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2014 Working Sessions
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Animals Perform: Encountering Animals in Historical and Posthuman Performance

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

The interdisciplinary field of “Animal Studies” has rapidly grown to include strong representation in Drama and Performance Studies, and the theoretical framework of Posthumanism has supported an increasing number of considerations of animality in performance. As Una Chaudhuri has tellingly suggested, “The role of the animal—its face, body, being, meaning—in the constitution and defacing of performance genres is a vast project (Chaudhuri, “(De)Facing the Animals,” TDR 2007, p 17). 

How do animals “perform” in drama, theatre and performance studies? How might questions of the nonhuman animal challenge anthropocentric assumptions of performance? How do we know what we know about animals in performance, and how can we most effectively share that knowledge? This session engages animals and animality in performance practices and interrogates how, by placing animals at the center of our inquiries, they/we might produce new modes of thinking and methodologies for scholars and practitioners. 

Historically, animals have appeared on and off stage as performers, characters, and laboring bodies. In circuses, battle re-enactments, vaudeville, and other spectacles, animals have been treated as stars and commodities alike. Animals have captivated the attention of playwrights through time as metaphors or provocations. More recently the “question of the animal” has risen to the forefront of Performance Studies, propelling increasing debate over the ethics and politics of animal involvement in performance. 

Bruno Latour’s provocative propositions about political ecology encourage consideration of humans and nonhumans alike: “As soon as we stop taking nonhumans as objects, as soon as we allow them to enter the collective in the form of new entities with uncertain boundaries, entities that hesitate, quake, and induce perplexity, it is not hard to see that we can grant them the designation of actors.” (Bruno Latour, Politics of Nature,76) For sociologist and anthropologist Latour, these are not theatrical “actors,” yet this boundary-blurring between human and nonhuman actors has much to offer theatre and Performance Studies. 

What can the inclusion of animals or evocations of animals in performance tell us about the human? About the current moment within the “Anthropocene”? Although animals have always performed alongside humans, they have not always challenged anthropocentric positioning or conventional research methods, but might the increasing visibility of Animal Studies let us engage differently with political, ethical, political, and theatrical contexts and methodological approaches? How might we consider the affective and effective qualities of animals in these contexts? What new understandings of performance and performance research emerge when “the animal” claims center stage?

We invite proposals that might consider the following: 

  • The changing role of animals in historical performance
  • 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
  • The mediatated animal
  • Animals in dramatic literature
  • The political and/or economic considerations of performance and animals 
  • The affective potentials of animals in performance practices
  • How different genres of writing and performance engage animal-engendered affect
  • How our own relationships with animals and autobiography inform performance research and historiography
  • The role of practice-as-research in understanding animals in contemporary and historical performance

We are open to proposals that include papers or explore different formats and modes of presentation such as performative or embodied forms of writing, video, experimental essay, video essay, etc. Please submit a 250-word abstract with a brief bios by June 1, 2014 to both conveners: Jen Parker-Starbuck ( AND Kim Marra (

Accepted proposals will then be developed and shared in advance on-line and via an on-line site where participants can exchange ideas and begin to build preliminary connections and questions. We will plan to share the work on 1 October 2014 so we have time to discuss the work and structure our session. The in-person session may include a period of encounter with the materials as well as a discussion based around the questions and themes of the work submitted. 

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ATAP in Progress: What Makes an Archive Perform?

Conveners: Ken Cerniglia (Disney Theatrical Group) and Colleen Reilly (Slippery Rock University)

The American Theatre Archives Project (ATAP) supports theatre makers archiving records of their work for the benefit of artists, scholars, patrons, and the public. ATAP seeks:

  • To preserve records of current theatrical process and product for future generations.
  • To employ theatre legacy to develop theatres’ fiscal health and support new work.
  • To promote a better understanding of theatre as a vital element of cultural history.
  • To encourage scholarly research in contemporary American theatre.
  • To increase funding for establishing and maintaining theatre archives.
  • To support collaborations among theatre archivists, practitioners, and scholars.

An initiative of the American Society for Theatre Research, ATAP is a grassroots network of professional and student archivists, practitioners, and scholars dedicated to preserving the legacy of the American theatre by developing archival resources for theatre companies. ATAP helps preserve theatre history that has yet to be written. This working session will give scholars and archivists a forum to formally present their ATAP-related projects, share best practices, and analyse ATAP’s work within various geographical and historical contexts. Reflecting this year’s conference them “What Performs?” our discussion will focus on the practical value of theatre archives: what makes them “perform” for the many masters they serve (artists, administrators, patrons, students, scholars, etc.)?

Building on the success of last year’s inaugural 3-hour group session, and reflecting ATAP’s new status as a regular ASTR committee, this 2-hour working group will consist of discussion of 10-12 pre-circulated papers from participants working on archival projects with theatre companies. These can comprise procedural case studies, company histories, production histories, historiographical essays, procedural descriptions, college courses integrating archival work, or other related writing. Papers should be between 1500 and 3000 words and must be circulated to participants by October 31, 2014.

By June 1, 2014, interested scholars, archivists, and students should submit 200-word proposals that either describe the project/paper they would like to share with the group or how ATAP might intersect with and expand their current work and interests to Ken Cerniglia ( and Colleen Reilly (

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Avant-Gardes, Otherwise: Performance, Aesthetics, and Experimentation in the Undercommons

Conveners: Leon J. Hilton (New York University) and Iván A. Ramos (University of California, Berkeley)

This working group aims to reassess the question of the avant-garde and avant-gardism in theater and performance history from the perspective of what performance theorists including Fred Moten, Stefano Harney, and José Esteban Muñoz have called the “undercommons”: the minoritarian, the fugitive, the precarious, the amateurish, and the wild. If, as poet Renee Gladman has suggested, “Experimentation is an ideal form of engagement for marginalized people,” we invite proposals that explore how experimental aesthetic practices and forms can challenge, subvert, reconfigure, and escape from the normative prescriptions of identity, community, coherence, and common sense. We are particularly interested in projects about performances that move outside the conventions of theatrical realism, and that take place beyond—or below—dominant national, professional, and institutional frameworks. We are also seeking work that engages with alternative histories, genealogies, and trajectories of aesthetic experimentation, with a particular focus on minoritarian perspectives that may have been overlooked within the history of the avant-garde. In response to the 2014 ASTR conference theme, the group will consider how avant-garde and experimental performance as practiced in the undercommons has put pressure on the boundaries of the human and the non-human as they have been formulated within and beyond the tenets of Western liberal humanism. 

Projects might address such questions as:

  • How do marginal experiences engender marginal aesthetic forms, styles, and affects? 
  • Why have difficulty, inscrutability, and unintelligibility become useful aesthetic modes for minoritarian subjects?
  • How have avant-garde traditions drawn from and troubled dominant notions of nation, race, gender, sexuality, dis/ability and other forms of difference? 
  • What new methodological questions for performance and theater studies can emerge from thinking about the concepts of the avant-garde and the undercommons in relationship to one another? 

Please submit a current CV and a 250-word abstract describing your project and situating it in relationship to the group’s themes by June 1, 2014. Submissions should be e-mailed to both conveners at: and

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Beyond Soldiers and Generals: Performing Wartime Identities, Ideologies, and Material Culture

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

As part of the ongoing theatre of war working group, we seek to continue our exploration of war’s relationship to theatre and performance. The investigation of multiple theatres of war is relevant because the presentation of war—whether ancient or current struggle – always involves performances of ideology and identity. But not all actors in particular theatres of war are human agents, and we would like to explore specifically the way that other aspects of war perform; for example, the way countries, ideologies (i.e. Marxism), weapons, or propaganda perform. 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 the performative nature of war in its various theatres.

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

  • Performances of/at sites of war -- battlefields, memorial, museums, military camps
  • What is the result of resituating a non-war play to a war zone? Or performing at a wartime site?
  • The afterlife of wartime imagery – red poppies, mushroom cloud – and its uses and abuses
  • Performing the remains and artifacts of war 
  • The proliferation of documentary war-time theater
  • Mythmaking/deconstruction centered around ideologies, (cult) personalities, and institutions
  • The performance of war in everyday life – via the media, the internet, daily conversations
  • Performing the memorialization and commemoration of war, its victories and losses
  • War games and simulations – recreational online played with avatars, the elaborate spectacles of the past, government-sponsored projects
  • The performance of light, sound, and smell during battle – the distinctive sound of a machine guns, Blitz blackouts, smell of mustard gas
  • The military-entertainment-complex – how does theatre benefit from (or expose) commercialization of war?

First, participants will submit a preliminary draft by September 20, 2014. Conveners will facilitate an exchange of papers; participants will respond to 3-4 papers. Revised papers (15-20 pages) should be submitted by October 27, 2014. 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. 

As a significant amount of discussion will have occurred before the conference itself, two-hours should be sufficient.

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. 

Please submit, as a single document, a 300-word abstract, along with name, affiliation, contact information, and brief bio (150 words) to and by June 1, 2014. 

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Childhood, Performance, and the Post-Human: Youth as Human Conduit

Conveners: Erika Hughes (Arizona State University) and Mary McAvoy (Roosevelt University)

This working session invites proposals that investigate young people (roughly ages birth through twenty-five) in discourses of post- and non-human performance. In considerations of decentering the human’s role in performance, children present a quandary. Categories of childhood, adolescence, and even young adulthood are often constructed as proto-, post-, or suprahuman, being firmly in the world, but undeniably separate from fully human adult experiences. Given these understandings, adults often employ children and young people, both literally and figuratively, as non-human agents in larger conversations-- including performances-- about identities, cultures, and values. 

Our guiding questions include:

  • How do children function as liminal beings in the human/post-human/non-human exchange?
  • How do ontological connections between children and understandings of humanness influence and define performance with, by, and for young people?
  • How do young people claim agency as humans in and through performance? Conversely, how do they challenge, resist, or reject accepted definitions of “human?”

We welcome proposals from a variety of disciplines that engage with theoretical, ideological, and historiographical studies of children, youth, and performance in connection with discussions of un/non/post-human. Topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • commodification of young bodies as objects for ideological performances (from protests to pageants)
  • anthropomorphism in performances for young people (making animals, weather, fears, fantasies, and moral constructs “human”)
  • defining and situating childhood performatives within neo-liberal (and post-neo-liberal) funding frameworks for arts, education, and beyond
  • young people as spectators and participants in performances of historical and cultural memory (museums, historical sites)
  • performative child-centered spaces (playgrounds, classrooms)
  • performances by young people that challenge dominant constructions of humanness (tantrums, youth violence, youth sexuality, etcetera)
  • representations of children as super- and supranatural beings 
  • histories and historiographies of youth performances and youth performers that blur distinctions between human and post-human (theatre for infants, child stars, etcetera).

Participants will generate short papers (roughly8-10 pages) in advance, which will be circulated among the group. Participants will be organized into subgroups of approximately four, arranged around consonant paper topics, and all members of the working group will have access to all papers. 

The ASTR session will be divided into two phases. During the first hour of the working session, participants will respond directly to members of their respective sub-groups. In the second hour, participants will join together, introduce major themes synthesized from small group discussions, and engage in a broader structured conversation with all participants in the session.

In the weeks prior to ASTR, the conveners will establish an online forum where all session papers will be posted. We will employ this online forum to facilitate discussion both prior to and following the conference meeting. 

Please submit 250-word proposals for the session via email to

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Dancing on the Edge: The Queer/Techno/Digital/Cyborg/Post/Present/Material/Effervescent Body

Conveners: Jessica Berson (Independent Scholar) and Kirsten Pullen (Texas A&M University)

From two robotic vacuums performing Beckett to Stelarc’s electronically controlled suspension performances to tweens enthusiastically Wii-dancing, boundaries between embodied, disembodied, and virtual dance continue to blur. While technology makes it possible for non-humans to perform and especially to dance, the embodied ephemerality so central to many definitions of performance seems to disappear. How do we dance on the edge of the material, the embodied, the real, and the human? Clearly, the conference theme of the post-human poses particular quandaries for dance and movement scholars: we often find ourselves trying to steer conversation to the more human, toward the fundamental and underwritten phenomena of embodiment. But at the same time, the questions implicit in the theme productively trouble our ideas about the meanings and mechanics of embodiment in performance. 

Moving away from questions of embodiment qua embodiment, this working session invites participants to investigate questions of the virtual and the human and the material and the digital body through a wide range of potential sites, including dance, performance art, screendance, visual art, web-based performance, and video games. Papers that address these or other, related questions, are especially welcome.

  • How do contemporary technologies challenge our sense of the material realities of the body? 
  • What happens to the immediacy of embodied experience when it becomes implicated in digitization and virtuality? 
  • What can considerations of the post-human offer to discourses around embodiment, somatics, and practice? 
  • How do “post-human” technologies offer new opportunities to recreate and archive embodied experience?
  • How might discussions of the post-human become useful to considerations of embodiment in hybrid performance forms?
  • How do digital representations of the body reconfigure somatic experience?
  • How can the fantastical figure of the cyborg illuminate the diurnal lived experiences of actual bodies?
  • How do popular performance forms engage with these questions differently from the avant garde?

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 (or no later than Monday, October 20, 2014). 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-convenors will use these questions to develop discussion between participants and the audience.

Please submit a 250-word abstract, paper title, and short biography to Kirsten Pullen ( and Jessica Berson ( via email on or before June 1, 2014.

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Dis-Embodied Race and The Racial Elsewhere

Conveners: Anita Gonzalez (University of Michigan) and Irma Mayorga (Dartmouth College)

In response to the call of “what performs” we propose a working session about dis/embodied performances of race. This session is interested in thinking about race as that which also performs elsewhere in theater and in para-theatrical events. In the work of theater, can considerations of race, despite its intimate connection to the human body, also provide productive in-roads for thinking on post-human politics? Contrapuntally, are discussions centered on the post-human counter-productive to the project of identity and representation that the political imagination of theater has come to yield? Do entrenched racial stereotypes function as “super- or supra-natural” actors, on or beyond the stage, working in performance even as texts exert pressure to push against, upbraid, or dissemble their over-determined fallacy?

We invite 250 word abstracts for papers that respond to the architecture of racial perceptions among human groups and contribute to discussions of racial histories, or material realities of racial identities that exceed the body and remain present in performance. We are particularly interested in non-human residues of race that haunt performances through objects, scenarios, soundscapes, longstanding theatrical traditions, or in the frameworks of historical circumstances. 

If accepted, participants will be asked to write 4000 to 6000 word position papers in response to our prompt about non-human residues of race that haunt performances. Prior to our working session in Baltimore, participants will exchange and read one another’s papers, then respond to questions formulated by the conveners that address core theoretical concerns of the papers. Accepted proposals will receive further guidelines concerning this working group’s pre-conference exchange and response timeline. We hope to elicit lively and engaged responses to questions about what performs in the racial elsewhere. 

Proposal materials should include:

  1. a 250 word abstract
  2. a brief description of the applicant’s research area within theater, dance, and/or performance
  3. the applicant’s institutional or organizational affiliation or their professional status
  4. complete contact information (including primary email and phone number)

Please submit proposal materials (as MS Word or pdf attachments) to each co-convener on or before June 1, 2014: Anita Gonzalez, and Irma Mayorga,

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Documenting Interdisciplinary Performance

Convener: Karinne Keithley Syers (53rd State Press)

The traditional play is laid on the page as an event of human speech, interspersed with stage directions. But theater makers today compose performances from a wide variety of materials, and compose events that speak in more than verbal languages. (Recall Artaud's invocation of a physical theater that uses “a kind of unique language half-way between gesture and thought.”) Even theater that incorporates strong textual elements can be expected to exceed speech. What should constitute its script? Think, for example, of Elevator Repair Service's Gatz, which could be thought of as a choreographic piece despite the overwhelming presence of the spoken narrative. Or of companies like Big Dance Theater, for whom movement and sound organize the show. Indeed some of the strongest directions in new theater involve setting the object of the play's text within an environment that goes well beyond character's speech, both within what we might continue to call “drama” as well as the “post-dramatic theater.” It is easy to notate speech, but conventions barely exist for documenting or scripting these other elements, which are held onto in the working process not as a rehearsal script in hand but as muscle memory and oral history. This working session aims to practically approach the question of how to make a more full-spectrum documentation of new theater's more than human languages, and of textual or typographic strategies for getting this onto the page, screen, or other context. 

Participants are invited to present briefly on interesting examples of new approaches to documentation, or alternately to give speculative documentations of multi-disciplinary theater events. The aim is not to overcome the idiosyncratic nature of the annotations of movement, sound, energy, environment, etc., but to generate a wider vocabulary of approaches to documentation. 

We will work in a roundtable format, first giving brief pressentations of actual or speculative documentations, and then opening up to response and conversation. The presentations will take the first hour, and the discussion will take the second. The goal of the session is both to bring the documentation problem to the foreground, as well as to generate assignments and approaches that will be recorded in an informal proposal – not a consensus so much as a gathering – that can then be passed on to writers, directors, devisers, dramaturges, and publishers, as a way of invigorating the process of documentation of new work, with the hopes of providing better resources both for the field and for current and future scholars of theater. 

Please send a statement of approximately 300 words (to by June 1, 2014 discussing your interest in the session, and describing the performances whose documentation you would like to address. Additionally, please include a short narrative bio. 

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Doing Something: Divergent Visions of What Activism Performs

Conveners: Sonja Kuftinec (University of Minnesota) and John Fletcher (Louisiana State University)

Discourse about activist performance tends to privilege the intentions, tactics, and reactions of human agents, i.e., the activists and groups who mount public protests, stage agitprop dramas, or facilitate Theatre of the Oppressed workshops. This focus on human agency most often emerges in historiographic and/or ethnographic narratives of efficacy that frame such performances as having “done something”: changing hearts and minds, speaking truth to power, giving voice to the voiceless, dreaming a better future, or preaching to the choir to get them to sing. Faith in the multifarious efficacy of performance in turn drives a related tendency to see conflicts and crises as opportunities to “do something.” Calls to theatrical action (“We’ve got to do something!”) generate performance events interpreted as meaningful (“That show/workshop/intervention did something!”), which in turn fuel future calls to action, and so on. Uncritical circulation of faith in theatre’s activist potential can all too easily foster a mentality that organizers Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood, and Christian Parenti call “activistism,” where the righteous affect of “doing something” displaces more careful considerations about long-term effects, cultural-historical contexts, and coalitional strategies. 

We thus invite proposals that take the conference call’s challenge to think beyond human agency frames in performance as an opportunity to put pressure on the “doing” of performance activism. Lines of inquiry include questions like the following:

  • What actually performs—what accomplishes effects—in social change performance? 
  • How do we know when/if/how activism performs the functions we attribute to it?
  • How do models of collective action from sociology, political science, or social psychology complicate and/or complement participants’ impressions about the efficacy of performance? 
  • When and how do calls to theatrical activism translate—or fail to translate—into lasting, on-the-ground efforts or productive outcomes? 
  • When does “activism” become a goal unto itself, eclipsing actual legislative or material goals as the raison d’être for collective action?
  • When should activist performance stop, either declaring victory or laying down arms?
  • How do social media and online activism change the “doing” of performance activism?
  • How does the operation of non-human factors like worldviews, cultures, or environments influence or even undermine the perceived or intended “something” that public activism is supposed to perform? 

Participants will share ten-page papers by September 15. Based on the questions asked or methods used in these papers, we will organize participants into four groups of three. During the month leading up to the conference, group members will exchange mails among themselves about each other's work. At the conference, before our main meeting, the groups will meet separately to plan a ten-minute presentation to the seminar as a whole. The presentation will consist of three minutes of summary (what were their contributors' arguments?), five minutes of update (what issues have our conversations raised?), and two minutes posing a “pressing question” to the seminar. After each pressing question, the seminar will spend ten minutes discussing the group's arguments and question. Four group reports plus discussions will take up 80 minutes. With ten minutes of buffer time (announcements, transitions, overtimes, etc.), the first phase of the seminar will thus take 1 ½ hours. During the remaining half-hour, we will open the conversation to auditors, who may pose questions or contributions of their own. 

Please send by Sunday, June 1, 2014 a 200-300 word abstract and brief bio to Sonja Kuftinec at and John Fletcher at Decisions will be made by the end of June. Please note that ASTR guidelines ask that individuals apply to only one working session. 

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Dynamic Systems, Situatedness, and “What (or Who?) Performs?”: Cognitive Science in Theatre, Dance, and Performance

Conveners: Rhonda Blair (Southern Methodist University) and Amy E. Cook (Indiana University)

This research group solicits proposals for papers that apply research in cognitive science to understanding the dynamic nature of theatre, dance, and performance. In light of the conference theme, “What Performs?,” we ask participants to pay particular attention in their proposals to spatial and environmental aspects of performance (informed by dynamic systems theory and situated cognition research), reimagining performance as a situated cognitive ecology, and to speech/sound/language as performance (informed by research in cognitive linguistics), finding in the shifting categories the possibility of a post-human politics. 

As we did last year, we ask participants to apply research from the sciences directly to their particular project, going directly to the source material in the science. We hope this will continue to deepen and strengthen the research base and critical thinking in the field. We ask potential participants to include with their abstract proposal the title of an article or book chapter from the sciences that has influenced their thinking. We ask participants to make their own method explicit in the process of arguing that something useful is revealed about “what performs?” through the application of research within the cognitive sciences. 

We are soliciting abstracts from junior and senior scholars, with the hope of pairing up those new to the work with those scholars with several publications in this area. 

Applications are due by June 1, 2014, and should include:

  1. a description of your area of study within theatre, dance and performance (i.e., what disciplinary questions are you asking),
  2. the essay from the sciences that has informed your research,
  3. an abstract defining the argument that will be made in relationship to “what performs,” and 
  4. a brief bibliography.

Applicants will be notified of acceptance by June 15. In the fall prior to the conference, participants will be expected to take part in an on-line discussion of the papers with other members of a small sub-group (based on areas of interest), and read the essays of all other participants. 

Applications should be sent to Rhonda Blair ( and Amy E. Cook (

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Ecology and/of/in Performance

Conveners: Theresa May (University of Oregon), Karen O'Brien (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and Lisa Woynarski (Royal Central School of Speech & Drama)

Growing out of the performance and ecology seminar at ASTR 2005/Toronto, and continuing as a research group at ASTR's 2010/Seattle and 2012/Nashville conferences, this research group has been at the fore of the emergent field of performance and ecology. In 2014, in response to ASTR's "What Performs?", we turn our attention to the more-than-human in performance, with particular focus on recent developments in critical animals studies, the discourse of "vital matter", and trans-global relatedness implicit in climate change. Drawing together thinking and research from North America, Europe and Australasia, and building on the symposia, anthologies, 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 engage/critique/reveal ecological discourses about trans-global reciprocity and non-anthropocentric conceptions of materiality.

This working session will address the questions of how performance making and scholarship may be influenced by new ecological materiality and understandings, as well as the way more-than-human actants may manifest theatrical notions of sensoria, embodiment, affect or aesthetics. Pursuing what May calls "ecodramaturgy" (2011), this year's session will focus on how theatre and artistic performance engages three emerging threads: 1) international inter-relatedness in light of climate change, including resource availability and ecosystem health; 2) vital matter, including the agency of/in material formation; and 3) critical animal studies in performance. Specifically, papers might pursue the following questions:

  • How do interpretations of climate change and other global ecological issues erase/ignore geographical boundaries and produce a global or trans-national understanding of our inter-relatedness?
  • How might a framing of environment or landscape as ‘performing’ effect the potency of ecological ideas?
  • How do ideas of vibrant materiality inform ecological readings of performance and/or ecological meaning-making in performance?
  • In considering the more-than-human in performance, how might these non-anthropocentric forces manifest theatrical notions of sensoria, embodiment, affect or aesthetics?
  • How might performance-making be conceived as collaboration and/or improvisation with other species, lands and environments? 
  • How do animals ‘perform’ climate change? How are they considered as actors with agency within these contexts?
  • How might animals reflect, reveal and critique understandings of human and more-than-human inter-relatedness?
  • What performs in the staging of animals that reveals our interdependencies? We welcome, for instance, engagement with Una Chaudhuri's notion of zooësis, which comprises actual and imaginative interactions between the human and more-than-human.
  • Other questions, approaches and topics that clearly address the international inter-relatedness, vital matter and critical animal studies themes in performance.

Please send an abstract of approximately 300 words along with a brief biographical note as a Word attachment to all three Working Session conveners below by June 1, 2014: 

Theresa May, University of Oregon (
Karen O'Brien, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (
Lisa Woynarski, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama (

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Ephemera and Materiality 

Conveners: Shane Vogel (Indiana University) and Joshua Chambers-Letson (Northwestern University)

The ephemeral continues to be an important method and theoretical concept to the study of theater and performance. In these approaches, the ephemeral may be a clue to decipher or a fragment to reconstruct; a remainder of a lost whole or a mark of that whole’s impossibility; an echo of a feeling or a bit of memory; a hinge between the past, present and future; or an onto-epistemological vantage point. In turning to the ephemeral—either as physical remains or as a structure of feeling—performance scholarship often implicitly posits a human agent as that which both produces and animates it. Recent work described as “new materialisms,” however, has asked us to revisit our understanding of matter and posits a post-Cartesian ontology that considers the agency of things and objects in excess of (or even opposed to) their manipulation by human actors. Such a non-human centered ontology, proponents of the new materialism suggest, open up new ways of thinking about and being in the world. In particular, it allows for a resituating of the human as being embedded within a contingent range of material, rather than being the primum mobile of all existence. What do such new materialisms offer theater/performance studies conception of the ephemeral? And what are its consequences for our methodologies? This working group takes ephemera not as an object of the human researcher but as a subject and agent of performance knowledge. How might rethinking the materiality of ephemera and the ephemerality of matter disrupt our notions of liveness, temporality, the archive, and the ontology of performance? We welcome papers that engage with theories of new materialisms as well as old. This includes, but is not limited to, the materiality of sense and sensation; ghosts and hauntologies; the vitalism of ephemeral remains; the ontology of the theatrical archive; body art, performances of endurance, and mixed-media gallery art; queer materialities; ecological materialism; and Marxism and historical materialism.

Please submit 500-word proposals to the conveners (Shane Vogel,; Joshua Chambers-Letson; via email by June 1. Accepted papers will be grouped into thematic clusters that will circulate a 10-12 page paper to each other by October 1, in advance of more detailed dialogue about at the conference session. The session will begin with a general discussion of the papers and then break into clusters for more focused conversation.

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Everyday Life: Histories of the Ordinary, Persistent, and Repeated

Conveners: Ju Yon Kim (Harvard University) and Coleman Nye (Brown University)

For its third meeting, the Everyday Life working session will examine the generative intersections of performance, the everyday, and the “posthuman.” The working session proposes that everyday life serves as a critical site from which to examine the interplay between human and non-human actors. The everyday is where we are persistently confronted with the interdependence of human and nonhuman, in the routines of managing the body through cycles of consumption and expulsion, and in the intimate acts of contact, use, and exchange that characterize the “social lives of things.” In the repetition of everyday tasks, we become entangled with technologies that influence habitual movements and affective states, complicating human agency as we not only act on things, but act with them and are shaped by them. Yet the everyday is also where the possibilities of making do or making up leave spaces for alternate practices and performances. This working session invites projects that explore the relationships between performance, things, and everyday life, all broadly defined, in a variety of fields and periods. We welcome papers that consider what might be risked or lost as well as gained from centering the nonhuman in our inquiries. For example, how might this shift affect analyses of historically objectified and dehumanized communities? Questions central to previous sessions will continue to guide our discussion: How does performance in or of the everyday connect to large-scale politics and history? How might everyday life be a repository for forms of aesthetic production, political engagement, and other "structures of feeling”? Through what writing technologies and critical methodologies do we access, describe, and do justice to the everyday? 

Please submit a paper proposal (250-350 words) and a short bio (no more than 150 words) via email to both and by June 1, 2014.

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Facing the Other: Reconsidering Transracial Performance

Conveners: Faedra Chatard Carpenter (University of Maryland) and Marvin McAllister (University of South Carolina)

Responding to ASTR’s query, “What else performs?,” this working session invites participants to challenge traditional perceptions regarding the application and assessment of transracial performance. Although transracial performance (i.e. “blackface”) is typically associated with an actor’s body, this working group asks participants to broaden their examination of transracial performance by considering what can be suggested through, as well as beyond, the human frame. In terms of theatre, television, and film, we are interested in discussing how corporeal markers may be translated into other signifying gestures thereby presenting unembodied expressions of difference (i.e. through the use of material objects such as props, or intangible cues such as speech, music, or similar aural articulations). However, as a collective invested in the question, “What performs?,” papers need not be limited to the study of “animated texts”—this session is open to reading the ways transracial performance is addressed in studio art (for example, photography, sculpture, paintings) or through other inanimate objects and non-human entities. Correspondingly, we are interested in a range of transracial mimicry including whiteface, yellowface, brownface, redface, etc. This working group aims to expand the dialogue surrounding transracial performance by acknowledging the traditional ways in which it is framed, while also readily pushing to extend those parameters by promoting multiple ways of "facing the other."

Potential participants might consider the following:

  • Psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon once wrote, “[i]n the white world the man of color encounters difficulties in the development of his bodily schema. Consciousness of the body is solely a negating activity.” Can transracial projects, with potentially de-centered bodies, offer a way out of the negation and uncertainty of “third-person consciousness?”
  • Can racialized or trans-racialized bodies be (re)made “material” without sacrificing agency or subjectivity? Are post-human theorizing and its projects worth the risk of potential historical or cultural loss for performers/communities of color?
  • Does a post-human critique, with its attendant politics, signal the end of racial and transracial representation, or can this interdisciplinary theoretical move imagine new relationships between individual and communal conceptions of cultural identities?

Please submit abstracts of 250 words to Faedra Chatard Carpenter ( and Marvin McAllister ( by June 1, 2014.

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How to Do Things with Food(s): Food as Research/Food in Performance 

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

In recent years, the proliferation of food television and the rise of social media (particularly Instagram and Twitter, which emphasize food photography) have produced a cultural focus on the culinary. While connections between food and the theatre are longstanding—from Dionysian rites and the tragic goat to Macbeth’s banquet, Antoine’s butchers, and Didi’s carrots—and with questions of staging within the restaurant space, this recent mass cultural centrality of food brings an increased importance to explorations of the culinary from the perspective of theatre and performance studies. As questions about food safety and availability mount, individual food choices become personally and politically critical, raising questions about the everyday meaning of the performative acts of cooking and eating. How can theatre and performance studies help to understand the daily shape of eating on a dying planet?

This working group seeks to explore the question “what else performs” by inviting considerations of food as a performing subject, performance object, and performative medium, enriching the fields of theatre and performance studies as well as food studies through an exchange of methods and objects, and through digesting the relationship between the acts of art-making, cooking, and labor through the process of breaking bread together.

Potential topics might include:

  • food as a performing object
  • food as a proxy for human performers
  • cuisine as a location for performances of labor, consumption, collection, and tourism 
  • issues of culinary tradition and repertoire
  • relationships between histories of cuisine and histories of theatrical representation
  • menus and recipes as texts that perform in past, present, and future
  • food as a site of political struggle
  • food and authenticity 
  • food and the performance of location
  • food practices as a mode of performing values
  • antitheatrical discourse in food writing
  • food and cooking as ‘performer’ onstage
  • food as performance medium in front and backstage dining environments

This working group will be three hours long, in order to allow time for participants to explore food as a medium for intellectual and aesthetic exchange. (Session conveners will arrange access to kitchen space and/or tools prior to and/or during the session, in which participants will be able to provide a ‘taste’ of their research.) Participants and observers will devote the first hour of the meeting to sharing this research tasting menu. Participants will use the remaining two hours of the session to continue discussion of both their research and the different registers engaged through the “performance” of that research through food.

Participants will exchange brief research papers in advance of the conference, with conveners facilitating pre-conference discussions of research texts, recipes, and methods for conceptualizing how food performs. 

Potential participants are asked to submit a proposal of no more than one page, articulating what their research brings to the table, focusing on how their participation in this working group will advance their own research agendas as well as address the questions explored above. Specific attention in the proposal should be given to both the topic of research and the particular approach to the “tasting menu” component of the session, focusing on the interplay between theoretical and practical knowledges. Submissions due to Josh Abrams ( and Kristin Hunt ( by June 1, 2014

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I Object! These Things Have Been Performing Long before You Started Watching – Non-human Performances and (re)Considerations of Indigenous Identities

Conveners: Heidi L. Nees (Miami University at Oxford) and Adron Farris (University of Georgia)

Focusing on non-human agents in performance provides ripe research opportunities for Indigenous scholars in the Americas, especially in consideration of how understanding one’s position in the world is directly related to an embodiment of geographical, historical, cultural and economic specificities. Shifting focus towards non-human performance allows non-traditional performance practices to take center stage, paying deference to indigenous practices that incorporate notions of spatiality, placiality, and tribalography, as well as the supranatural. Focusing on non-human agents also opens a dialogue with such representations in para-theatrical venues such as museums and historical sites. Of particular concern is how Western conceptions of Indigenous cultures are shaped by these non-human performing agents. From White Medicine Men and Plastic Shamanists to the Boy Scouts of America and the representations of Indigenous peoples along Route 66, sacred traditional items and cultural signifiers have performed for a largely Western, non-Indigenous audience in a pejorative fashion contradictory to Indigenous ontologies. Though decentering the human in theatrical performance can expand and enrich performance possibilities, it also has the potential for disruptive implications for Indigenous cultures.

In addition to considering “what performs,” this year’s Indigenous Research in the Americas working session will attempt to complicate the notion of non-human performance as counter narrative to traditionally hegemonic Western rationalities about Indigenous America, focusing on not only the object of / as performance, but also the reception of such performance. Indigenous performance artists and playwrights, such as James Luna, Diane Glancy, and Marcus Amerman, have responded to this crisis in vibrant and contemplative ways, disrupting institutional frameworks that interpolate Indigenous peoples via fixed identities and (re)appropriating misguided Western perceptions as a platform from which to speak towards reconciliation and the renewal of Indigenous cultures. Channeling past ASTR working sessions, we invite scholars from interdisciplinary programs to query the potential benefits and problems of non-human, object performance and the post-human perspective in light of Indigenous America. Possible areas/issues/topics may included land, ecology, and the shifting environments in Native American Studies and performance; the use of iconography in tourist attractions and constructions of “Americana”; the appropriation of animal imagery as signifier of “Indian-ness”; material signifiers as stand-ins for Native Americans in performance; etc. 

This working group will include breaking the group up into smaller peer review factions and sharing images, videos, and papers during the months leading up to the conference. We will also incorporate writing exercises that stem from our discussions prior to the conference that warrant group discussion at the conference. In the past, our working session has focused on the notion of reconciliation and the inclusion of Indigenous epistemologies in Western scholarship. This year, we wish to push forward into new territory by examining non-human performances and their interplay with Indigenous ontologies and address how this new territory alters and / or advances previous conceptions / misconceptions in our work.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Heidi L. Nees or Adron Farris for more information. Please submit 300-word abstracts to both conveners at and

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Latina/o Theatre in the 21st Century: Making the Invisible Visible

Conveners: Jorge A. Huerta (University of California, San Diego) and Tiffany Ana Lopez (University of California, Riverside)

This working session aims to identify and investigate how networks that structure US theatrical production (whether they be professional, academic, or community-based) have performed acts of inclusion, exclusion and transformation. The goal is to gather scholars, historians, playwrights and others invested in the current state of US Latina and Latino theater as participants who trouble the relative invisibility (and thus a kind of non-humanity) of Latina and Latino theater companies, playwrights and scholars. Participants are asked to submit responses to the theme of the conference, particularly to the “lack of attention to geographical, historical, or economic specificities, and of indifference to the hard-won gains (especially for minorities) of humanist critiques centered on identity, rights, and representation,” as stated in the Call. How can U.S. Latina/o dramatic literature and scholarship as well as Latina/o theater artists themselves engage theories of the post-human when their work and subjectivities have yet to be recognized within past and contemporary paradigms of liberal humanism and “the human”? This working group will be enhanced by the participation of theatre artists and scholars who attended the first National Convening of the Latino Theater Commons in Boston, MA in the fall of 2014. It was made clear in this historic 2-day meeting – the first national gathering of Latina/o theater practitioners since 1986 – that there are theatre artists and scholars across the country, working at their art, writing and producing plays that matter to the intended (invisible) audiences. The ultimate goal of the resulting discussions and interventions will be the publication of an anthology articulating the state of Latina/o theatre and performance in the 21st century, including articles, interviews and perhaps, scripts and other ephemera, co-edited by the conveners, Jorge A. Huerta and Tiffany Ana Lopez. 

Please submit the title of your paper or project proposal and a 250-word abstract to:; 

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Machine Labor + Mechanical Logic

Conveners: Christin Essin (Vanderbilt University) and Chase Bringardner (Auburn University)

This working session invites scholars interested in theorizing the industrial labor of theatrical production and the academic labor of theatrical history through an examination of machines, machinery, and the mechanistic. Onstage and offstage, machines serve as extensions of working/performing bodies to maximize (and often conceal) the efficiency of their labor; as such, the designs and uses of machines document cultural perspectives and the politics around notions of “work.” Even inert, obsolescent machines gathering dust in basements (literal and metaphorical), spark questions about dormant power and power sources; inputs and outputs; transforming and transmitting; circuitry and system design. The stage is a space where machines and machine aesthetics often collide; where the wheels, levers, and pulleys of stagecraft deliver the melodramatic spectacle of a sawmills; where the tap shoes of choreographed dancers beat out metallic rhythms amplified by audio equipment; where the precision of automated lighting encounters the synchronicity of a rehearsed ensemble.

This working session merges the “old” materialism” of analyzing relationships between labor and production with the “new” materialism of prioritizing nonhuman objects to refocus our investigation and animate diverse perspectives.

Can an investigation that decenters human bodies to emphasize machine performance promote the value of labor in marketplaces of theatrical production? Can theorizing machine performance collapse the perceived differences between onstage and backstage work that divide a potentially united labor force? Can the machines archive a performance that has long disappeared from the stage, rehearsal room, or fly rail? Furthermore, can the examination of machine imagery, machine logic, and machine design help us constructively reconsider or reimagine performance texts, production practices, and historical artifacts?

The session format is intentionally designed for participants looking for an opportunity to stimulate newer research interests with writing outside a traditional essay format. The working group will convene during the two months preceding the conference for a series of online discussions. Session participants’ tasks will be both written (three or four 500-word blog posts and responses) and visual (translating research into the images, flowcharts, and schematics of simple machine design). Following these online exchanges, each participant will prepare and present a “machine diagram” to display during the session that combines written and visual text to articulate their research within the theoretical context of the session’s organizing theme. Once convened at the conference, we will share their research during a session that combines poster presentations with a roundtable discussion, with time to present/view the diagrams and discuss connections between projects and avenues for further development. Auditors will be encouraged to participate by similarly studying the participants’ diagrams and joining in a discussion towards the end of the session about machines as methodological models for analyzing performance texts and production practices.

Applicants should submit a 250-word abstract that describes their research topic and speculates on how the investigation of machine design, machine logic, machine labor, and machine imagery could benefit their research project. Abstracts might also include a visual image/artifact representative of their research topic and its connection to the session’s organizing theme. Send abstracts to both conveners: and

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‘Our Best Machines are Made of Sunshine’ (Haraway 1991 153): How Mediated, Robotic and ‘Virtual’ Presences Perform

Conveners: Peter Eckersall (City University of New York) and Katherine Mezur (Independent Scholar)

In this roundtable we consider what performs in relation to ‘human proxies and prosthetics.’ We investigate how mediated, robotic and ‘virtual’ presences have created new dramaturgies that, in turn, transform how spectators engage with an expanded experience of live performance. We focus on how a variety of machinic entities perform outside human-ness disrupting and creating moments of radical encounter. These diverse machines drive these encounters with their own machine habitus, presence, and actions. Our panel recalls Donna Haraway’s prescient commentary that machines have become more extant and possibility less substantial, breeching human machine distinctions while also altering human experience. How is this melting of machines and humans shifting the hierarchies of "life on the planet"?

Our presentations will be linked by a focus on how encounters with these entities are producing new performance practices. On one hand, we will draw on the work of artist-makers such as Mari Velonaki, Kris Verdonck, Hirata Oriza, Stelarc, Geumhyung Jeong, Naoko Tanaka, and Ai Weiwei who utilize machinic entities in their dramaturgy. We also invite presentations drawing on machines functioning in broadly non-artistic contexts such as drones, medical robots, construction cranes, fracking drills, cameras, immersion and telepresence devices. Our aim is to consider how it is that these artist-makers and their machines open up spaces of intervention, disruption and re-ordering of the cultural, artistic, political, social, and physical norms that dominate our societies in the 21st century. Ultimately we want to reflect upon the ways in which the figure of the machine via the robot and/or the virtual ‘presence’ can be read as animating a new understanding of performance, one that might offer ideas of proto-subjectivity. We will investigate perspectives ranging from the how machines reconfigure the expressive and political dynamics of embodiment, an ecology of performance, and, after Anna Munster, the re-materialisation of new media information aesthetics.

We invite presentations in diverse formats, images, video, and papers. In September participants will be invited to contribute to a database of machinic presences comprising images, web links, web bots and sound files. Papers and visual presentation materials will also similarly be lodged in a drop box in September. We will exchange our papers/materials with the whole group and in early October, we will set up networks between participants to work on questions and topics for the roundtable discussion.

At the conference, our roundtable will integrate conversations with the presentations or demonstrations of images, robotics and artworks. We have chosen the roundtable format with short presentations because this form enables the process of passing ideas and questioning in the round, without a hierarchical order. Our roundtable will include short presentations from panelists integrated with virtual co-presentations of images and mediated machinic effects. We will follow this with a discussion based on questions and new "materials" that have arisen in the network exchanges and across the entire group. Our session is open to spectators and they are invited to participate in our ending discussion.

Please submit contact details, a brief bio, and an abstract of no more than 200 words (images also encouraged) by June 1, 2014 to both conveners: and

Finalists will be notified of their acceptance into the Working Group by June 15, 2014. Papers will be due in mid-September and we will network authors to exchange feedback via email in October.

Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century". Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. New York: Routledge, 1991. P. 153.

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Pedagogical Objects: Materials, Media, and Messages in the Theatre History Classroom

Conveners: Charlotte McIvor (National University of Ireland, Galway), Eleanor Owicki (Texas A&M University), and Sam O’Connell (Worcester University)

This working group addresses practical pedagogical approaches to the theatre history classroom that prioritise this space as a zone for encounters with material objects and digital platforms that can expand student conceptions of the performative. Responding to the 2014 call to “place non-humans centre stage” in order to expand our “historiographic imagination,” this working group will investigate and model strategies for approaching theatre history as a discipline in which pedagogy can catalyse an understanding of material landscapes. We will explore the ways that archival materials and the concept of archivization can be used to enhance students’ research skills and understanding of theatre historiography. We will also interrogate the growth of digital humanities as a research field and technical arena in order to consider how the resources of digital humanities challenge the “humanism” of “humanities.” Finally, we will investigate how the material traces of theatre practices and environments might extend the tools and repertoires of approaches to digital humanities’ projects. Proposals might consider questions such as:

  • How can the introduction of material objects into the theatre history classroom enrich students’ understandings of theatre as a historical practice?
  • What are the possibilities of the archive in reconstructing material environments for the purpose of restaging work today? 
  • How do digital experiments in reconstructing the landscape of lost theatre spaces alter historiographical and pedagogical practices? (e.g. the digital reconstruction of Dublin’s original Abbey Theatre,
  • What implications does the growth of digital humanities hold not only for conducting research but also for teaching? 
  • As archives are digitized and more freely available, how does this change the affective quality of research as a lived practice? 
  • How does the movement towards online classes (particularly those that fulfill core academic requirements) affect the theatre history classroom? How might the digital humanities and digitized archives be profitably used in this arena?

In this session, participants will be able to experiment with a variety of practical applications specific to their pedagogies and classrooms while also critically engaging with the session’s central questions about material objects, digital humanities, and theatre history. Prior to the conference, participants will read and discuss a selection of articles and book chapters focusing on the use of material objects and digital humanities within classroom contexts. Readings will include approaches from the scholarship of teaching and learning as a way to begin to approach issues specific to theatre history pedagogy. Following the shared readings, participants will circulate problem papers prior to the conference that explore and articulate their own pedagogical practices with material objects and digital resources for their classrooms. 

Please submit a 300 word abstract of your proposed paper and a 100 word bio to Charlotte McIvor (, Eleanor Owicki (, and Sam O’Connell ( 

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Performance Philosophy

Conveners: Will Daddario (Illinois State University) and Ioana Jucan (Brown University)

Building on last year’s ASTR session, the international, interdisciplinary research network known as Performance Philosophy seeks to continue activating the philosophical research undertaken by ASTR’s membership. This year, in step with the conference theme “What Performs?”, the Performance Philosophy Working Session will explore the domains of non-, more-, and other-than-human thought.

Three streams of philosophical discourse provoke this consideration: the work of speculative realism and object-oriented ontology (Meillassoux, Harman, Morton, Garcia, etc.), the work on non-representational theory and actor network theory coming out of the social sciences (Thrift, Law, Moll, Latour, etc.), and the work undertaken at the crossroads of animal studies and post-humanist studies (Orozco, Chaudhuri, Parker Starbuck, Cull, Kirkkopelto, etc.). In each of these discourses, the locus of thought sits within the non-human realm and provokes scholars to develop various methodological strategies to grapple with the obvious paradox that arises from trying to harness the power of the human subject to think through, from, and about the non-, more-, or other-than-human. The ostensible benefits of such effort include a renewed attention to the complexity of material existence, a dynamized historical attunement to the multiple conditions that make human activity possible, and the promise of reinvigorating dialectical thought that takes seriously the notion that, pace Benjamin, the world is ordered within each object.

Where does contemporary theatre and performance research intervene in these philosophical discourses? How are theatre scholars mobilizing the theories that come from these neighboring disciplines? Faced with the oft-untroubled assumption that theatre constitutes a distinctly human practice, what happens to theatre scholarship when human agency ceases to act as the “subject” of focus and gives way to the performances of animals, space, environments, objects, and things? Similarly, by taking seriously the claim that Performance Philosophy proceeds to think without knowing what precisely thinking may be, might a focus on the dimension of non-, more, and other-than-human performance lead to renewed understanding of the practice of thinking?

This working session seeks proposals that address these questions and/or develop other questions along the same lines. 

Please compose 500-word abstracts of your paper and a brief description of how the paper relates to your primary area of research. Proposals should include those materials as well as complete contact information and organizational affiliation (if any). Send your proposal (as MS Word attachment) to Will Daddario ( and Ioana Jucan ( by June 1, 2014. After selecting participants, papers will be grouped together by theme and sorted into sub-groups. Members of each sub-group will attend to the interconnection of thought evident in the initial abstracts so as to build connections between the papers. Individuals accepted to the working session must submit full 10-12-page papers (double-spaced) no later than October 1, 2014, in order to facilitate pre-conference conversations.

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Performance Studies in/from the Global South

Conveners:  Catherine Cole (University of California, Berkeley), Kellen Hoxworth (Stanford University), Megan Lewis (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), and Jisha Menon (Stanford University)

Drawing on the conference theme of “What performs?” we consider the long and varied histories of colonialism in the global south that consigned colonized persons as things. We explore the complex legacies of agency of humans and non-humans, broadly conceived, in the global south. In exploring what performs, we consider what it may mean to be an agential thing: to trouble the porous boundary between persons and things. We solicit papers around the following questions:

  • The global south, often imagined as a site for non- or sub-humans, is increasingly becoming a site for the imagination of the “post-human.” How have “things” and their mediations facilitated the imagination of these various categories of the “human”?
  • The delineation of categories of “object” and “thing” hinges on the attribution of agency: “things” assert agency, “objects” do not (Bernstein, Brown). How might the global south, with its manifold histories of objectification, subjectification, subjection, or in the words of Aimé Césaire, “thingification,” complicate the binary between “object” and “thing”?
  • Recent performance studies work has posited that “things” can “script” performance, blurring the lines between the archive and the repertoire. How do these “things” and their “scripts” perform in contexts that contain repertoires without archives? Can the global south provide a context for the consideration of the unstructured, unpredictable performance of “things”?

“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. For the purposes of this session, we eschew continental framings of area studies, along with its Cold War pedigree, while at the same time valuing area studies’ attention to locational specificity and in-depth knowledge. 

We will ask accepted participants to submit papers that will be pre-circulated and read 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: online discussions that initiate the conversations prior to ASTR. We will begin our session by having those groups meet as breakouts, so that they are continuing in person conversations already begun online. Part two will be about bringing forward some key observations from each breakout to the whole group. 

Submit a brief bio and abstract of no more than 200 words by June 1, 2014 to Finalists will be notified of their acceptance into the Working Group by end of June. 10-page papers will be due in mid-September, and we will pair authors to exchange feedback electronically in October. 

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This working session invites proposals for performance projects at ASTR Baltimore 2014. All manner of performance is welcome, but works should be designed to be self-contained, with minimal technical requirements, and suitable for presentation in the sort of neutral or “all-purpose” spaces readily accessible in a conference hotel. This session welcomes new work developed expressly for this working session, as well as existing work adapted or excerpted for the conference context. Priority will be given to those performance proposals that engage legibly and productively with the conference theme.

This session prioritizes both the development of original performance work and the instigation discipline-building conversations within ASTR. Over the last several years, especially under the curatorial guidance of Spatula & Barcode (Laurie-Beth Clark and Michael Peterson), the ASTR conference has begun to explore some of the many ways that on-site performance work by ASTR members might stimulate, enhance and contribute to the intellectual work of the conference. At ASTR 2013, this blossomed into PerformASTR, a dynamic mini-festival of performance that took place throughout the conference in Dallas. For ASTR 2014, we seek to extend this emerging tradition as we also explore the place of performance within ASTR’s working session/group format.

Instead of papers, contributors to this working session will prepare self-contained, low- or no-tech performance projects for presentation at the conference. The session’s work will take place in three parts. First, in advance of the conference, contributors will engage (both as pairs and as a full group) in preparatory conversations about the performance project and/or performance process that each contributor brings to the conference. Next, contributors will present their performance projects at the conference. Some of these performances will take place during an evening session early in the conference, while others (including site-specific, ongoing and durational work) will occur throughout the conference. All performances will be listed in the conference program and will draw their audience from ASTR members attending the conference. Finally, on the conference’s final day, the contributing performance-makers will gather (“working session”) to share in dialogue, response and critical reflection upon the work presented.

To submit a proposal to this session, please send the following in a single document to Brian Herrera ( not later than June 1, 2014.

  • A one-paragraph bio (fewer than 100 words);
  • A title and description of the proposed performance project (fewer than 250 words);
  • A clear and specific summary of the performance’s logistical and technical requirements; 
  • Relevant links to online documentation;
  • Full contact information for the presenter. (For collaborative/group proposals, the individual/s submitting the proposal should be willing and available to contribute to the work of the session, both in advance of the conference and on-site.)

Please note: Those participating in other Working Sessions and Plenaries are indeed eligible to submit and participate in PerformASTR.

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Performing the Boundaries Between Theatre Studies and Dance Studies

Conveners: Susan Manning (Northwestern University),  Nadine George-Graves (University of California, San Diego), and Ira S. Murfin, Northwestern University –

Continuing the work of the 2012 session Working Between Theatre Studies and Dance Studies, this session builds on an institutional history within ASTR of both integrating theatre and dance studies and seeking to distinguish the boundaries between them. Following the earlier session, as well as ASTR’s 2010 joint meeting with the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD), which saw the establishment of awards supporting intersections of theatre and dance scholarship, and in anticipation of the new Oxford Handbook of Theatre and Dance edited by session co-convener Nadine George-Graves, we look to deepen and expand the conversation between these distinct but intertwined fields. 

We ask: How do the frames of theatre and dance studies perform different understandings of history, practice, and pedagogy? We hope papers will look to the historical record to include topics that predate recent interdisciplinary tendencies. At the same time, we hope that the session will not only prompt papers on practices that incorporate recognizable elements of the two disciplines, but also inventive scholarly initiatives that broadly apply methodologies synthesized from both fields. Possible areas of inquiry might include:

  • How dance and theatre are positioned differently and taught differently within academic institutions.
  • Interpretations of ‘dance-theatre’ in different contexts.
  • Comparative topics in theatre and dance (e.g., verfremdungseffekt in the theatre of Bertolt Brecht and the dance of Valeska Gert.)
  • Historically multi-disciplinary forms (e.g., opera, court entertainments.)
  • Elements of theatre and dance as experimental interventions within each other’s traditions (e.g., Lecture performance in dance; movement-based theatre.)
  • Applications of theatre studies to a figure or topic from dance history, or vice versa (e.g., theatre studies perspectives on Pina Bausch or Martha Graham; a dance studies analysis of Ibsen.)
  • How methods and terminology used in the production of theatre and dance differently affect scholarship (e.g., play text/dance scenario; revival/reconstruction; approaches to dramaturgy.)

Participants will be divided into smaller groups of 5-7 people, organized to encourage exchange across topics and perspectives. By October 15, participants will submit their papers (<15 pgs) to their group’s online forum. In the weeks leading up to the conference participants will offer feedback and discuss themes, questions, and points of disjunction that emerge within the groups. During the 2-hour time slot, participants will first break up into their groups to continue the pre-conference discussion. We will reconvene to share our findings and make connections across groups in the second half of the meeting, reserving time for questions and participation from observers.
We are establishing this as a biennial group focused on approaching intersections in the study, practice, and teaching of theatre and dance from a wide range of perspectives. We encourage both new participants and those returning from the 2012 session to submit proposals to continue the group’s work. We are particularly interested in papers focused on historical objects of study, as well as proposals that inventively cross disciplinary divides, though we are open to all relevant topics. 

Proposals are invited from scholars at all levels in the form of a 300-word abstract and a brief bio, due June 1, 2014. Please submit your proposal as an email attachment to: Ira S. Murfin at Selected participants will be notified in June and must register for and attend the ASTR conference in Baltimore November 20-23.

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Post-human Sex: Performing Technology, Desire and the Body

Conveners: Sophie Lally and Kaitlyn Regehr (King's College London)

"We need […] to understand the human form- including human desire and all its external representations- may be changing radically, and thus must be re-visioned." --Ihab Hassan, Prometheus as Performer, 1977

What performs when the body and desire are mediated by technology? How is the post-human body realized and what does this mean for post-human sex? This working session explores intersections between technicity and sexuality and their expression through a variety of performance media. The relationship between performativity, sexuality and the body is not a new one, however, as we increasingly experience the world through screens, virtual realities and biotechnological innovations, not only are the ways in which we perform the body and desire changing but so too are the ways in which performance practitioners are engaging with them. The body has become decentered in the digital age with attention falling on the insides – the genotype and the structures, which make up the body - whilst also stretching out beyond the embodied into cyberspace. Is technology a new Prometheus reforming the human body and its attendant intimate relationships from the clay of humanism or is this technological determinism? From Stelarc to, trans-femme performance artist, Micha Cárdenas practitioners are navigating this developing terrain and this working group looks to add to this conversation. 

  • Embodiment in post human sex 
  • Sexual architecture: Technology and new performative frames 
  • Virtual space as a new sexual landscape: Pornography, online sexual communities and virtual sex
  • Documenting Erotica: Challenges in archiving marginalized entertainment and “lowbrow” ephemera 
  • The medicalization of subjugated identities: the technological gaze on “other” bodies 
  • The new frontier: emerging infrastructure and industries in erotic performance 
  • The cyborg body
  • Proxies and prosthetic -. mechanophilia, prosthetic performance and simulacra
  • The ritualized body in the digital age: becoming, transcending, surpassing
  • Erotic objects and the body as performance site
  • IVF, reprogenetics and transhumanism
  • Gender in cyberspace
  • Intimacy 

Please submit 300-500 word proposals to both conveners, Sophie Lally ( and Kaitlyn Regehr (

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Post-thematic Returns to the Fundamentals: Performance as Research and Practice Based Research

Conveners: Daniel Mroz (University of Ottawa) and Kris Salata (Florida State University)

The Performance as Research Working Group engages with scholarship that is both grounded in praxis and informed by theory. The Working Group invites artists, scholars and artist-scholars to participate in an interdisciplinary dialogue focused on the epistemological and methodological questions raised by research involving live, aesthetic and artistic performance. We are interested in scholarship that takes artistic praxis as its object and which acknowledges the essential differences between empirical knowledge and its scholarly articulation. 

Over the last seven years the Performance as Research Working Groups assembled at ASTR have involved scholars and artists with diverse investments in relation to performance practice and its discursive formulation. Our approach has always involved a cross-disciplinary analysis of the centrality of embodied experience in both the creation and reception of performance, as well as the challenges (methodological, theoretical, rhetorical) attendant on the process of its articulation. We continue to focus on the experiential not only as a dimension that bridges the concerns of theorists and practitioners, but also because it is a pragmatic tool for investigating the limits and conventions of scholarly discourse. 

Co-conveners Kris Salata and Daniel Mroz along with regular participant Bruce Barton are editing a book bringing together the ideas and inquiries that the Working Group has generated since its inception. This year’s session will be organized around the topics that have been raised regularly over the last seven sessions, with the structure of this eventual volume in mind.

Proposals need not be limited to these topics, but will likely fall into one of the following areas:

  • History and historiography of praxis-based research,
  • Methodologies,
  • Writing by artists that deals with practice from a first person perspective,
  • Work dealing with the use of artistic procedures as part of academic, pedagogical and institutional activities, 
  • Work investigating the relationships between independent artistic practice and the academy.
  • Writing that researches the work of the artist from a scholarly, third person perspective.
The conference working session will be preceded by the exchange of papers (and other documentation if applicable) and substantive dialogue between the group members prior to the actual conference, responding to one another’s contributions. During the pre-conference discussion we will select the key issues on which the group will focus at the conference.

Proposals should not exceed 300 words and be accompanied by a short bio. Please email proposals by June 1, 2014 to the conveners: Daniel Mroz, University of Ottawa, and Kris Salata, Florida State University,

Selected participants will be notified in late June, 2014. We will initiate email discussion on the basis of proposals on August 1, 2014, with an initial draft of a paper no longer than 10 pages to be circulated no later than September 15, 2014. 

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Props and Vessels: Pregnancy, Maternity, and Birth as Objectified Performance

Conveners: Judith Caballero (Millsaps College), Alicia Corts (University of Georgia), and Chelsea Phillips (Ohio State University)

When blogger Lady Goo Goo Gaga opened a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, she discovered that she is a “very, very bad mother...because I have not once shaped sandwiches into a tic-tac-toe game utilizing carrot shreds and pieces of grapes.” The catalog’s lunch boxes, displaying an idealized vision of mother’s love in comestible form, highlight the way props become an intrinsic part of maternal performance. 

This session will build on work begun in the Postpartum session at ASTR 2013 in Dallas and encourage participants to consider the non-human aspects of maternal performance before, during, and after birth: what props are necessary to perform “good” motherhood in a specific place and time, on and off stage? How has or does theatre reflect, refute, or help to script such performances?

We are also interested in how the maternal body itself has, historically or contemporarily, become objectified or dehumanized--how the body might legally, theologically, socially, or politically become a disembodied “vessel.” Taking a performance studies approach, participants could consider women’s legal status in relation to children and their fathers, the history of medicine, or social debates about access to and control over the gravid body. In considering the body as vessel, how is the body as vessel constructed socially and legally when filled, when emptied, when barren? What stigmas or virtues are connected to the disembodied vessel? We welcome papers from all periods, cultures, and theoretical approaches, particularly those which consider post-humanist or new materialist thought. 

In addition to circulating a paper, participants will be asked to help create a performance component connected to the working session, the form and content of which will be decided by the group.

To submit, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words and a 100-word bio to by June 1, 2014. Please be sure to include your full name, institutional affiliation, and preferred contact information.

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Puppetry and Material Performance

Conveners: Cariad Astles (Central School of Speech and Drama), Alissa Mello (Royal Holloway, University of London), Claudia Orenstein (City University of New York, Hunter College), Dassia N. Posner (Northwestern University), and Colette Searls (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) 

Throughout its history, puppetry has given primary focus to inanimate performers that decenter or appear alongside human actors. In contemporary theatre, puppets and other performing objects are appearing in a rapidly expanding variety of theatrical contexts, ranging from large-scale productions to intimate slams to what Matthew Cohen has termed “post-traditional” engagements with tradition. Along with this expanded theatrical presence, the boundaries of the puppet’s definitions are also changing. This Working Session will explore these changing definitions in two thematically linked subgroups. The first aims to position puppetry, which has often been decentered from the study of theatre history, as central to object-oriented explorations currently taking place in multiple disciplines. We propose to shift away from notions of the puppet as necessarily representationally or anthropomorphically linked to humans or animals and to investigate “material performance,” performance that assumes that inanimate matter contains agency not simply to mimic but also to create. The second subgroup will explore questions related to the female and feminine in puppetry, to analyses of gender representation and subversion, and to the relationship between puppets and puppeteers in light of contemporary feminist theory.

Working Session participants are invited to engage in theoretical, historical, or contemporary analyses of puppetry and material performance. Individual case studies might investigate, but are not limited to:

  • the unique aesthetics and dramaturgies of the puppet
  • theatrical juxtapositions of material performers and live actors, or of puppet and puppeteer
  • the puppet’s liminal state between life and death
  • theoretical and aesthetic intersections between puppetry and robotics, motion capture, new media, or object oriented-ontologies
  • the historical agency of women in puppetry and material performance
  • gender politics, performativity, female practices, and the female gaze in puppetry
  • the aesthetics of dissent and activism and their potential in female/feminist puppetry

This Working Session will expand on the critical inquiry of The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance (forthcoming June 2014) and will workshop essays for a proposed new collection on women and puppetry.

Working Session format:

  • Papers (8-10 pages) should be distributed to all session participants by October 1. Papers should be read by group participants and feedback posted on our discussion board by November 1 in order to facilitate online pre-conference discussions. 
  • Participants will each present brief (2-3 minute) abstracts of their papers at the start of the session in order to help familiarize audience members with each project. This will be followed by a discussion of the themes raised in the papers, including suggestions for how to further develop those themes. The goals of the Working Session are to provide a broader critical context for puppetry scholarship and to develop essays for publication.

Please email a 300-word abstract and 200-word bio. in a single Microsoft Word attachment to each of the conveners by June 1, 2014: Cariad Astles (, Alissa Mello (, Claudia Orenstein (, Dassia N. Posner (, Colette Searls ( Selected participants will be notified of their acceptance by late June.

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Shakespearean Performance Research Group

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

In 2014, we invite papers on the practice and theory of Original Practices (“OP”), the movement in Shakespearean performance attempting to recapture some of the ways of working of Shakespeare and his theatrical contemporaries; papers might discuss individual productions, the work of individual figures in the field, or broader theoretical, cultural, and historical issues. Papers raising the evolution of OP from their 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 to this year's SPRG working session will be considered for inclusion in a planned book project that will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016, by examining OP in theory and practice.

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 submit a 250-word abstract and 100-word academic biographical statement, including current affiliations, if any, by June 1, 2014, to

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Technology Performs: New Media Onstage and Off

Conveners: Lindsay Brandon Hunter (University at Buffalo), Miriam Felton-Dansky (Bard College), Linzi Juliano (University of California, Los Angeles, Jacob Gallagher-Ross (University at Buffalo).

The advent of the digital age has inspired many attempts to categorize and theorize the role of new media in theater and performance—from its politics to its representational and aesthetic meanings. Yet there is still a pressing need for close analysis of the role of media forms, technologies, and digital culture in creating (and co-creating) theater and performance, as well as the affective and cultural formations with which they engage. Although often offered as transparent, practices of collection and transmission actively shape data and its meanings, just as media help to constitute the content they provide. We propose to engage with media and technology in cultural and artistic practice, examining how technology performs, and how new works of art and emerging or popular media practices engage with the performative nature of new technology. Our focus includes the performing arts but aims to encompass a broader spectrum of cultural activity, under-standing “new” and digital media as active performers, constitutive forces that shape and structure mediated information.

We seek papers that engage with new media, technology, and data on and off-stage—and we take a deliberately broad view of the meaning of “new media.” We aim to examine both artistic works and more quotidian practices across historical divides and across artistic boundaries, investigating the influence of new technologies on radical and traditional forms of performances—and parsing the porous boundaries between mediated art and mediated life.

Possible topics might include:

  • Technologies that serve as co-creators of live art onstage—and the artistic repercussions of technological successes or failures to “perform”.
  • The performances embedded within supposedly self-effacing structures like web archi-tectures, databases, user interfaces, and networks, among other sites.
  • Challenges to the digital-age periodization of “new” media.
  • Technological idiosyncrasies as generative sources of artistic material—glitches, bugs, static, noise, system failure or other accidents. 
  • The influence of digital-age technologies on works that do not overtly incorporate the apparatus of new media.
  • The influence of technological “performers” on acting technique. 
  • The rendering of performances of identity or affect into data
  • Ways in which digital technology has influenced not only avant-garde or experimental artists, but also more mainstream or conventional forms.

We aim to convene a session structured around brief presentations from small groups of participants with ample time for discussion. We anticipate constructing concentric circles of attention: after papers are pre-circulated to the entire working group, we will assign members to smaller sub-groups based on topic. Each sub-group will be asked to convene before our working session to prepare a brief presentation about its members’ papers and about themes and questions that the papers raise in conversation with each other. We an-ticipate devoting approximately half of our session to presentations and to an exchange of ideas among the working session members, and then to move to an open format with am-ple participation from our spectators.

Please send a 250-word abstract and a brief bio to the conveners at, no later than June 1, 2014.

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Theorizing Around the Human: Medieval Performance Practice and Practice-Based Research

Conveners: Lofton L. Durham (Western Michigan University) and Jacqueline Jenkins (University of Calgary)

In the thousand-year period known as the Middle Ages, performance was the dominant mode of cultural communication, serving as a means through which communities articulated their beliefs, celebrated their histories, promoted their power, and often escaped their realities. In the context of medieval performance history, this working session will consider the wide range of non-human factors/elements implicit in medieval theatre practices, as well as the special problems presented by theorizing performance based on documents alone. Thus, we seek contributions of short scholarly papers that actively work to de-center the human as actor, author, or agent of production. Further, we invite papers that attempt to theorize knowledge about performance through practice-based research. We envision this work occurring in two parts: a roundtable, where papers are shared and discussed; and a workshop, where theories about performance may be tested in a laboratory setting. 

Some possible paper topics:

  • histories of non-humans in performance, such as puppetry, automata, etc.
  • non-representational acting practices and medieval performance, for instance mumming, or pageantry
  • non-human roles in medieval drama, for instance supernatural, animal, or material ‘characters’
  • material practice and medieval performance histories
  • sound, speech and/or language in medieval performance
  • space and/or spatial studies of medieval performance 
  • props and staging, for instance in the context of reconstructive critical work
  • engagement with fragmentary or ambiguous evidence and methods for revealing traces of performance practice
  • a focus on manuscripts, specifically in the form of non-dramatic literature and medieval performance practices

This is an on-going working group focused on Medieval Performance. In 2013, we introduced a two-part session: the session included a performance workshop focused on a set of short texts and a separate roundtable for discussion of the individual papers and the results of the workshop. This double-session format, though highly unusual for the ASTR conference, proved to be of crucial use to the scholars involved, allowing multidimensional engagement with the critical and historiographical issues at the heart of the newest work in medieval performance studies. We are again deploying a double session at the 2014 conference: participants will meet first for a practical performance workshop (two-hour session) of one or more short medieval texts (as proposed by individual group members), allowing the workshop to operate as an experimental laboratory that may extend and enrich the roundtable discussion framed by the papers; in addition to, and sometime following the workshop, the participants will meet for a two-hour roundtable session to discuss the group's papers. 

Please send an abstract of 300 words describing both your proposed paper and your proposed use of the performance workshop, if appropriate. Include as many specifics as you can—possible texts, exercises, goals, methods, etc. Please ensure that your proposal describes the role Practice-based Research could play in the development of your argument. Send the abstract by June 1 to both co-conveners: and All those who submit an abstract will be notified by June 15. Completed papers (of 8 to 10 double-spaced pages) will be due by September 15 for circulation and discussion.

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Time as Actor: ‘Temporal Turns’ in Theatre & Performance

Conveners: Amy Holzapfel (Williams College) and John Muse (University of Chicago)

This session invites participants to consider time as an agent in theatrical and other performances. How does time perform? Recent scholarship across fields has identified a temporal turn following close on the heels of other major critical shifts, such as the spatial turn and social turn. How might we theorize a temporal turn emergent within performance and theatre studies? Relating to ASTR’s conference theme of posthumanism, participants in this working session might consider the ways performance genres allow time to act in medium-specific ways, or think about what the arrangement of time in theater and performance clarifies about the nature of time in general. We offer the following questions as cues for expansive thinking about time’s many roles:

  • Form: What varieties of recognition, Aristotelian or non-cathartic, does theatrical time purvey? How long does it take to produce an experience of recognition or empathy in theatre or performance? What work is accomplished by pace, rhythm, syncopation, elision, abridgement, dilation, and duration? When does time become most visible, and when, if ever, does it vanish from the scene?
  • Affect: Time can be the agent of profound estrangement or the very fabric of the familiar. What is “real time,” and how do we recognize it? How does duration inflect the quality of experience? How does time work to affect us and, conversely, how do we affect time? 
  • Media Landscape: How is the pace of theatrical reception in a given historical moment related to the pace of other media, such as film, photography, installation, or painting? When does theatrical time coddle and distract our attention, and when does it exercise and strengthen it? 
  • Politics and Society: What does it mean for theatrical or performative time to be “disposable” (Marx) or, alternatively, “valuable”? What is the relationship between performative labor and time? What makes performed time shallow or deep? Is there such a thing as “time-specificity” (in contrast to “site-specificity”)? What would a theatre of “non-time” (Crary, 24/7, 2013) look like? Do alternative temporalities—queer, racial, gendered, or otherwise—undermine or exacerbate normative or neoliberal models of time and to what ends? 

Our seminar format has the advantage of being relatively familiar to ASTR members while offering structured conversation during the working session itself and short summaries from each subgroup to give auditors some sense of the papers. 

Accepted participants will share 8-10 page papers with the entire seminar by Nov 2 to provide time for preconference reading and discussion. We will divide the papers into three or four subgroups according to topics that emerge. The members of each subgroup will read their group’s papers closely and engage in email discussion before the conference (cc’ing the conveners), drawing parallels among the papers and organizing their presentation. At the session, each subgroup will give a ten-minute presentation including a 1-minute peer summary of each paper, a summary of the online discussion, and a discussion question for the seminar. A discussion period of 15-20 minutes (depending on the number of groups) will follow each presentation. In the final 15-20 minutes of the two-hour block, the conversation will be opened to auditors. 

Interested participants should, by June 1, submit to the session’s co-leaders via email ( and the following: your name, institutional affiliation, and both the title and a 300-word abstract of a paper suited to the interests of this working group. 

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Traumatic Structures

Conveners: Mary Karen Dahl (Florida State University) and Jeff Paden (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. French philosopher Simone Weil writes that when force is “Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse of him [...] it turns man into a stone.” Elaine Scarry in The Body in Pain configures this transformation as the “unmaking” of the body and the world. Survivors of torture confirm their theories: to take just one example, Jean Améry reports that under torture the ability to use language or call on philosophical remedies vanishes. In other words, when attempting to consider performance outside the category of “human,” how might a performance of violence make or unmake the body as human, might turn a subject into an object. The concomitant question, then, is how do objects or spaces perform violence? 

Addressing the conference theme for 2014, the Traumatic Structures Working Group will seek proposals that consider the question “What Performs?” as an invitation to examine para-theatrical genres (memorials, heritage sites, museums), artifacts (objects, documents, weapons) as well as stagings that exploit physical objects to perform force in its effects on the human. 

  1. How might objects give voice to or impose silence on a violated subject? How might scriptive things prescribe violent behaviors or performances? 
  2. How might the staging of objects bolster or contest particular narratives, histories, or memories? 
  3. How might theatrical or non-theatrical performances articulate or represent the subject/object dichotomy inherent in Agamben’s bare life? 
  4. How might non-theatrical performance spaces help to memorialize, work through, or even remake subjectivity? 
  5. What ethical considerations arise in representing objects and configuring spaces?
  6. What might approaches based in non-western, non-Freudian, paradigms of trauma contribute to understandings of the subject-object relationship? 

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. The group collectively constructs the agenda for our 3-hour face-to-face discussion. The group may visit memorial sites in Baltimore in advance of our session. 

Final decisions will be made and participants notified in mid-June. ASTR guidelines ask that individuals apply to only one working session. All participants will need to be members of ASTR. 

Please send 300-word abstract and brief professional bio to both Mary Karen Dahl ( and Jeff Paden ( by June 1, 2014.

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Trusting Theatre, Experiencing Science: Intersections between Performance and Science

Conveners: Kati Sweaney (Northwestern University) and Aileen Robinson (Northwestern University)

Questions of authority and trust, legibility and legitimacy form the basis of this working session for ASTR 2014. What different types of authority are theatre and science perceived to possess? Scientific practice and theatrical experience are often conjoined in public presentation and conferences, from SciArt conferences to TED talks. A merger of scientific knowledge and theatrical presentation, these performances attempt to provide a multi-sensory experience for knowledge production and presentation. The theatrical element often becomes codified as a backdrop to science communication. However, as theatre scholars affirm, theatrical practice carries its own backdrops, perspectives, and knowledges that challenge the easy assumptions of scientific authority. Conversely, theatrical presentations of science—from science plays to 19th century magic spectaculars—invoke science as a generalized metaphor rather than a precise means of making and understanding knowledge. This working session thus invites scholars using diverse interpretations and methodologies to consider the complicated relationship between these two forms of knowledge making. Some guiding questions might be:

  • How is knowledge delivered and structured within the theatrical event? How is knowledge delivered and structured through scientific convention? 
  • What are the relationships between performance venue, theatrical presentation, and scientific practice?
  • What kinds of authority and trust are cultivated within scientific performance in both historical and contemporary performance?
  • What kinds of scientific “backdrops” attend performances and productions of theatre practice? (For instance, social Darwinism and psychoanalysis in relationship to the development of nineteenth-century naturalism and realism.)
  • How can historians of science and theatre mutually broaden each other’s understanding of their fields?
  • Who or what performs in scientific and theatrical presentations? Objects, concepts, people, specimens, research subjects? 

Topics might include:

  • Scientific and Theatrical Performance Spaces
  • Medicine and Bioethics
  • Pedagogy and Performance
  • Contemporary and Historical Science Communication
  • Technological Objects in Performance
  • Scientific and Theatrical Aesthetics 

Participants will submit a 10-12 (2,500-3,000 words) page draft of their paper due in late October to the conveners. A bibliography will be circulated between participants during the summer. Before the ASTR conference, participants will be divided into small groups where they will read each other papers within an online forum. Major edits and commentary will be discussed during the working session itself.

We invite 500-word proposals that include an abstract for your ASTR paper submission as well as a brief description of your current work. Please include full contact information and organizational affiliation (if any) on both your proposal and your email – and send your proposal to both conveners ( and by June 1, 2014.

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“vestida de ___” - Costumes as Dramatic Agents in Plays from the Spanish Golden Age

Conveners: Susan Paun de García (Denison University), Ben Gunter (Florida State University), and Melissa Figueroa (Cornell University)

Join a team taking a groundbreaking journey into the seamy side of classical Spanish theater. Participate in creating a provocative study of clothing’s role in building the largest body of dramatic literature known to history.

In great plays from the Spanish Golden Age (c. 1580-1680), costumes can take on lives of their own. All by themselves, gowns establish identity, breeches bend gender, and capes create a whole genre of playmaking called “comedias de capa y espada” [plays about capes and swords]. What can research reveal about costuming’s role in Spanish comedia nueva? How can this research uncover new approaches to teaching, staging, and critiquing the largest script library known to history?

This working session gives you golden opportunities to investigate how costumes displace and critique human presence in Spanish comedia nueva, as three multidisciplinary teams made up of theater scholars, practitioners, modern language experts, and collection curators explore three target plays, tailor-made for this research:

  1. Guillén de Castro’s La fuerza de costumbre (c. 1615), where high heels, long skirts, and a glove hurled from a balcony tell the story of a brother and sister who were separated at birth, raised cross-gender, then reunited on the verge of adulthood.
  2. Tirso de Molina’s Don Gil de las calzas verdes (c. 1615), where a singular green suit creates a character who doesn’t exist, then proceeds to build such a reputation for making its wearer irresistible that by the climax of the play, four different characters are wearing copies of that suit onstage, simultaneously.
  3. Franciso de Quevedo’s La ropavejera, where a secondhand costume store doubles as the site for a surreal exchange of body parts, an ironic twist on the notion that clothes make the character.

In 2013, La fuerza de costumbre premiered in English as The Force of Habit at Gonzaga University, while Don Gil de las calzas verdes appeared in a new translation for professional rep at the Theatre Royal Bath. Both plays stand on the cutting edge of new research into production histories and visual archives. Quevedo’s one-act is not yet available in English, so one team in the working session will produce a collaborative first translation of La ropavejera. 

The session will have its work cut out to suit three teams, each team led by an experienced senior scholar, and taking one target play as its primary focus. Using a wiki space to collaborate, team members will follow this research pattern:

  • You’ll read a target play closely, in English and/or in Spanish, and collaboratively analyze costumes’ contributions to the play’s dramaturgy on the session’s wiki (June-July).
  • You’ll collectively investigate costumes’ role in the production history of your team’s target play and cooperatively explore visual archives of period dress (August-September).
  • You’ll discuss costuming’s role in performance and reception of a target play, post research findings on the session’s wiki, and respond to others’ postings (September-October). 
  • And you’ll participate in presenting team reports at the conference, featuring applications for using your findings in class, onstage, and for further research (November).

To sew up a spot for yourself in this investigation, please send a 350-word statement of interest and a 150-word biographical sketch as MS Word attachments to by June 1, 2014. In the statement of interest, tell us what attracts you to this session; in the biographical sketch, tell us about some skills you bring to building a team research project. No prior experience necessary. Newcomers to the field of classical Spanish theater warmly welcome.

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What Performs in Postdramatic Theater?

Conveners: Michael Shane Boyle (Stanford University), Matt Cornish (Ohio University), and Brandon Woolf (University of California, Berkeley)

Building on the discussions that “Debating Postdramatic Theater” began at ASTR in Dallas, this year’s working session will explore how the institutional pressures, aesthetic prerogatives, and labor practices of postdramatic theater decenter the human in performance. If postdramatic theater, as this group considered last year, involves a move away from drama as the anchoring element of theater, in what ways does the concept of the postdramatic reconfigure not only what gets performed, but also who or what does the performing? 

How do what Hans-Thies Lehmann calls the "aspects" of postdramatic theater—text, space, time, body, media—perform differently (and the same) in postdramatic theater than in other forms of performance? Can text, space, time, or media be said to be the “actors”? What forms of performing—of acting, of moving, of speaking, of laboring—does postdramatic theater demand of its participants? And how might postdramatic theater require alternative modes not only of performing, but also of spectatorship and participation?

Papers could consider how the “what,” “who,” and “how” of performance help us to think about institutions and modes of organizing those institutions, as well about the spaces of performance, particularly public spaces. Can the tools, methodologies, and vocabularies of postdramatic theater provide us with new modes for understanding the ways spaces, organizations, and institutions both perform and are performed? Can one speak about postdramatic spaces or postdramatic institutions? What does/could a postdramatic space or institution look like

Within the performance itself, does postdramatic theater create non-human-centered models of historiography and playwriting? If so, what are those models? What takes the center, if not the human? Do such models help us to broaden our understanding of the historiographic possibilities of performance, and also of historiography writ large?

In addition to papers that explore what performs in postdramatic theater, we welcome proposals that approach the postdramatic in literature, dance, music, and visual art (and the spaces between), as well as those that pressure the very usefulness of the postdramatic as a descriptive or critical theory of performance.

To ground the discussions of the working group and seminar in a shared vocabulary, participants will read excerpts from Hans-Thies Lehmann’s Postdramatic Theater and William Worthen’s Drama: Between Poetry and Performance, as well as selections from the new essay collection Postdramatic Theatre and the Politicalduring the summer. 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 the rest of the 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 to the group as a whole. The session itself will consist of three breakout conversations and one 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. After 30 minutes, participants will be placed in new breakout groups and presented with another set of questions. We will repeat this process once more before reconvening for a structured concluding discussion as an entire group. This will include time for reflection, discussion of future research and collaboration opportunities, and questions from observers.

To apply for this session, please send a 250-300 word abstract of a working paper and a short bio to the working group’s organizers: Shane Boyle (, Matt Cornish (, and Brandon Woolf ( Proposals are due by June 1, 2014.

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