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News & Press: From the President

From ASTR President Marla Carlson, June 2020

Thursday, June 25, 2020  
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I hope you’re well and want to let you know that ASTR’s leadership is focusing on ways to support you in navigating the ongoing pandemic and the particular challenges it creates for us as scholars, instructors, students, and artists, and at the same time working with you to eradicate systemic structural racism within our organization, our institutions, our field, and our society. 

I share your disappointment that we had to postpone the conference on “Theatre and Performance After Repetition” to 2021. I deeply appreciate the hard work that the conference planning team—both our staff and our member volunteers—have done in making sure that we have a viable plan for moving forward that minimizes the financial impact of this change. Thank you for your patience as we monitored the COVID curves and then negotiated with the hotels in San Diego and New Orleans—a delicate process that could bankrupt the organization if improperly handled. And I am so grateful to all 2020 working session conveners for managing to create participant lists so quickly in order to create a full program.

Without a conference in 2020, ASTR is developing other ways to support scholarship, professional development, and personal connections. Various forms of member-to-member resource sharing and support will become available through our website within the next couple of months. Our efforts are intended to complement the ongoing Research Conversations, Publication Development Forums, and Dissertation Bootcamp. Thinking longer term, a task force with members of the Executive and other ASTR committees is considering structural changes that will enable the organization to better support those of us without secure academic employment—precarity did not begin with COVID but is likely to increase. The Empowerment Committee has already published a list of recommendations for response to COVID-19 and is working with ATHE’s Professional Development Committee to gather data on the way the pandemic is affecting the members of both organizations. Please respond to their survey and also feel free to share your thoughts with me. In the meantime, I’d like to suggest that everyone who participated in the Mentoring Breakfast in Arlington check in with your small mentorship group. 

The application deadline for the next round of Research Grants is July 16. We will not be making travel awards in 2020 that are specifically intended to support conference attendance, so look for these again in 2021. In the meantime, we’re excited to announce three new initiatives to support and recognize scholarship in particular areas:

  • The José Esteban Muñoz Initiative will continue, taking the form of travel grants 
  • for individuals presenting at ASTR for the first time. 
  • The Jessica Berson Dance Research Assistance Fund will begin as a five-year initiative to support contingent scholars who specialize in dance-based work in theatre.
  • A new award will recognize outstanding translation into English of a work in the field of theatre and performance studies.

Keep an eye out for more information during the 2021 application cycle.


Theatre Survey is moving to a hybrid open access model, meaning that the journal can now accept work from scholars whose institutions require that they publish in open access journals. Nearly half of TS submissions come from outside the U.S. and are subject to this sort of requirement. Looking at the issue of open access more broadly, ASTR’s Vice President for Publications is leading an inter-organizational task force to consider the position our field should take on open access publishing, working with representatives from ATDS, ATHE, CATR, DSA, PSi, TLA, and USITT. The move toward open access is driven by STEM fields and has very different implications and impacts for the arts and humanities. Given that the impacts and implications also differ geographically and institutionally, the task force is specifically focused on the situation for theatre, dance, and performance studies organizations based in the U.S. and Canada with international membership.

Most urgently, I would like to remind you that ASTR’s members are the organization. Aside from a small number of part-time contractors who provide management services, we are all volunteers working to help one another. Many of you serve or have served on ASTR committees and as mentors for newer members as well as sharing your scholarship and professional expertise at our conferences. In addition to inviting you to take part in various on-line activities, we’ll be asking you to renew your membership to provide the financial support that we need to continue our work together. Your renewal notice will include specific information about options for those who cannot afford their regular dues payment this year and also for those who are able to contribute to a fund to sponsor membership. ASTR needs you and it also needs your financial support if you can manage it. 

Perhaps it will be useful to share more information about our budget. When we plan a conference, we try to make sure that the registration fees cover the expenses. Sometimes we come up a bit short. Only rarely is there a surplus, and that’s never enough to cover our ongoing operating expenses. We need to pay our part-time Executive Director and the people who manage our website, finances, and conference services. There are other costs associated with the website and member database, insurance, and Theatre Survey. Our awards and fellowships are funded by the small percentage that we withdraw a from our investment accounts each year, and we have been able to preserve those funds even after the 2018 conference cancellation and 2019 management transition, both of which presented serious challenges. We have been unable to fund all of the worthwhile initiatives proposed during the past eighteen months, and we appreciate your support in any form. 

As always, we’ll be needing new members for our numerous committees. Although most of these positions need to be filled in the fall, it’s never to early to indicate your interest. Please volunteer! Right now, I’m looking for new Nominating Committee members and want to add a graduate student to the Transnational Committee. (We would really like, if possible, to find someone from Latin America, the Middle East, or the global south—there is no one on the committee now from these parts of the world.) Please contact me directly about either of those opportunities. And finally, remember that you can get news updates from ASTR’s official Facebook page and Twitter account.

Marla Carlson
ASTR President


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