveal ecological discourses embedded in postcolonialism, eco-materialisms, and activism.

Pursuing what May calls “ecodramaturgy” (2011), this year’s session will focus on how theatre and artistic performance engages four emerging threads (in anticipation of a second volume of essays on performance and ecology): 1) urgency and eco-theatre and performance in the age of the anthropocene; 2) eco-materialisms, including the agency of/in material formation; 3) postcolonial eco-theatre; and 4) environmental justice and activism. These threads have an uneasy relationship with one another: scholarship on the anthropocene has often fallen prey to an apocalypticism that erases postcolonial and class-based concerns, while much eco-activism has been accused of being so local in scope that it disregards trans-global environmental issues and effects. However, by putting these four recent trends in environmental scholarship in dialogue with one another, we propose to debate their interrelatedness and efficacy for and within theatre and performance.

Specifically, papers might pursue the following questions:

  • How does performance practice reveal, engage, and/or negotiate the urgent call to recognize human ecological influence in the age of the anthropocene?
  • How do interpretations of climate change and other international ecological issues in performance contribute to a global understanding of human influence? Do these performance practices make geographical boundaries more or less permeable and/or political?
  • How do ideas of eco-materiality inform ecological readings of performance and/or ecological meaning-making in performance? How might eco-materialist engagements in performance productively bring awareness of life, nature, and matter? How do these engagements deliberate related future possibilities in ways that also push ecology and performance scholarship in fresh directions?
  • How might postcolonial and indigenous ecologies critique neoliberal approaches (such as resourcism and extractivism) to current ecological conditions?
  • How does artistic performance intersect the concerns of social, political and ecological oppressions and/or exclusions in ways that advocate for environmental justice? In what ways does performance practice provoke ecological debate and/or facilitate community engagement in eco-activism?
  • Other questions, approaches, and topics that clearly address any of the four identified threads of inquiry.

In advance of the conference, session participants will exchange papers and engage in peer review of one another’s work in order to raise key questions around the threads of: 1) the anthropocene/climate change in/through performance; 2) eco-materialisms; 3) postcolonial eco-theatre and 4) environmental justice and activism in performance. We will be holding online discussions around these themes and relevant, related practice, through the ASTR website Group function. At the conference, we will be meeting for three hours. Roughly, the first hour and a half will be dedicated to small-group discussion around these threads by sub-sets of participants; the second hour and a half will include a round-table discussion in which the sub-groups share the key connections and conundrums emerging from their joint discussion of research and collectively outline a structure and timeline for the next volume of critical essays in this field.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Karen O’Brien
Lisa Woynarski
Courtney Ryan

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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3. Sustainable Tools for Precarious Subjects: Performance Actions and Human Rights

Conveners: Natalie Alvarez (Brock University) and Keren Zaiontz (Simon Fraser University)

In the wake of recent uprisings such as Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, the Maple Spring, and the Euro Maiden, this working session focuses on an emergent concern among artist-activists and researchers: How to sustain and keep alive the political interventions and “calls to action” that performance actions stage? How to create activist performance that makes effective use of its “remains,” to invoke Rebecca Schneider, as a vehicle for ongoing political action? This working session charts the changing frontier of global activism by examining the work of artist-activists who are invested in the creation of performance strategies, tactics, and technologies designed to create sustainable tools and sustainable spaces for “precarious subjects”—such as the undocumented laborer, the homeless, the political refugee—that exceed the event horizon of the performance action itself. From Apps and hashtags, to open-source human rights novelas, to socially engaged public art, the tools and tactics artist-activists employ both emerge from and shape local histories. We are particularly interested in work with regional foci in the Middle East, as well as work centered in regions across the Americas. In bringing work from distinct regional contexts into conversation with one another, the working session will respond to the larger conference call to examine how the compass points of activism, advocacy, and coalition-building shift from location to location. Working with the conviction that the tools of our discipline can serve as the “catalyst for change,” to echo the ASTR program chairs, this session will orient its investigations toward unapologetically instrumentalist methodologies—documenting and archiving the repertoires of sustained, and sustainable, performance actions against human rights violations.

Participants will circulate 3,000- to 4,000-word papers seven weeks prior to the conference. Those papers will be organized into thematic subgroups that will exchange feedback via email and identify key emergent issues to bring to our in-person meeting for discussion. Our three-hour meeting time will be devoted to a detailed discussion of participants’ papers and the key concerns that emerged from the online exchanges within subgroups prior to the conference. We will begin the working session with a précis of participants’ papers for the benefit of interlocutors who would like to sit in on the session and allow ample opportunity in the final 45 minutes of the session for discussion with auditors.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Natalie Alvarez
Keren Zaiontz

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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4. Theatrical Labor and the (Perilous) Politics of Work in Academia

Conveners: Chase Bringardner (Auburn University), Christin Essin (Vanderbilt University), Sam O’Connell (Worcester State University), and Ann Folino White (Michigan State University)

In answer to the 2015 Conference Call for scholarship that provokes dialogic exchanges about our commitments as performance scholars and practitioners, this working session considers the economic and political stakes that inform perceptions around and the material conditions of faculty and student labor, including the administration of theatre curricula, direction of theatrical productions, and supervision of theatrical labor in university settings. In short, the session engages with the material realities of our professional lives as theatre/performance faculty and students to consider the economic investments and practices of professional achievement that inevitably shape the rationales behind our teaching, research, and artistic work practices. It calls on the field to re/think theatrical work and the effects of our re/thinking on work we perform. By emphasizing advocacy, session leaders will prompt participants to produce position statements that examine how our scholarship and pedagogy can make visible or intervene in the everyday labor practices of theatre departments. Participants may consider how scholars might analyze academic labor conditions to advocate for more just practices both locally/departmentally and within the larger profession.

Questions to consider include:

  • How does union-protected faculty labor align with or work against the advancement of research in our fields?
  • How do university departments and academic institutions position faculty teaching, research, and artistic practice as complementary and symbiotic or as discrete activities competing for our limited professional time and energy?
  • How do the multiple roles performed by faculty (teacher, artist, scholar, citizen) shape students’ educational experience and understanding of theatrical practice as physical/embodied, intellectual, and artistic labor?
  • How do work practices stipulated by professional theatrical unions (Equity, IATSE, etc.) influence academic theatre; when do we embrace or abandon them, and why?
  • How do theatre departments rationalize unpaid labor as educational experience and capitalize on students’ production labor as credit hours?
  • How does the continued rise of contingent labor in universities impact perceptions around the labor of teaching, research, and service activities? What actions can we take to advocate for more just labor practices on behalf of contingent theatre and performance faculty?

Each participant will write a position statement (maximum 5 pages) about the labor practices of academic theatre that considers the intersections of workplace structures (union and non-union), faculty duties (scholars, artists, and educators), the curricular status of departmental production practices (curricular or extracurricular), institutional frameworks (research university or liberal arts college), and work conditions of students (in rehearsal rooms, production shops, and performance venues). The conveners will circulate these statements prior to the working session as a prompt for a formal discussion with a conference audience about the material circumstances that shape the institutional rationales behind student and faculty labor practices. Participants will also produce a poster for conference display that conveys their topic and position. Using the major points of debate and questions generated during the working session, these boards will invite faculty and graduate students to propose action steps for more just institutional policies and labor practices.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Chase Bringardner
Christin Essin
Sam O’Connell
Ann Folino White

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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5. Race between Theatre and Performance

Conveners: Soyica Diggs Colbert (Georgetown University) and Shane Vogel (Indiana University)

Although restrictive and capacious definitions of theatre abound, in practice Theatre Studies scholarship considers scripted events that occur on a stage and Performance Studies scholarship examines unscripted and scripted modes of embodied expression that occur in a variety of venues from the street to the ballroom. Yet this neat distinction between theatre and performance studies becomes blurred when accounting for racialized bodies in the Americas. As Daphne Brooks, Harry Elam, Diana Taylor, and others have argued, the staging of bodies not only instantiates race in the Americas but also establishes racialized theatre. Given the contemporary emergence of black studies, ethnic studies, and performance studies as disciplinary formations in the late-twentieth century, how do studies of race challenge the governing assumptions that separate theatre from performance? How do Black and Ethnic Studies enable Performance Studies? How does thinking in relationship to racialized bodies reconstitute the positions of performer and audience? What are the effects of the history of racialized modes of representation and presentation on authorship? Our working session will explore multiple histories of racialized performance and the impact of such embodied practices on the fields of Theatre and Performance Studies. We welcome papers that engage racialized performance in order to offer new historical, methodological, or theoretical interventions at the crossroads of Theatre and Performance Studies. Accepted papers will be due by October 1 and pre-circulated in thematic clusters prior to our meeting in November.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Soyica Diggs Colbert
Shaun Vogel

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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6. Theatre, Politics, Public Spheres

Conveners: Martin Harries (University of California, Irvine) and Nicholas Ridout (Queen Mary, University of London)

Where does the political force of theatre happen? However powerful the theatrical event itself, its political impact often belongs to spaces other than the theatre. Or so it would seem. Is the force of political theatre to be traced in the public sphere? Do theatres form alternative public spheres, forums for other politics?

Theatre’s effects reverberate in the public sphere, through contention, debates in the press, and riots. The effects of the public sphere, however, also precede theatrical events and shape them. This working session will consider the relationship between theories of the public sphere and questions of theatre and performance. Recent work, most notably Christopher Balme’s The Theatrical Public Sphere, has offered ways to consider this question. We will discuss the problem of theatre’s place in classic formulations of the public sphere; the theatre as a potential site for counterpublics; and the public sphere as an influence on the formal operations of theatre. How does theatrical embodiment challenge Habermas’ model of disembodiment as the axiomatic condition of the public sphere? How might theatrical address respond to and challenge the address of the dominant modes of the public sphere? What is the temporality of theatre’s reworking of the modes and conditions of the public sphere?

We welcome papers treating theatre of any period or location.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Martin Harries
Nicholas Ridout

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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7. Replotting the Politics of Performance

Conveners: Christian DuComb (Colgate University), Christine Mok (University of Cincinnati), and Emily Sahakian (University of Georgia)

The question of place, which has received a great deal attention in theatre and performance studies over the past two decades, is inevitably intertwined with considerations of power and culture. The conversation surrounding the politics and possibilities of place has a rich history in our discipline, and its articulation often relies on temporal frameworks that extend beyond the moment of performance, from memory and haunting to the post-traumatic and the post-colonial. But in prioritizing such broad temporal frameworks in place-based analyses, theatre scholars risk overlooking the ways in which artists and performers exploit theatre’s narrative devices to “replot” the politics of place. This working session asks how twenty-first century performances activate the politics of place to map new relationships between location, power, and culture. And it asks how we, as theatre scholars, might replot the politics of performance, bearing in mind the history of our discipline’s engagement with place as a category of analysis. We invite papers that take up the metaphor of “plot” in its dual sense (that is, as both a physical place and a devised pattern of action), as well as papers that contest, remix, or redraw the relationship among place, performance, and politics.

Papers might address the following questions:

  • What are the political stakes of interrogating the relationship between place and performance?
  • What critical language do we need to rethink place in the twenty-first century?
  • How do theatre and performance construct place and culture?
  • How do contemporary political movements use place to challenge existing structures of power?
  • How does emplotment (i.e., the ordering of events in performance) shape place, and how does place shape emplotment?
  • How are racial, gendered, sexual, national, and other identities formed and contested through place?
  • How do environmental and site-specific performances engage place in contemporary practice?

Accepted papers will be due 4-6 weeks before the ASTR conference in November. Inquiries may be directed to

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Christian DuComb
Emily Sahakian
Christine Mok

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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8. Performance Studies in/from the Global South

Conveners: Laura Edmondson (Dartmouth College), Kellen Hoxworth (Stanford University), and Jisha Menon (Stanford University)

Continuing the work we began at the 2011, 2013, and 2014 conferences, this working session, “Performance Studies in/from the Global South,” frames a geographically expansive conversation among such potential sites as Africa, Latin America, South Asia, China, Turkey, and the Middle East. As scholars working on the Global South have insisted, the anemic liberal vocabularies of deliberation and rational agreement do not capture the unruliness of political struggles on the ground. In order to return questions of affect, embodiment, power, and resistance to analyses of politics, we need to acknowledge—rather than disavow—the ideological and ethical fault-lines that set us against each other.

In exploring the stakes of performance and politics in/from the Global South, we ask the following questions:

  • What are the stakes of considering politics outside of a presumptive liberal democratic framework; how do such political structures (and strictures) affect the stakes of performance?
  • How has state authority has been eroded by the forces of late capital/neoliberalism, and what kind of politics—and performances thereof—emerge(s) in the context of weakened state sovereignty?
  • Conversely, how has the state been reinvigorated in recent times, extending its powers through curtailing opposition politics and press freedoms? How is political space in the Global South controlled, imagined, and contested?
  • Does thinking through the political cultures and/or performance practices of the Global South provide us with fresh theoretical resources that can enable us, as scholars of theatre and performance studies, to better comprehend the urgent political conjunctures in the 21st century?

Accepted participants will circulate their papers in advance of the conference. We will form three or four smaller groupings based upon thematic, theoretical, or methodological interests. Each small group will be invited to do some preparatory work in advance through online discussions that initiate the conversations prior to ASTR. 10-page papers will be due in late September, and we will group authors to exchange feedback electronically by mid-October.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners at:

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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9. Animals Perform II: Non-Human Agency and Advocacy in Performance

Conveners: Jen Parker-Starbuck (University of Roehampton, London) and Kim Marra (University of Iowa)

Building on the first iteration of this Working Group in 2014, which was titled “Animals Perform: Encountering Animals in Historical and Posthuman Performance,” we propose to extend and focus the group’s work in 2015 specifically around the call of advocacy: How can our interspecies performance scholarship and practice catalyze change to benefit non-human as well as human animals?

Recent and forthcoming scholarship--including books and special issues such as Theatre Journal’s “Interspecies” Special Issue (December 2013), Animal Acts: Performing Species Today (Michigan 2014), and Performing Animality (Palgrave, March 2015)--is enlarging the presence of non-human animals in our field. Engaging corporeal, affective, and instinctual as well as intellectual knowledge, performance offers uniquely revealing possibilities of investigation into interspecies relations and the human-animal border.

The “Animals Perform” Working Group’s instigating concerns remain foundational: from their appearance historically as performers, characters, and laboring bodies, animals have continued to perform with humans and have been treated both as stars and commodities alike. As editors Jennifer Parker-Starbuck and Lourdes Orozco point out in their introduction to Performing Animality, “How animals are treated, and their rights and welfare in the specific context of live performance may well be the first point of concern for many scholars, activists, and artists.” We are specifically interested in questions of non-human agency: who gets to determine how, when, and where animals are used in performance? What are the legalities around these inclusions? What are the cultural implications for performing animals? And what are the political ramifications for us as performance scholars of prioritizing animals, according them agency, and intervening on their behalf?

We are also interested in the differing ontological stakes across living, puppet, or mechanized animal bodies. What can the inclusion of animals or evocations of animals in performance teach us about the human condition? How might non-human animals figure into conceptions of the “Anthropocene”? How might our analysis of animals and animality in performance practices be understood through ideas of activism and advocacy? Would an ethical understanding necessarily shift the kind of performance that includes forms of animality? Whether animals are live or mediatized, animal “affect” functions, as Nicole Shukin poses in Animal Capital, as a “technology of capital” (42).

In our positioning of animals within an expansive Posthuman condition at the Baltimore conference, we tentatively ventured into larger philosophical issues of ethics between human and non-human animals in performance and began to raise questions of the stakes of our research. The Portland conference offers a most fitting and timely opportunity to bring these questions to the center and articulate our responses more fully. We would ask participants not only to analyze human and non-human animals and animality in and by means of performance, but also to argue for the significance of their research in the realm of advocacy.

Research topics through which such arguments might be made include the following:

  • The potentials of non-living animal in forms such as puppetry, animation, gaming, bio-science
  • How animals (living or non-living) might challenge anthropocentric performance traditions
  • The ethical questions surrounding the use of animals in performance
  • Media and changing conceptions of non-human animals
  • The changing role of animals in historical performance
  • The role of animals in dramatic literature
  • The political and/or economic considerations of performance and animals
  • The affective potentials of animals in performance practices
  • How our own relationships with animals inform performance research and historiography
  • The role of practice-as-research in understanding animals in contemporary and historical performance

In 7-10-page papers grounded in specific case studies, participants will be asked to show how their lines of inquiry, whether involving live, mediated, or imagined animals, matter to flesh-and-blood creatures in the present. As part of their arguments, participants will be encouraged to take stands on a key question broached at the Baltimore State of the Profession panel about the value and politics of researching and advocating for the non-human when very human concerns and pressing matters of equity and inclusion continue to roil our society and profession.

Accepted proposals will then be developed and papers shared by September 15, 2015 via an on-line site where participants can exchange ideas, refine their positions, and, by October 15, prepare challenging questions and responses. The conveners will organize these questions and responses into a plan for spirited debate during the live, in-person session at the conference.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Jen Parker-Starbuck
Kim Marra

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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10. Collaboration, Evaluation, and Access in Digital Theatre Scholarship

Conveners: Amy E. Hughes (CUNY - Brooklyn College), Doug Reside (New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), and Sarah Bay-Cheng (University at Buffalo)

With the proliferation of digital projects in theatre and performance studies, new questions arise about technologically infused research methodologies and the availability of digital tools. How can we properly recognize work by technical consultants and designers? How should institutions evaluate not only the findings of digital projects but also code or other artifacts of digital research? How might digital research restrict access by scholars and students without proper resources (financial, technical, human)? This working session aims both to provide a platform for sharing current digital scholarship and to permit reflection on the political implications of digital research.

The three issues of collaboration, evaluation, and access, while certainly not new to scholars, are particularly poignant in digital work. The problems arise no matter what the content of the material; thus, this session invites the participation of scholars working in any aspect of theatre and performances studies, representing a diverse array of topics and time periods. Digital scholarship challenges a traditional humanist ethos of solitary thought. We will consider how digital scholarship demands that we recognize the wider polity involved in all forms of critical work. Evaluating digital projects raises similar challenges. The multiplicity of skills required for digital scholarship and the necessary division of labor may require assessment more like that for creative work than for a traditional monograph. In both cases, theatre and performance studies’ long commitment to practice-based research may provide a useful model for thinking about collaboration in and the evaluation of digital scholarship. Finally, digital humanities’ utopian vision of open access (free online texts, digital archives) disguises other problems of accessibility: what kind of financial and infrastructural resources are required to support digital work? And how can we ensure that the digital humanities do not reproduce the normatively white, male structure that dominates the tech world in Silicon Valley? Digital humanities invites us to consider these political questions anew.

This session will take place in two parts. Before the conference, participants will post five- to ten-page papers in an online forum. These papers will address the following questions: (1) Who are your collaborators on your project and how do you plan to acknowledge their contributions? (2) Who would you want to evaluate your project and by what criteria? (3) What did it take to conceive, create, and/or establish your project and what would it take to sustain it? (4) What challenges (either practical or conceptual) did the project evoke?

During the conference, we will begin with a conversation about the pre-circulated papers and the questions of collaboration, evaluation, and access. This will last approximately one hour. Then we will move to digital poster presentations, following the “electronic roundtable” model from ASTR 2013 in Dallas. This consists of a hands-on interactive session during which participants demonstrate (via their own laptops) a particular research methodology that makes use of digital tools, and engage in discussion with attendees. Participants will be stationed around the room, allowing attendees to explore the rich variety of digital methodologies represented by participants’ projects. As a drop-in session, attendees will be free to come and go as they please, which will allow more people to discuss the questions explored by this working group. We will particularly invite visitors to probe our participants about who or what their project excludes and why.

Please send a 250-word abstract describing how your work employs digital methodology and a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Amy E. Hughes
Doug Reside
Sarah Bay-Cheng

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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11. The Stakes of Digital Scholarship of Theatre and Performance (Working Group)

Conveners: R. Darren Gobert (York University), Ellen Mackay (Indiana University), Matthew Rebhorn (James Madison University), and Tamsen Wolff (Princeton University)

As Samuel Weber has argued, the digital remediation of live performance can seem like a category mistake (Theatricality as Medium, 2004). Yet 3-D reconstructions of archaeological theatre sites, real-time data capture technologies that record and visualize live movement, rapid prototyping technologies that fabricate missing artifacts, and immersive museum environments that render the past an experiential present offer a few examples of the ways that digital practice has ventured into theatrical terrain.

This session will consider these developments on two related fronts. First, it investigates the impact of these sorts of innovations on established epistemologies of performance. What is the place of theatre theory—from Plato’s cave to Meyerhold’s technologism—in our new media environment? Second, it asks what digital tools, platforms, and representational conventions can offer to scholars of theatre and performance. The session is not meant to be an exhibition space for digital builders to demonstrate projects, though we intend to make it supremely useful to those developing such projects. Instead, we welcome builders and non-builders alike to a conversation about the way we think about performance in a Web 2.0 world, and about what Franco Moretti’s “distant reading,” Jerome McGann’s “deformance,” Johanna Drucker’s Speclab, or Wendy Chun’s “tangible” “ephemerality” (among many other possibilities) might offer theatre and performance scholarship. The working session therefore requires no digital expertise of its participants; its objective is to dismantle the barriers that have hobbled conversation about the digital humanities in and around the academy more broadly.

To free up as much space as possible for lively conversation, this session will take the form of a series of short slide presentations, PechaKucha style, on a chosen digital performance object, followed by a sustained discussion among all participants. Drawing from a collective bibliography assembled and annotated in preparation for the ASTR meeting, participants will discuss what view of performance emerges from their chosen objects, and what digital theories and practices might offer to their analysis.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners at:

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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12. Theorizing from the South: Contemporary Theatre and Criticism in Latin America

Conveners: Patricia Ybarra (Brown University) and Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento (Wesleyan University)

What is particular to Latin American theatrical forms and criticism, and how do they respond to national issues? How are Latin American performance and thought engaged with international politics, performance, and intellectual trends?

This Working Group aims at exploring how contemporary theatre in Latin America responds to the urgent questions posed by recent social, political, and economic shifts, including but not limited to the continuing modification of Neoliberal economic models, state-sponsored disappearances, narcotrafficking, environmental regulation and deregulation, demonstrations in favor of freedom of expression, and the continuing legacies of post-colonial rule and resource extraction. We also welcome papers that theorize transnational work (i.e., issues faced by Latin American populations living or working in other parts of the world), articulate comparative approaches (i.e., analyze conditions or art forms in two or more countries in Latin America, or those that compare conditions in one Latin American country with another outside of it), or investigate issues over a longer historical trajectory in Latin America.

Paper might interrogate:

  • Alternative dramaturgies
  • The legacies of political theatre produced during dictatorial regimes
  • Emerging modes of spectatorship
  • Cultural policies
  • Direct and indirect forms of censorship; new approaches to artistic activism
  • Human rights in performance; the role of group theatre and collaborative creation
  • Performances that expose challenges faced by democratic processes, economic mobilization, and social trauma, including specific historical events

Given that the writings of Latin American scholars in theatre and other fields of knowledge are often not available in translation, the conveners are particularly interested in papers that apply their theories and theatrical criticism.

Participants are expected to submit 10-12 pages long papers on October 1. Inquiries may be directed to either convener.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Patricia Ybarra
Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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13. Debating the Steaks: Food, Sustainability, and the Question of Performance

Conveners: Josh Abrams (University of Roehampton, London) and Kristin Hunt (Northeastern Illinois University)

There is arguably no more pressing question for the world today than the sustainability of local and global food systems within the context of worldwide population growth, environmental devastation, and skyrocketing economic inequality. Questions around the security of the food system, new and renewable food sources, food labor and economic impact, and the effects of agricultural and animal husbandry practices on the climate are central to global survival. Theatrical and performance practices are crucially involved in both framing these issues and imagining other possible futures.

From El Teatro Campesino’s work with itinerant laborers to Matthew Herbert’s One Pig, Rodrigo García’s Accidens (matar para comer), and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s gallery performances, to name a few examples, theatre offers key interventions into these stakes. Recent dramatic texts like Theresa Rebeck’s Omnium Gatherum, Wallace Shawn’s Grasses of a Thousand Colors, and contemporary productions including An Enemy of the People and The Cherry Orchard help to explore stresses and strains on the food system.

As questions about food safety and availability mount, individual food choices become politically critical, challenging the everyday meaning of the performative acts of cooking and eating. Food’s necessity to the earth’s survival questions theatre’s urgency in a moment of calamity. How must theatre and performance studies help shape questions around the future of food on a dying planet? This panel invites papers that explore the place of theatre and performance studies in exploring or addressing contemporary and historical challenges to sustainability and food security.

Potential topics might include:

  • Theatrical performances and historical plays exploring the food system
  • Relational art practices involving food
  • Food activism as performance
  • Dietary and bodily practices as political intervention
  • The politics of performance in the restaurant space
  • Questions of theatre and food’s local-ness in a global era
  • Linkages between labor, economic inequality, and food, cooking, and eating

Building on last year’s “How to Do Things With Food(s)” working group, this session seeks to focus discussions on the ways that theatre and performance techniques and tools can speak to issues of global sustainability and foodways. While that session devoted the first hour of a three-hour session to presentation of research through literal foodstuffs, this year we ask panelists to contribute a simple dish to a shared meal that brings together the group’s research and sustainable food practices, around which we will discuss pre-shared papers. Participants will use their contributions to the shared meal to query issues of sustainability, highlight possibilities for performative interventions in the food system, or explore the political stakes of doing cooking and eating. Through the simple act of sharing a meal together (and with the audience as well), we seek to shift slightly the typical relationship of the academic panel, through embodiment and return to focus on material realities. Participants will exchange 10-12-page research papers in advance of the conference, with conveners facilitating a series of pre-conference discussions around these essays. The panel will require people to move around a central table, staging relationships and explorations physically within the space. Submissions should not only outline the research to be shared with the group, but also how the participant plans to connect that research to a specific contribution to our shared meal.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Josh Abrams
Kristin Hunt

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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14. Beyond the Postdramatic? The Stakes of Contemporary Performance

Conveners: Shane Boyle (Queen Mary, Univ. of London), Matthew Cornish (Ohio University), and Brandon Woolf (Freie Universitӓt)

This year’s “Debating Postdramatic Theatre” working session is a culmination of the conversations we began at ASTR in Dallas and continued in Baltimore. For our third and final meeting, we invite contributions that consider the political, philosophical, and historical stakes of examining contemporary performance practices through the category of the postdramatic. In addition to its explanatory possibilities, what are the blind spots and biases of postdramatic theatre? And what do other frameworks or lenses for studying contemporary performance provide that the postdramatic does not?

Papers may consider a range of questions within or across the categories of politics, philosophy, and history.

Hans-Thies Lehmann and other scholars often reduce the politics of postdramatic theatre to an “interruption” of the political itself. But what practices and perspectives does such a position preclude? In what ways have austerity and the recent surge in social movements globally informed the political orientation of experimental performance? And how do categories like the ”post-Brechtian,” “social practice,” or even “live art” allow us to imagine different political possibilities for contemporary performance?

Papers could also explore the philosophical stakes of postdramatic theatre. How does the postdramatic provide opportunities for philosophical reflection, or for reflecting on emerging notions of performance philosophy? What are the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of postdramatic theatre, and how do they inform what practices we consider to be postdramatic? What are other critical genealogies for putting the postdramatic in perspective, and for opening up alternative avenues to study contemporary performance?

Picking up on questions of genealogies, we also invite papers that historicize the category of the postdramatic itself, as well as particular postdramatic performances. How and why did the postdramatic become useful for describing contemporary performance? What lenses did it overtake or lead us to underemphasize? Could we develop a canon of postdramatic theatre? And what are the limitations of canonizing postdramatic performance?

To ground the discussions of the working group in a shared vocabulary, participants will read excerpts from Liz Tomlin’s Acts and Apparitions: Discourses on the Real in Performance Practice and Theory 1990 - 2010, David Barnett’s “Towards a Definition of Post-Brechtian Performance,” selections from Mike Sell’s Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism, and Richard Schechner’s “The Conservative Avant-Garde.” By mid-August, those participating will circulate response questions to the readings. Our conversations at ASTR will focus on 7-10-page working papers drafted by each participant and e-mailed to a defined sub-group two weeks prior to our meeting. As an added opportunity to engage one another’s work, participants will read these documents and submit 2-3 discussion questions. The session itself will consist of three breakout conversations around the topics of politics, philosophy, and history, followed by a large group discussion. During each breakout conversation, groups of 4-5 participants will address a set of questions curated from those circulated ahead of time. We will conclude with a structured conversation as an entire group. This will include time for reflection, discussion of future research and collaboration opportunities, and input from observers.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Shane Boyle
Matt Cornish
Brandon Woolf

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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15. What is worth fighting for? Debating the stakes within theatres of war

Conveners: Jenna L. Kubly (Independent Scholar) and Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix (Miami University)

As part of the ongoing Theatres of War working group, we seek to continue our exploration of war’s relationship to theatre and performance, an investigation especially resonant with this year’s conference theme. Even broadly defined, the idea of war requires/commands/invites us to choose a side. We fight for a cause, for a political ideology, for religion, for love. Outside the traditional military “theatre of war,” we battle against disease, poverty, hate, ignorance. Indeed, to declare war on a people or a country or a situation requires commitment; one must take a stand. This working group seeks to bring together a diverse group of scholars, methodologies, and research interests to continue our conversation about the complex representation of war in culture and how performances of conviction can operate in multiple theatres.

Papers might address how plays, civic performances, musicals, operas, popular entertainments, re-enactments, and dance relate to the following ideas:

  • How do theatrical events perform as agents for change during present ongoing global conflicts?
  • In the past, how has theatre/performance/pageantry functioned as propaganda for (or sites of resistance to) a country or ruler?
  • How does theatre uncover the workings of propaganda and reveal forgotten or suppressed past activities; how can performance reclaim them, or argue for re-evaluation?
  • What are the stakes for theatres performing war: when in a war-zone? On the Home front? In a P.O.W. camp or concentration camp?
  • How have individual theatre practitioners/companies/troupes staked their claim or used their influences to move a discussion beyond “entertainment” to engage in political activism within the arena of fraught wartime politics?
  • How are the tactics or strategies of war used to battle major “enemies” within culture, and how is this battle represented?
  • When is it dangerous to produce theatre about a cause? When is it dangerous not to perform one’s politics or convictions?
  • How have political theatre companies shaped various debates or policies about high stake issues?

Participants will submit a preliminary draft by September 17, 2015. Conveners will facilitate an exchange of papers; participants will respond to 3-4 papers. Revised papers (15-20 pages) should be submitted by October 8, 2015. The conveners will divide participants into different small subgroups for another exchange of papers. During the conference session, subgroups will respond to larger questions suggested by the conveners, before coming together for a discussion that will include all participants.

All papers must be submitted electronically in MS Word or a compatible format. Images, video, music, or other multimedia are strongly encouraged, but the participant must be able share it with the group prior to the conference (i.e., via a website link).

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Jenna L. Kubly
Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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16. Reclaiming the “F” Word: Historical and Contemporary Feminist Performance as Theatrical Activism

Conveners: Victoria P. Lantz (Sam Houston State University) and Angela Sweigart-Gallagher (Northeastern Illinois University)

On November 12, 2014, Nancy Gibbs of TIME Magazine released this statement: “TIME apologizes for the execution of this [Banned Words for 2015] poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban […] we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.” The politicking and policing of women’s bodies and position in society is an old trope in American culture, and asking women the gotcha question of “do you consider yourself a feminist” is now standard for public figures, especially young women. Many people run away from the term, and those who do not are often cast as die-hard, in-your-face “femi-nazis” (to borrow an old term from Rush Limbaugh). Considering the 2015 theme of what is at stake when creating theatre of activism, urgency, conviction, etc., this working group seeks to explore the nuances of in-your-face performance by women who have championed the term feminism.

The focus of this session is to engage with the concept of feminist performance as a platform for political activism and debate the following: 1) the effectiveness of un-subtle performance; 2) whether overt feminism has/can have mainstream appeal; and 3) how have different performance groups articulated, challenged, or reconstructed the nature of feminism. As mainstream culture continues to deride the idea of being a feminist, it is vital for scholars to debate and challenge what is at stake when women (and men) identify as feminists and how the landscape of feminist scholarship is reflected in or affected by historical or contemporary performance practice.

Papers might address the following:

  • How have historical feminist movements utilized theatre as a platform for activism?
  • How are contemporary playwrights, performers, and theatres staging feminism or feminist activism?
  • How have historical and/or contemporary feminist protests incorporated theatricality/performance?
  • How have feminist performance artists explored, exposed, or manipulated the body on stage?
  • How does the male feminist perform feminism? How is the male feminist staged?
  • How do issues of intersectionality inform feminist performance or activism?
  • What is the relationship between the label “feminist” and the performance or staging of gender?
  • How are feminist artists and scholars positioned and taught in academic institutions?

By mid-October, participants will submit their papers (10-15 pages). Leading up to the conference, participants will be divided into smaller groups, for feedback and discussions on themes. At ASTR, we will break up the two-hour session into three sections. First, we will talk as one large group introducing the work and the major concepts at play in the papers. Then, we will have break-out sessions where participants work in different small groups with specific questions developed by the session conveners. Finally, we will reconvene together to hear from the small groups and take questions. Inquiries may be directed to

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners at:

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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17. Mobilizing Effective Scholarship and Performance Today: Advocacy and Activism in Indigenous Research and Performance in the Americas

Conveners: Heidi L. Nees (California Polytechnic State University) and Adron Farris (University of Georgia)

How do we keep doing this Native theatre thing? How do we keep doing Native theatre that matters? That impacts. How do we keep doing this Native theatre thing, that can intervene… How do we transform the stories that we tell? So that they can rejuvenate, regenerate? ... By embodying that wholeness on the stage, we can transform the stories that we tell ourselves and project into the world that which is not broken, that which can be sustained, not only for Aboriginal people but for all the inhabitants of this small, green planet. (Monique Mojica)

For the 2015 ASTR conference, the Indigenous Research and Performance in the Americas working group will explore what it means to create and discuss performances that, in the words of Mojica, “impact…intervene…transform…rejuvenate…and regenerate.” What are effective ways in which Native and non-Native artists and scholars are mobilizing scholarship and performance in order to address injustices inflicted upon Indigenous communities?

Robert Warrior, Craig Womack, and Jace Weaver contend that Amer-Europeans can become “simpatico” and “knowledgeable critical allies” in Indigenous literary studies if they “do so with respect and a sense of responsibility to Native community.” For this year’s working group, we seek papers that query what it means to be an activist/ally/advocate and how a scholar/performer (Native & Non) becomes one within the field of Native American, First Nations, and Aboriginal Studies. In continuation with the Indigenous Research in the Americas’ past working sessions, we ask scholars and artists to question and challenge what it means to be an activist in Indigenous scholarship and performance practice. How might we move beyond talking about Indigenous performance to actively advocating the inclusion of Indigenous performance in production work, scholarship, and pedagogy? How might our conversations and research be mobilized in efficacious ways? How can non-native “specialists” explore Indigenous epistemologies more fully without re-hashing tropes from Western theory that tend to undermine Indigenous peoples’ capabilities to create performances derived from culturally specific spaces of knowing?

Potential papers may also explore moments of tension and debate, such as those that surround intellectual sovereignty and hybridity, representation and re-presentation, authenticity, agency, and notions of reconciliation as portrayed on the stage or through various modes of performance. Participants may also interrogate the notion of postcolonial narratives: How do we claim “post” when the majority of Indigenous peoples continue to experience effects of colonization daily? How can performance aid in confronting residual effects of colonization? We encourage potential participants to consider the healing and transformative powers of Indigenous performance in response to oppression, genocide, displacement, and other colonial weapons. Shelley Scott suggests it is through performance that the artist experiences healing and that “healing can be shared by the audience and wider community.” In what ways are theatrical performances “manifestations of survivance discourse,” to borrow from Christy Stanlake? We also seek projects that consider the use of performance as a pedagogical strategy wherein Indigenous artists may teach native and non-native audiences new approaches to activism, advocacy, and leadership. Participants should feel free to blend any research findings that have grown out of previous working sessions with their proposals.

Prior to the conference, working group participants will engage in activities and discussion via online forums as a large group in addition to breaking into smaller groups. These smaller groups will allow participants to work together in fostering the writing process and revisions.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Heidi L. Nees
Adron Farris

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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18. Contemporary Theatre and the Communist Hypothesis

Convener: Ryan Anthony Hatch (California Polytechnic State University)

On the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the spectacular revolts of May 68, philosopher and playwright Alain Badiou proposed that the time had finally come for a serious return to the communist hypothesis at the heart of those revolts’ most radical manifestations, and to once again affirm the idea of communism as the “properly human destiny of humanity.” If there had thus far been two major phases in the history of the communist idea--its precarious theoretical establishment and its catastrophic attempt at statist forms of realization--it was now necessary, Badiou proposed, to invent the forms and practices through which a new, third stage in the life of this idea might take shape. Two years later, amid the outrage of the global financial crisis, an international cohort of philosophers and theorists, among them Badiou, Susan Buck-Morss, Antonio Negri, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, and Slavoj Žižek, convened in London for a landmark conference titled “On the Idea of Communism” and, through their interventions, carved out a space for the future of this idea. Subsequent uprisings of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement bore spectacular witness to both the necessity and profound challenges of this recommencement.

The aim of this working session is to imagine how theatre and performance, broadly and globally conceived, might come to operate in this newly carved-out political and conceptual terrain--or, more precisely, the aim is to carve out a specifically theatrical space for the future of the communist idea. To this end, we invite scholars, artists, and activists working at the intersections of theatre, performance, philosophy, and politics to conceptualize how contemporary theatrical forms, practices, and events might come to participate in, or already are participating in, the reinvention of radical emancipatory politics beyond and, perhaps, against “democracy.” Likewise, we invite reflections that move in the other direction: for instance, contributions that examine how contemporary theory’s return to the communist hypothesis is taken up in the theatre, or how it can be marshaled to analyze and critique the political claims of contemporary theatre and performance practices.

Given that, from Robespierre’s Festival of the Supreme Being to Jiang Qing’s Model Operas, theatrical forms have always played a decisive and complex role in the aesthesis of the communist hypothesis, our wager is that they will likely continue to do so. And yet, the historical relation between radical egalitarian politics and aesthetic innovation has often taken the form of a missed encounter. We thus also invite contributions that interrogate the limits and paradoxes of this articulation. Finally, we are particularly interested in interventions that explore the political stakes of participatory art practices that seek to dissolve the boundary between aesthetic and political experience.

We not only welcome traditionally formatted scholarly papers, but also polemical texts, artists’ manifestos, activist proposals, and other experimental discursive forms. In order to facilitate the richest possible discussion, presenters will read a selection of common texts over the summer and post discussion questions on the working session blog. We will circulate papers/texts a few weeks before we convene.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the convener:

Ryan Anthony Hatch

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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19. The Shakespearean Performance Research Group

Conveners: Catherine Burriss (California State University, Channel Islands), Franklin J. Hildy (University of Maryland), Rob Ormsby (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Don Weingust (Southern Utah University and Utah Shakespeare Festival), and W. B. Worthen (Barnard College, Columbia University)

The Shakespearean Performance Research Group of the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) provides an ongoing home for the study of Shakespearean performance within ASTR.

In the disciplinary ferment of the 1980s, Shakespeare studies seemed to claim a stake in nearly everything: defining disciplines, political critique, the role of the academy, historicism, theory, and so on. And yet while Shakespeare looms large in the agenda of English and literary studies, Shakespeare figures differently in theatre and performance studies, both in terms of the development of the field(s) and today. What kind of work does the figure of Shakespeare, Shakespeare studies, and Shakespeare performance do in theatre and performance studies today? Are there specific stakes for the field that emerge in relation to Shakespeare studies, or for which Shakespeare studies is a useful instrument, metaphor, instance? Are there larger, deeper stakes in play evoked by the intersection of Shakespeare, theatre, performance? In keeping with the 2015 conference theme, we invite papers addressing these questions. While making these themes our primary focus, in keeping with the raisons d’être of ASTR Research Groups, we will also consider paper submissions on our current publishing project dealing with the evolution into modern times of the concept of the Elizabethan Revival, or “Original Practices” as it is now known. Papers addressing “Original Practices” from its early modern “origins,” through a variety of recovery/restoration efforts, to the present, are welcome, as are papers addressing this issue across performance media. Contributions examining OP in theory and practice will be considered for inclusion in a planned book project that will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016.

Selected papers will be assigned to subgroups by the group’s conveners, Catherine Burriss, Franklin J. Hildy, Robert Ormsby, Don Weingust, and W. B. Worthen, and the conveners will organize on-line communication of subgroup members before the conference. At the conference session, papers will be discussed first within subgroups, after which the subgroups will come together to exchange ideas.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners at:

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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20. Feminist vs. F-E-M-I-N-I-S-T: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism, and Performances of Female Sexuality

Conveners: Jessica Berson (Independent Scholar), Kirsten Pullen (Texas A&M University), and, Kaitlyn Regehr (King’s College London)

In May 2014, bell hooks participated in a panel discussion at the New School titled “Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body.” During the course of the lively dialogue, pop superstar Beyoncé arose as a site of contention. One interpretation applauds Beyoncé for “reclaiming” her sexuality and deploying her representation for (immense) financial gain; another condemns her for exploiting herself for money and thus contributing to the ongoing oppression of women by both capitalism and misogyny. Are women free to choose their own erotic representations, or are the liberal pleasures and freedoms extended by postfeminism merely advancing pernicious neoliberal agendas, distracting us from the structural frameworks that hinder real equality with a never-ending parade of dildos, fishnet stockings, and burlesque workshops? This session dives into the chasm between these two approaches, asking how performance frames the treacherous politics of female desire.

Papers might consider a wide range of texts, personae, and performance, from any historical periods, geographical areas, or performance genres. Papers might engage these or other, related questions:

  • How do contemporary performances articulate or argue against the postfeminist rhetoric of choice?
  • Do “high art” performance forms elaborate these questions differently from popular ones?
  • How might historical performances of female sexuality inform our understandings of erotic agency?
  • How do performances of race, class, and sexual identity intersect with performances of eros, and what can those intersections reveal about the current state of feminist/postfeminist discourses?

The seminar uses a blog (hosted on the ASTR site and open to all ASTR members) to structure preconference dialogue. Beginning in late summer each member will post at least twice to the blog. While the blog is essential to the seminar’s preconference dialogue, the posting schedule is flexible and no previous blogging experience is necessary. The first post introduces individual topics through a visual image, and the second indicates a “research tangent” not covered in the seminar paper but relevant to its argument and the goals of the session. At the end of preconference dialogue, each member of the seminar will produce a 10-12-page paper to circulate among the group one month prior to the conference. Working session members will be paired, and each will prepare a short abstract of their partner’s paper as well as questions that specifically link their research with their partner’s and with the session themes. At the ASTR conference, the co-conveners will use these questions to develop discussion between participants and the audience.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Jessica Berson
Kirsten Pullen
Kaitlyn Regehr

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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21. Circuits of Abuse: The Politics of Human Trafficking

Conveners: Analola Santana (Dartmouth College), Jimmy A. Noriega (College of Wooster), and Debra A. Castillo (Cornell University)

This working session will examine the ways the abused body—especially as it relates to the practice of human trafficking—is circulated and represented both in the real world and in performance. We aim to reflect on the various ways performance artists and activists have engaged with violent practices that tragically connect bodies throughout the world in a web of economic exchange. As Saskia Sassen has said when talking about the “survival circuits” of the global south: “Prostitution and migrant labor are increasingly popular ways to make a living; illegal trafficking in women and children for the sex industry, and in all kinds of people as laborers, is an increasingly popular way to make a profit.” How, then, can performance become evidence of these crimes, especially when trafficked and brutalized bodies tend to be invisible within the economy of representation? How can performance deal with the complexity of the brutalized body? What’s at stake for performance scholars and artists working on these complex and tragic issues, especially when we consider the distance that exists between our work and those that it is meant to represent? On the one hand, the body has more than ever acquired a status of universal protection; on the other hand, as expressed by Butler, “some lives are grievable, and others are not.” This ambivalent dichotomy becomes the frame from which we want to study the manifestation and public recognition of human trafficking through performance.

This session will actively discuss the role of scholarship and art in interrogating the practice of human trafficking. Our goal is to reexamine the ways performance reflects, critiques, and represents the abused body, as well as to question the ethical, cultural, and political value of our own work in relation to these violent acts. We seek to combine scholars and practitioners who will articulate a reflection not only on different histories and theatricalities of human trafficking, but also on future directions for inquiry. Two months prior to the conference meeting, all participants will submit papers (8-12 pages plus bibliography) that we will use as the basis for our conversation at the conference. In addition, those who wish to share short performance pieces or images will be able to do so on the online discussion forum.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Analola Santana
Jimmy A. Noriega
Debra A. Castillo

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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22. Transnationalisms and Performance

Conveners: Julia Goldstein (CUNY Grad Center) and Ji Hyon (Kayla) Yuh (CUNY Grad Center)

Some theatre scholarship has recently turned to transnationalism to conceptualize the border-crossing trajectories, non-state affiliations, inter-regional cross-pollinations, and global diasporic, minority, hybrid, and fluid identifications of performers and performances, particularly in the context of twenty-first-century globalization. In this session, we invite papers that examine, among other phenomena, transnational theatre festivals, itinerant and border-crossing performers and productions, and institutional works that display the transnational conditions of the contemporary world, often described with adjectives such as post-colonial or neoliberal. In keeping with the conference theme, we will consider the stakes of engaging in these transnational collaborative processes and the politics that condition such engagements. Although we recognize the historical presence of transnational theatre practices, this working session will emphasize examples of transnational practices that reflect the current political, social, and economic climates.

Papers might engage with transnationalism through consideration of some of the following questions:

  • What kinds of analyses are enabled by the conceptual framework of transnationalism? What can transnationalism as a concept enable that other terms such as globalism, interculturalism, and cosmopolitanism cannot?
  • How does a border-crossing participant, production, or event navigate transnational, regional, national, and local identities?
  • Transnational performance interactions often occur in contexts of uneven fields of power. What kinds of nuanced relationships emerge—particularly those outside of, or in addition to, relationships of a neocolonial or paternalistic nature?
  • What relationships arise between transnational modes of developing/circulating performances and stagings of nationhood? Where and how do tensions emerge between local, national, regional, and transnational performance?
  • How does the globalized economy influence processes of transnational theatre making? Who are the sponsors and how are the events marketed?

This session will function as a working group, in which participants convene to share and discuss short papers engaging with questions of transnationalism and performance, and to discuss the implications and potential productivity of using transnationalism as a critical framework. We will ground our discussion in several shared readings, including excerpts from Aihwa Ong’s Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality and Amanda Rogers’s Performing Asian Transnationalisms. Readings will be made available once we have a final list of participants.

In the months before convening, the members of the working group will read the shared excerpts. Papers do not have to directly address the readings. About a month prior to our meeting in Portland, participants will be asked to circulate 8-10-page papers using an online platform. Participants will be divided into small groups based on affinities between papers--as stated in the abstracts--and will share comments on papers within these groups in advance of the conference. At the conference session, participants will have the opportunity to further discuss connections between the papers both in the small and larger groups.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Julia Goldstein
Ji Hyon (Kayla) Yuh

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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23. Traumatic Structures Working Group: “Cultural Trauma – High Stakes Performance and Research”

Conveners: Mary Karen Dahl (Florida State University) and Katherine Jean Nigh (Florida State University)

The Traumatic Structures Working Group explores violence and its effects on individuals, cultures, and histories. We consider performance broadly and interrogate the ways in which performance interacts with the experience of trauma in the world. In 2015 we will articulate and assess the differing stakes involved in analyzing performance events that address “cultural trauma.” We ask how specific definitions of trauma limit research questions as well as performance strategies and goals. As we define types of “trauma,” how do we distort or devalue actual experience? Might specific performance modes trigger PTSD symptoms in previously traumatized subjects? What exactly do we expect a performance to do? Does it inform citizens and policy makers so change will occur? Awaken individuals to conditions they do not share? Impel them to undertake acts of compassion out of respect for the experiences of others? How might consideration of Congressional hearings as performance alter questions of performance’s efficacy?

The Working Group invites proposals that analyze historical and contemporary performance events that respond to specific cultural traumas. We seek projects that

  1. Investigate interactions between trauma paradigms, performance modes, and scholarly approaches.
  2. Ask how performance modes and contexts differently determine the meanings we give to terms like “efficacy,” “conviction,” “commitment,” “urgency,” “advocacy,” or “activism” when the performance event actively seeks to intervene in individual or collective cultural experiences of trauma.
  3. Outline and assess ethical paradigms that apply to the performance or discussion of trauma.
  4. Look at definitions of “cultural trauma” in circulation and consider how the field’s reliance on Freudian paradigms of trauma limits scholarly and creative inquiry.
  5. Evaluate contributions non-Western ways of conceptualizing and responding to horrendous cultural events and histories make to our theoretical and performance paradigms.
  6. Work at intersections between trauma theory and related discourses (violence theory, critical race theory, queer theory, postcolonial theory), complicating our research and performance responses to cultural events.

Proposals should specify the theoretical perspectives used. Members contribute 10-page papers to the group. Using a secure electronic site, all members read and respond to all papers in advance of ASTR. We collectively construct the agenda for our 3-hour face-to-face discussion. The group may visit memorial sites in Portland in advance of our session.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Mary Karen Dahl
Katherine Jean Nigh

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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24. “For the Benefit of”: The Stakes of Theatrical Benefits as Social Activism

Conveners: Lezlie C. Cross (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) and Michelle Granshaw (University of Pittsburgh)

This working session examines the role of theatrical benefits in addressing social, cultural, and political issues across a range of geographies and time periods. In the nineteenth century, professional and amateur performers increasingly moved beyond using benefits to supplement the income of actors and playwrights or help actors and their families in need. Theatre artists began to imagine benefits as a method of serving their local communities as well as national and international causes. Today, theatrical benefits, such as Broadway Cares and the Actors Fund, raise millions of dollars for charitable institutions.

We invite participants to consider the ways that theatrical benefits --in both professional and amateur theatre-- function as forms of social activism. We encourage papers that contend with the following questions:

  • How do benefits help us rethink historiographies of social activism and the theatre?
  • In what ways do investigations of theatrical benefits ask us to question how we view and theorize social activism, who can participate, and what its goals are?
  • What ethical challenges surround theatrical benefits?
  • How are theatrical benefits troubled by paternalism or opportunities for self-promotion and gain?
  • What does research into benefits reveal about amateur theatre, middle class culture, and theatre’s perceived social and political roles?
  • How do theatre benefits intersect and conflict with other forms of social activism, advocacy, and calls to action?
  • How do benefits change the stakes of performance?

Prior to the conference, working session participants will exchange ten-page papers for in-depth feedback and substantive dialogue. Completed papers will be due September 15, 2015 and we will pair authors to exchange feedback electronically in October.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Lezlie C. Cross
Michelle Granshaw

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

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