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2015 State of the Profession
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State of the Profession: Town Hall Meeting—What Stakes? What Futures?

5 November | 4:45-6:45pm

Traditionally, the State of the Profession panel has provided a place within the ASTR annual conference where larger questions can be asked about our discipline, its organizations and institutions. This year, we posed some central questions arising from the conference theme to leading figures in five key areas. We wanted to share these questions with participants ahead of the conference so they could think about them in advance and join in a dynamic conference-wide discussion on the occasion of the State of the Profession panel.

We asked each participant to make an opening statement of about 15-20 minutes that responded to the following prompts as a way to culture a ‘town-hall’ meeting exchange between the membership and the panelists.

  1. The Professional Organization (ASTR): What are the legitimate and justified kinds of policy decisions ASTR can take to intervene directly in national/international situations? What are the constraints (if any) on an organization like ASTR as a political agent? What pressing issues face the organization going forward that might require it to take a stand?
    PRESIDENT-ELECT DAPHNE LEI (University of California Irvine)

  2. The Academy (Disciplinary formations, schools, departments): In the North American context, how central are commitments to the notions of neutrality, inclusivity and balance to the mission of Higher Education, and how might those commitments cultivate and/or discourage what we might consider to be genuinely visionary, progressive or radical educational programs in theatre and performance studies? Are there visionary or progressive actions have been taken at institutional or programmatic levels that might serve as models for the profession more generally? In a time of neoliberal conservatism, what should our commitment be to cultivating ‘radical’ scholarship and progressive training among this and the next generation of theatre and performance studies scholars?
    SUE-ELLEN CASE (University of California Los Angeles)

  3. The Public Sphere: What should we demand and expect from cultural critics and other spokespersons with regard to raising public awareness and generating debate in the public sphere about the arts, education and culture? What should they expect and demand from us and from the public more generally? What have been the key issues of the last decade linking theatre and performance to the public sphere? What are future or emerging issues worthy of public engagement that involve our discipline?
    ALISA SOLOMON (Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism)

  4. The Professional Theatre: What does it mean today for a North American regional theatre to maintain a commitment to progressive programming? How activist can theatre companies be today, and, more importantly, how does that activism differ from theatre activism from previous periods? What examples of engaged interventions do we see in theatre organizations today that point us in directions that we would be wise to follow? What kind of leadership does this require? In the future, what does the face of theatre activism look like? What challenges are professional theatres likely to encounter in the years to come and how must they prepare themselves in order to continue to be able to make viable contributions?
    ALISON CAREY (Director, American Revolutions Project, Oregon Shakespeare Festival)

  5. Museums and Libraries: Given the evolving structures of museums and libraries in terms of budgets, digital technologies, indeed the very act of documentation itself, how can curators and archivists intervene to shape public memory and access to documents and artifacts important to national or international constituencies? What exemplary best practices can be described? Are there constraints on what libraries or museums can do by way of advocacy or interventions?
    CECILIA O’LEARY (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and California State University, Monterey Bay)
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