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2016 Annual Conference
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2016 ASTR-TLA Annual Conference

60th Anniversary: Trans-
Minneapolis Marriott City Center | Minneapolis, Minnesota| November 3–6, 2016

Theatre and Performance have always been concerned with questions of crossing and questions of mobility. Astride of a grave, as the late Herbert Blau reminded us, theatre takes place across the abyss that separates the dead from the living. The OED defines trans- as “across, through, over, to, or on the other side of, beyond, outside of, from one place, person, thing, or state to another.” From Rosi Braidotti’s “transpositions” to an increased focus on transgender politics and representation—what Time Magazine termed “The Transgender Tipping Point”—the prefix trans is ubiquitous today. Susan Stryker suggests that these changes are in part due to contemporary shifting understandings of the question of representation itself. “For the generation that’s grown up amid the turn-of-the-century digital media and telecommunications revolution, transgender often just makes sense intuitively.” (2008:26-8)

Transgender politics offer a number of challenges to the queer studies paradigms that have been so crucial within theatre and performance studies for the past thirty years, yet theatre itself is fundamentally invested in ideas of across-ness and transition. From the Greek origins of Western theatre, in Dionysus and Tiresias, the theatre offers possibilities that might be read provocatively through contemporary explorations of transgenderism. Trans-figuration, trans-gression, translation, trans-formation—these are all terms that have been explored repeatedly within theatre and performance, as well as critically examined in theatre and performance studies. What might our disciplines stand to gain by an explicit focus on this prefix? Theatrical practice is always already transdisciplinary as well, crossing and merging arts, sciences, technology, and music in the questions of presentation and representation.

Our field itself is marked today, over thirty years after the dawn of Performance Studies, as a hybridized discipline. It is arguably no longer possible, or indeed desirable, to demarcate lines between drama, theatre and performance as fields of study. Indeed, if the advent of Performance Studies was at a moment about the shaping of interdisciplines, then are we now in a moment of transdisciplinarity? Is there a difference perhaps worth engaging—between the advent of inter and a now of trans-? If figures such as Tiresias were to be read as intersex rather than transgender—the change decided and rendered by disciplinary structures of power, then how might such a differentiation move more broadly across questions of power and representation? For Thornton Wilder, theatre was the eternal present, a focus on re-presentations of pasts, presents, and futures. Theatre’s engagement with history is always already a trans-historical project, crossing between a then and a now, evoking history in the moment. How does the notion of trans- thinking challenge and/or enrich ideas of theatre historiography?

How might a focus on ideas of trans- stimulate and enrich ongoing debates and discussions of subjectivity? Trans- as a prefix perhaps signifies a blending, while it recognizes the complexities of such interweavings and raises questions about historical desires to unravel or untangle. Such ideas both speak to a centrality of performance in a broader context and open questions within our discipline.

ASTR 2016 seeked to open and address these provocative questions.

ASTR 2016 took place immediately after the U.S. presidential election, in a political cycle of transition. As we faced both local and global change in the transformative, trans-national moments of this decade, we turned the focus to this powerful prefix, exploring theatre's power to transport and transfigure.

Plenary Papers, Working Sessions, and Curated Panels addressed questions of:

  • Transgender politics and performance
  • The possibilities of transgressive politics in theatre and performance
  • Acts of transfer
  • Transportation, mobility and performance
  • Transracial subjectivity and relations to notions of mestizaje and posthumanism
  • Theatre and Transversality
  • Transoceanic performance practices
  • Theatre in moments of transition
  • Transfiguring theatre/transfigurations within the theatre
  • Trans-species explorations within performance contexts
  • Theatre as trans-action
  • Trans-national capital and neoliberalism
  • Translations and Transfigurations

2016 Conference Program Chairs

Jennifer Parker-Starbuck, University of Roehampton
Joshua Abrams, University of Roehampton

Questions about the conference? Email the program chairs at

2016 Conference Program Committee

Jill Stevenson, Marymount Manhattan College, ex officio
Joshua Bastian Cole, Cornell University
Anita Gonzalez, University of Michigan
Sharon Mazer, Auckland University of Technology
Sean Metzger, University of California, Los Angeles
Ariel Osterweis, Skidmore College
Sonali Pahwa, University of Minnesota
Yumi Pak, California State University San Bernardino
Yassi Jahanmir, University of California, Santa Barbara (GSC rep)
Beth Kattleman, Ohio State University (TLA rep)
Lisa Jackson-Schebetta, University of Pittsburgh (Committee on Conferences Rep)
Bess Rowen, The Graduate Center-CUNY (Committee on Conferences Rep)

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