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Working Sessions - 2019 Annual Conference
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ASTR/TLA 2019 Annual Conference - Theatre's Many Publics

Working Sessions

Terms & Conditions

Please be aware of our terms and conditions before you submit your working session proposal.

  1. Please be sure to read all submission instructions provided on each submission portal page, as there are some changes in how the program chairs would like your documents formatted. In addition, please make sure to review the annual conference participation guidelines outlined on the website at
  2. The submission information you provide will be distributed amongst the 2019 Program Chairs and working session leaders for evaluation, selection, and communication use only.
  3. ASTR will not pay any fees or reimburse you for any expenses related to the presentation, lodging accommodations or travel.
  4. ASTR will not waive any registration fees or provide any discounts as a working session participant AND it is your responsibility to register as an attendee and pay the dues based on your membership.

The deadline for all Working Session submissions has passed. General questions about the selection process, timeline, and conference may be directed to the 2019 Program Chairs at Specific questions about a working session should be emailed directly to the convenors.

Arab Publics/ Public Arabs: Theatre at Home and in the Diaspora

George Potter, Valparaiso University, george.potter[at]
Hala Baki, University of California, Santa Barbara, halabaki[at]
Misha Hadar, University of Minnesota, hadar004[at]

Over the past two years, we have convened a working group that focused on aspects of Arab theatre and the representation of Arabs in theatre in the world today. The group served as a necessary call for engagement given the underrepresentation of Arab theatre in our field, as well as a response to that underrepresentation.

In this working session, the conveners seek to gather national scholars of Arab and Arab diaspora theatre and performance at different career levels. Additionally, due to our association with the IFTR Arabic Theatre Working Group, we expect increased cross-pollination of international scholars as in previous years. We aim to foster discussion that addresses current issues of the representation and cultural production of Arabs around the world, as well as the relationship between Arab theatre, Arab publics, and the publicly contested construction of Arabness. By seeking the participation of native and non-native experts, as well as scholars who wish to develop their expertise, the conveners hope to create a community that holds itself accountable for the fair representation of precarious subjects in performance and theatre scholarship.

In the lead-up to Arlington, participants will share their papers in two rounds of focus groups based on the themes arising from the proposed essays. These conversations will set the ground for the for discussions with the larger group during the conference. We expect early submissions to take place in order to increase engagement and substantive discussion prior to the conference. Previous participants have told us that participation in small groups for sharing writing and discussion has been beneficial in helping them develop their scholarship and scholarly identity, as well as in allowing them to ask questions and explore issues of concern to scholars of Arab and Arab diaspora theatre.

In addition to focusing on individual scholarly contributions, this year we would also like to expand our work to examining common readings and questions, including new scholarship on the construction of Arab publics through satellite and digital media and how this relates to the work of theatre scholars (Ayish, 2008; Lynch, 2012). Additionally, we are interested in how conceptions of non-Arab theatre publics might speak to the particularities of our own work. We hope to develop this conversation beginning with an online forum with past working group members in June, followed by continued conversation among 2019 participants in small focus groups, and a broader conversation at the working group session in Arlington.

Potential participants should submit 250- to 400-word abstracts. Broadly, topics may include issues of race, representation, method, theory, identity, and mixed identities. We also invite disciplinary critiques in the areas of performance, theatre, criticism, literature, and anthropology. In addition, we encourage submissions by new scholars in the field as well as submissions of works in progress. Examples of potential investigations may include:

  • Plurality and multiplicity in Arab publics
  • Relation of public and private
  • (Theatrical) Public sphere vs. public space
  • Media and technology mediating Arab and Muslim publicness
  • Creating and engaging audiences
  • Local and global networks
  • Dislocation, migration, deterritorialization and circulation of community and identity
  • Arab political and social subjects
  • Arab activism in/as performance
  • Performing “Arab” and performing Arabs
  • Citizen-scholarship in Arab theater studies
  • Historical shifts in academic fields re: theater / performance / Arabs
  • Arab as a contested public “figure” (in protest, in performance, in the imagination)
  • Theatrical institutions and the formation of Arab identity

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners George Potter (george.potter[at], Hala Baki (halabaki[at], and Misha Hadar (hadar004[at]

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Artists as Producers: Politics, Aesthetics, Institutions in the 21st Century

Minou Arjomand, University of Texas at Austin, arjomand[at]
Jason Fitzgerald, University of Pittsburgh, jaf213[at]

Whom is art really for, and whom does it serve? In the second decade of the twenty-first century, when seemingly all the means of art’s production—its materials, its institutions, its circuits of distribution, its publics—are riven with financial dispossession and collusion with or indifference to the darkest political forces, is it worthwhile to argue that art can be an agent of utopian, anti-capitalist transformation? These questions, which sit at the heart of debates about contemporary art and its publics, are the subject of two new books about politics and the art world: Hito Steyerl’s Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War and Yates McKee’s Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition.

We will be chiefly concerned with the following questions: How do recent achievements and institutional realities of the world of theatre, including theatre that takes place within a traditional proscenium stage, demand a reconsideration of Steyerl’s and McKee’s arguments? Conversely, how do their claims force us to re-evaluate the state of performance today, both within and outside the U.S.? And, speaking directly to the conference theme, how does reconceiving theatre publics as art publics shift how we think about the politics of both? Subtopics that might emerge include:

  • the political economy of theatrical institutions since the 2008 financial crash
  • how theatre and performance have transformed in the wake of the Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and environmental justice movements, among others
  • the relation between contemporary theatre and neo-fascisms across the globe
  • the possibility and desirability of aesthetic “autonomy” for contemporary theatre and performance
  • the way disciplinary distinctions between the theatre and art worlds play out in the creation, circulation, and critical reception of new work
  • the role of theatre and theatricality (as object or as metaphor) in Steyerl’s and/or McKee’s arguments

In anticipation of the working session, all participants will be asked to submit no later than October 15 a short response (approx. 500-750 words) to the readings designed to provoke group discussion. Each response should include at least one “exhibit” of a work, performance, action, or event that speaks to the two books. Participants will also submit an annotated bibliography of two additional texts that they find speak to the themes of the books and panel. Potential participants should submit a 250-word statement of interest in the themes (you need not have already read the books under discussion) and CV.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Jason Fitzgerald (jaf213[at] and Minou Arjomand (arjomand[at]

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Casting as Public Practice: Representation, Identity, and Agency

Justine Nakase, Independent Scholar, jnakase[at]
Lawrence Smith, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, ldsmith11[at]

Responding to the conference theme of “Theatre’s Many Publics,” this working group will investigate how casting and its surrounding practices shape and inform the meanings of performances for audiences comprised of discrete publics. Discourses around casting are as old as performance itself, from the many gendered restrictions of historical world theatres to renewed debates around Hollywood “whitewashing.” Casting is also simultaneously an artistic and economic practice, speaking to matters of “representation” on many levels. An actor is asked to represent a character through moments of mimesis, but may also be identified as a member of a group in ways that speak to type or stereotype, social constructs such as raced or gendered identities, or demands of verisimilitude—a representative in a political sense. How are these multi-layered aspects of representation navigated in the moment of performance, both by the performer and by the production? How does the performer’s body speak to or against the fictional framework of the performance, and are there ways that we as actors, directors, dramaturgs, or theatre scholars can curate or direct audience perception? This working group therefore proposes both a theoretical and practical exploration of how approaches to casting can shift, challenge, inform, or provoke theatre’s many publics in their attitudes or understandings towards underrepresented bodies.

We invite proposals from both researchers and theatre practitioners interested in issues of casting and identity, particularly construction of race and its intersections with ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class. Proposals might address (though are not limited to) the following questions:

  • How can casting act as an intervention in the politics of performance? What should be the aims, intentions, or best practices of inclusive casting?
  • How do differing publics interpret bodies in moments of performance along lines of race, gender, sexuality, ability, or other identity markers?
  • What meanings do these publics attribute to these bodies, and how do those meanings then impact the framework of the performance itself?
  • What are the ethical, pedagogical, and dramaturgical issues that attend the engagement with these audiences and with these performing bodies?
  • What interventions—within or around the moment of performance—best guide audience reception or public perceptions of diverse bodies in performance?

This session particularly seeks to apply the theoretical to the practical by welcoming not only traditional position papers, but also by encouraging the submission of pedagogical, dramaturgical, or practical responses to the topic. These may include, but are not limited to, program notes, practice-as-research projects or presentations, outlines or descriptions of outreach initiatives, marketing strategies, public workshop content, and rehearsal notes.

Potential participants should submit abstracts of 300 words, maximum, with an expectation of an 8- to 10-page paper (or project summary) to be submitted to the group by October 1, 2019. Papers will be circulated and discussed on-line in the interval until November 1. Participants will then submit their own entailments of common issues between the papers, key points of agreement or disagreement, and questions. The conveners will draw on these to construct an agenda built for discussion at the ASTR conference.

The Working Session in Arlington will include brief summaries by each member on their topic and then a guided discussion of the issues and questions from the agenda. An open forum Q & A with the attending public(s) will then follow. Time will be reserved for a concluding segment in which to propose and consider viable “next steps” based on the efforts of this Working Session (e.g. a best practices document for dramaturgs, directors, and casting directors; potential publications).

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Justine Nakase (jnakase[at] and Lawrence Smith (ldsmith11[at]

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Disidentifying Borders: Coalitional Futurity and Migration (Muñoz)

Hilary Cooperman, Rollins College, hcooperman[at]
Dominika Laster, University of New Mexico, dlaster[at]

Queer and feminist migration studies scholars, activists, and artists have offered brilliant insights into the im/mobilities of bodies across borders, techniques of control and surveillance, systemic analyses of war, genocide, globalization, as well as other processes that require and produce im/mobility and displacement. As much as these traditions have advanced important critiques and strategies, this working group invites activists, artists, and scholars into a series of difficult conversations to put pressure on queer and feminist migration analyses in order to forge coalitional modalities of resistance.

This José Esteban Muñoz Targeted Research Working Session brings together scholars, activists, and artists with similarly positioned but often segregated activist and academic fields of inquiry, namely Indigenous sovereignties, prison abolitionism, and Palestinian-led transnational activisms against the Israeli occupation. Following in the footsteps of Muñoz, we seek to amplify minoritarian knowledge in the form of queer, transgender, and two-spirit migrant and Indigenous activist-scholars in order to offer direct refutations to the various hegemonic orders that produce borders, nation-states, and colonial order.

Our intention is to elicit difficult, but necessary, conversations on how to build coalitions across these diverse lines of activism. For example, Indigenous sovereignties offer necessary disruptions to anti-border, pro-migration politics; prison abolitionisms create intersectional and utopian political visions of justice; and Palestinian activisms bring strategic im/mobilities (such as BDS) against oppressive regimes.

By bringing together scholars and practitioners invested in these topics, our goals are three-fold: to configure theoretical analyses as to how processes of globalization, slavery and racial capitalism, settler colonialism, and white supremacist (trans)nationalisms converge and diverge to create systems of violence and overlapping systems of control; to share and examine the diverse strategies of resistance; and to configure coalitional activist strategies to disrupt these operations and create coalitional futurities.

In order to bring an embodied approach to coalitional futurity, the session conveners will invite an artist-activist to present work and engage with us in the goals of the working group, encouraging the meaningful interplay of theory and practice. In the first part of the session, the invited artist will present their work and discuss it with our working group. In the second part, group members will present brief position papers that emerge from shared reading and focused discussion questions proposed by the conveners. In the final hour, we will engage in focused dialogue between the invited artist and the audience moderated by the conveners.

Each year the working group will focus on a distinctive but related theme (Sovereignty, Abolitions, Utopias), broad enough to create coalitional conversations, but narrow enough to provide structure to the working group sessions. This year, we invite applications from those interested in joining us as we investigate and think through the relationship between borders, Indigenous sovereignties, and migration. Some questions include:

  • How might a combination of performance studies theory, feminist and queer migration studies, critical Indigenous studies—as well as other disciplines—be brought to bear on questions of coalitional modalities of resistance?
  • What are some concrete examples of coalitional work across Indigenous and (im)migrant communities, and how are these manifested in aesthetic and activist practice?
  • How have quotidian and non-quotidian performances of belonging, citizenship, politics, and mobility offered critiques of nation-states, borders, colonialisms, imperialisms, and more?
  • How are Indigenous peoples and migrants positioned in ways that are oppositional, and how are their futurities aligned?
  • How are Indigenous peoples and migrants of color comparatively positioned via processes of racialization, gender, sexuality, and more?

Potential participants should submit a 250- to 500-word statement detailing how your current research engages with the questions and themes of the working group, as well as a brief bio.

For specific questions please contact the working group conveners Dominika Laster (dominika.laster[at] and Hillary Cooperman (hcooperman[at]

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East Asia in/and the Public

Tara Rodman, University of California, Irvine, rodmant[at]
Kayla Yuh, City University of New York, jhkayla[at]
So-Rim Lee, Columbia University, sl2179[at]

Who are the publics of East Asia? From the candlelight protests in South Korea rallying against President Park Geun-hye to the creation of queer public space at Taiwan’s Wei-Ming Temple, we can find across East Asia innumerable examples of Publics and Counterpublics as sites of community-building and political discourse. Thinking in line with Kuan-Hsing Chen and Nam Hee Lee, this working group asks participants to investigate ways in which experiences of modernity in East Asia have shaped the spaces and practices of the Public — not necessarily in contradistinction to “the West,” but as nuanced, imbricated histories. While we are often drawn to instances of minoritarian performative world-making, this year’s conference location outside of Washington D.C. also brings to mind performances of diplomacy, statecraft, war-making, and memorialization. Further, just as publics are created in the presence of physical bodies, we might also think of disembodied or imagined publics, such as online K-Pop fandom communities, or Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine for ‘its’ war dead. Contemplating the public as performance critically engages with the question, in turn, of what is private in East Asia. In public bath houses, the use of book covers, partitioned domestic spaces, and hidden dance halls, we see how both formal and quotidian performances invoke the private, even as publics are simultaneously called into being.

In this working session, we invite 8-10 page papers and works-in-progress that address issues of “Public” as community/-building and the site of political discourse. Some topics include:

  • Counterpublics
  • Performance as protest
  • Theater as worldbuilding
  • Public performances of the self
  • The body as public site
  • Prison performance
  • Alternative publics, broadly defined
  • East Asia as community (inter-Asian performances)
  • Performances of exile and displacement
  • Divisions between public and private

This is the fourth iteration of the Performing East Asia working group series in ASTR, having previously convened in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and San Diego for “Race and Performance in East Asia (2016),” “Extraordinary Bodies in/and East Asia (2017),” and “Between Orientalism and Orientation (2018).” As we did in the previous working groups, we will begin by sharing 1-2 reading materials to provide some shared points of entry for the participants to consider. Participants will circulate their essays about a month in advance on our blog dedicated to this working group (, and exchange initial responses to each other’s papers in preparation for our meeting. This year, taking a cue from a successful post-forum online chat we conducted with participants who could not make it to San Diego, we are planning on incorporating an online chat to maximize the collaboration among the participants.

Potential participants should submit an abstract of around 250 words, describing their paper and its connections to the working group’s theme.

For specific questions please contact working group conveners Tara Rodman (rodmant[at], Kayla Yuh (jhkayla[at], and So-Rim Lee (sl2179[at]

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Ecology & Performance Working Group

Ashley Chang, Yale School of Drama, ashley.chang[at]
Katie Schaag, Georgia Tech, kathleen.schaag[at]
Kelli Shermeyer, University of Virginia, kls8xz[at]
Clara Wilch, University of California Los Angeles, cwilch[at]

Responses to climate change often reveal a tension between individual and collective action that queries the boundaries of public and private. One of climate change’s wickedest aspects, writes Amitav Ghosh, is “that it may require us to abandon some of our most treasured ideas about political virtue: for example, ‘be the change you want to see.’ What we need instead is to find a way out of the individualizing imaginary in which we are trapped” (2016: 135). We envision our working group as an effort in this direction—a space to activate collective political and artistic imaginaries through collaborative knowledge generation, resource sharing, and strategic acts of creativity.

Beginning at ASTR 2005 and continuing at ASTR 2010, 2012, and 2014–2018, this working group is at the forefront of the emergent field of performance and ecology. In 2019, we will explore how ecologically conscious performance engages multiple publics in the face of accelerating climate change.

The Anthropocene/Capitalocene/Plantationocene/Chthulucene disrupts the very idea of publics, not only expanding the domain of the public beyond the category of the human (Jane Bennett, Timothy Morton, Donna Haraway, Mel Y. Chen), but also demanding urgent revisions to social and political theories of justice, law, and agency (Michael Warner, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney). This year’s session attempts to bridge these strands of critical theory by inviting participants to consider the many valences of ecological publics, from government policy and environmental activism to public performance and pedagogy to vibrant materialities and nonhuman assemblages.

Taking seriously Ghosh’s call to “find a way out of the individualizing imaginary in which we are trapped,” we seek to activate collective interventions in lieu of individual scholarship. Recalling the format of our meeting at ASTR 2017/Atlanta, this year’s session will forego traditional academic papers, asking participants instead to collaborate on brief theoretical and practice-based provocations. Materializing the conference theme, our session will create temporary micro-models of the kinds of publics that are needed to address the pressing concerns of climate change.

For their initial submission, potential participants should write a brief proposal (300 words) outlining:

  1. their broad research interests at the intersection of ecology, performance, and publics;
  2. their questions relating to these topics;
  3. their preference for a theory- or practice-based project; and
  4. the kind of collaborative experiment they would like to pursue.

Accepted participants will be grouped into focus areas loosely clustered around theory (e.g., critical schools and methodologies; histories and case studies; or performative writing and autotheory) or practice (e.g., embodied performance; pedagogy; or activism).

In advance of the conference, participants will share an expanded version (1-3 pages) of their initial proposal with their small groups; these individual statements might take the form of a manifesto, reflection, or extended query.

Next, small groups will brainstorm and create a provocation designed to open new ways of thinking and doing ecological publics. These provocations might take the shape of a set of questions for discussion, a devised performance, a methodology, a manifesto, a case study, a slideshow, a lesson plan, a zine, a thought experiment, a bibliography, a performance workshop, a syllabus, a political action, a soundscape, and so on.

When we meet in person, each small group will have 20 minutes to show their artifact, present a performance, facilitate discussion, or lead an embodied workshop. Following the conference, all materials and outcomes will be made publicly accessible online through the open-source platform Github.

In proposing this format, we hope to encourage models of scholarship that foreground collectivity over individuality. Our hope is also to cultivate a more intersectional research area, as our working group has historically created a space for underrepresented communities: adjunct and independent scholars, activists, artists, people of color, and folks from LGBTQ+, disability, and international communities.

Initial proposals should relate to one or more of the following themes:

  • Ecological publics; the nonhuman turn; posthumanism; animal studies; transspecies kinship
  • Political ecologies; new materialisms; actor-network theory; vibrant materialities
  • Biopower; necropolitics; racializing assemblages
  • Queer and trans ecologies; ecofeminisms; performativity of “nature” and artifice
  • Environmental justice; environmental racism; colonial violence; slow violence
  • Indigenous, postcolonial, and global environmental studies
  • Waste, garbage, and discard studies; oil pipelines and contaminated water; green energy and sustainability
  • Plastiglomerates and microplastics; toxicity, plasticity, and mutation
  • Publics and counterpublics; public and private spheres; participatory politics; direct democracy; performing publics
  • Citizenship and immigration; borders and boundaries; xenophobia and speciesism; nation-states and the body politic
  • Ecodramaturgy; social practice and relational aesthetics; site-specific performance and time-based art; community-engaged theatre; audiences as publics and publics as audiences.

For specific questions please contact working group conveners: Ashley Chang (ashley.chang[at], Kathleen Schaag (kathleen.schaag[at], Kelli Shermeyer (kls8xz[at], and Clara Wilch (cwilch[at]

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Gender, Sexuality, and Performance in Latin America and the Caribbean: From Marxist Masculinity to #MeToo and #NiUnaMenos

Katherine Zien, McGill University, katherine.zien[at]
Brenda Werth, American University, werth[at]

We are in a crucial moment across the Americas of using performance in the public sphere to mobilize action and raise consciousness of gender and sexuality justice. Embedded in international networks and buttressed by technologies of communication and transfer, movements such as #MeToo and #NiUnaMenos have emerged in tandem with changing human rights discourse, legislation and media ethics. In this working group, we seek to contextualize this recent explosion of gender and sexual rights activism, taking into account the deep, intersectional histories and practices that have given rise to current movements. Our working group welcomes papers on gender, sexuality, and performance in Latin America and the Caribbean, whether contemporary or historical.

Our goal is to survey current and emerging research on gender, sexuality and performance and provide feedback and connections for researchers addressing these topics. We seek to examine the long roots of current gender and sexual justice movements in Latin America and the Caribbean, and their intersections with theatre and performance. Recent gender and sexual equity activism in the Southern Cone, the Caribbean, and Central America has led to laws decriminalizing homosexuality, recognizing marriage equality, protecting women from gender violence, affirming transgender rights, and nearly legislating safe abortion, among other achievements. We seek to contextualize this explosion of gender and sexual rights activism within historical contexts of activism and resistance. Over the past 60-70 years, we have seen multiple instances of women and queer and trans people gaining representation as stakeholders. Additionally, as Diana Taylor’s groundbreaking research has shown, the gendered and sexual displays of Cold War politics in Latin America and the Caribbean are intertwined with performances - whether “disappearing acts,” “theatre(s) of crisis,” “bad scripts,” or spectacular modes and scenarios of performing gender and sexuality.

We invite essays that attend to the historicity of gender and sexual justice movements, as well as their rootedness in theatre and performance practices. We also welcome papers revisiting canonical primary and secondary material on gender, sexuality, and performance in light of current events. Possible topics include:

  • #NiUnaMenos and performance;
  • The Green Wave in Argentina;
  • Gendered aspects of torture under dictatorship;
  • Links between gender studies and memory studies in Latin America;
  • Latin American and Caribbean queer and trans justice and performance;
  • Historicization of human rights activism and gender in Latin America’s public sphere;
  • The hetero cismale militant intellectual in Latin America’s Cold War;
  • Digital activism and performance in queer and feminist movements;
  • Intersections between media, performance and gender violence

Our session will comprise clustered subgroups of essays (maximum 4000 words), in addition to an online forum. Approximately six weeks prior to the conference, each participant will submit an essay to the online forum. We will place participants in subgroups based on their essays. Subgroup participants will respond to each other’s essays, both in the forum and as a condensed “snapshot” at the conference. The forum will also allow participants access to submissions across subgroups.

At the 2019 ASTR conference, we will devote the first part of our session to offering feedback on the essays. The subgroup’s respondents will lead with condensed responses, followed by further observations from working group conveners and other participants. Feedback will highlight strengths and offer suggestions for improvement in methodology, theoretical framework, case studies, and related content. In the second half, working group members will construct links among the essays to ask larger questions across subgroups.

Potential participants should submit a 250- to 500-word abstract detailing how your project engages with the questions and themes of the working group, as well as a brief bio.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Katherine Zien (katherine.zien[at] and Brenda Werth (werth[at]

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Global Theatre's Many Publics: World Drama and Performance in the Undergraduate Curriculum

Glenn Odom, Roehampton University, London, glenn.odom[at]

Julia A. Walker, Washington University in St. Louis, jwalker28[at]

Efforts to internationalize the theatre and performance studies curriculum in the Western academy promise to richly enhance our understanding of a diverse array of cultures. New scholarship on African, Asian, Pacific-island, and South American performance cultures has begun to enlarge the Anglo-American and European canon of dramatic literature that remains firmly rooted in most undergraduate syllabi. Yet more needs to be done, especially since a merely additive approach tends to reinforce the Western assumptions underlying canonicity.

In this session, we propose a two-part conversation focused on expanding and revising the model of the canon that typically structures undergraduate survey courses and on reassessing the theories and methods of the pedagogy used to teach world drama. Participants are invited to submit a proposal for a 15-page paper that advocates for the inclusion of a play or performance text from an under-represented culture that offers an in-depth analysis of its cultural significance in the terms of its authorizing culture. (Please do not propose an analysis that uses a Western theoretical framework to explicate a non-Western play. We prefer analyses that are deeply informed by the writer’s knowledge of the practices and assumptions of the host culture.) The paper should make a lively argument for why the performance text is important both to the history of world theatre (and to a revised world drama syllabus) and to a humanistic understanding of the host culture. Such arguments will animate the first half of our discussion at the conference as we build a template for a revised—but always necessarily provisional—canon, or an alternative model of world drama appropriate to our globalized era.

After circulating papers among the group in early September, participants will also be asked to submit a 1-2-page lesson plan or pedagogical reflection essay in mid-October that discusses strategies for introducing their materials with sensitivity and effectiveness to English-language students in Western classrooms. Questions about what makes a performance text “representative” of its culture, whether and how to address “universal” meanings in relation to culturally-specific practices, and how the syllabus narrates an account of “the world” will inform our critical conversation in the second half of our meeting at the conference.

Potential participants should submit a 250-word paper proposal.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Glenn Odom (glenn.odom[at] and Julia A. Walker (jwalker28[at]

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Impacting Audiences: Methods for Studying Change

Matt Omasta, Utah State University, matt[at]
Dani Snyder-Young, Northeastern University, d.snyder-young[at]

Many activist, applied, and educational performance projects are created with the goal of shifting the perspectives of participants and/or audience members on a particular issue, and of late there has been much interest in understanding what embodied impacts performance events are having on their audiences. However, as Freshwater posited in 2009, "almost no one in theatre studies seems to be interested in exploring what actual audience members make of a performance," critiquing how scholars of spectatorship tend to privilege their own experiences of theatrical events and the published testimonies of critics.  Practitioner-focused audience studies within the theatre industry tend to rely on anonymous survey methodologies oriented toward the needs of marketing departments. Both of these approaches can fall short of helping artists and scholars understand the complexity of audience members' embodied responses to performance events.

Building on a highly productive working session on the topic held at ASTR's 2018 Forum, this session examines methods for studying the potential impact(s) of performances on audiences. We invite papers examining studies scholars have conducted that explore any aspects of the relationship(s) and / or interaction(s) between theatrical performances and audiences (historical or contemporary), with an emphasis on how methodological considerations influenced their studies. Papers should effectively integrate theory and empirical evidence derived from approaches including (but not limited to) archival, qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, performance as research, action research, and / or arts-based methodologies.

Specifically, scholars should discuss how the methods and methodologies they employed (including the theoretical and practical assumptions inherent to those methodologies) guided their inquiry, including how methodological assumptions and practices:

  • Helped scholars shape their studies' research questions.
  • Influenced how scholars collected and analyzed data.
  • Informed scholars' conclusions and warranted assertions.

We are in the process of developing a collection of edited essays on this topic, many of which emerged from our 2018 working session. We welcome scholars who are already developing essays for this collection as well as scholars developing essays on audience studies for other venues.

The session will generate robust conversation with a wide range of scholars about methods for studying audience impact. Our goals are to contribute to the literature on audience impact and to demonstrate the value (and limitations) of various theoretically grounded approaches to empirical research in theatre.

Session Format
Participants will distribute their papers to all members of the working group by September 15, 2019. All participants will read all papers in advance of the conference.

The conveners will pair participants based on their topics, backgrounds, and research specializations. Each pair will engage in substantive discussion (via e-mail, phone, Skype, etc.) of the two scholars' work prior to the conference.

Each pair will develop and send to the conveners a question inspired by their discussion that the entire working group might engage with productively. Of particular interest are questions related to how various studies and approaches to research speak to and inform each other.

At the conference, each pair will briefly summarize their discussion. The conveners will then lead the group through an exploration of the various questions pairs posed. The group will discuss how various methodologies affected, informed, enabled, and/or limited scholars throughout the research process, from conception to dissemination.

The conveners will allocate at least the final thirty minutes of the session to open dialogue with everyone attending the session, inviting attendees to engage in the discussion by asking questions and sharing their own ideas and impressions.

Instructions to Authors
Potential participants should submit a working title for your paper along with a 250-word abstract.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Matt Omasta (matt[at] and Dani Snyder-Young (young[at]

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Indigenous Research in the Americas: “You Shall Not Pass!” - Activating the Uncommon, the Irreconcilable, and the Indigenous in the Public Commons

Adron Farris, Independent Scholar
Jill Carter, University of Toronto
Jenn Cole, Trent University

The symbolic nature of Washington, D.C., with its picturesque lawns, parks and public spaces and its grandiose monoliths, monuments, and museums, is nothing short of a commemorative cityscape whence the rhythms and rhymes of patriotism and nationalism were born and thrust into the hearts and minds of US citizens—"from sea to shining sea.” For many, the city is a symbol of democracy—an eternal reminder of freedoms won and gained. For many more, the city’s marble obelisks, along with its overwhelming architectural federal buildings, stand in mute celebration of colonial violence—of bloody acts and treaties violated. Given the recent standoff on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., between Omaha elder Nathan Phillips and a white high school student, the later image becomes increasingly apropos.

This year’s Indigenous Research in the Americas working group will investigate how Indigenous bodies (of land, water, flesh, etc.) enact their refusal to be subsumed within and consumed by a foreign invader upon the Public Commons. How are Indigenous land-defenders and change-agents activating those “irreconcilable spaces of [Indigeneity]” for which Metis curator-scholar David Garneau has called and without which, he posits, there can be no conciliation between our Peoples (Arts of Engagement, 23)? What is happening within these spaces? How, within these spaces, do land-defenders and change-agents protect themselves and the myriad bodies for whom/which their own bodies have become a shield from the rapine exercise of settler-appetites? On these lands that have borne witness to centuries of massacre, deceit, child-theft, biological warfare, desecration, enslavement, re-education, and relocation, our nations face each other at the ‘edge of [a clear cut] woods,’ and there are no songs of welcome, no words of condolence, no mechanisms to carry us beyond the tangled history of settlement, so that future conciliation might be operationalized.

For 2019, the conveners of Indigenous Research in the Americas invite statements of commitment from Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, artists, and activists. We propose a collaborative exploration of the theoretical and practical curation of discrete, “irreconcilable” spaces in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants severally activate refusal, acknowledgement, redress, and/or condolence. What is the work that we must do for ourselves (apart)? What is the work that calls us together? What activations might we story together (in a collaboratively written piece and corporeally in the Public Commons) to create both the “context and event” out of which a process of re-worlding might begin (see Simpson, “Land as Pedagogy,” 8-9)?

Being minutes away from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, our working group will come together to develop activations that can be performed at various sites within Washington’s many public commons, both with and for the public. Although this year’s working group will not focus on individual papers, we will ask participants to share a portion of their research and interests with the larger group, as well as request a sampling of primary sources that have significantly influenced their scholarship/artistry/activism. These resources may include films, video clips, sound bites, images, and written work. After a period of reflection (by mid-September), the conveners will organize online discussions and share additional materials with the group to set the ground work for the second phase of the working session. During this second phase, the group will virtually develop activations that may be performed or shared while at the conference. Depending on the number of participants and participant interests, we may be able to develop several activations and travel to various spots in and around Washington, D.C., bringing to completion the third phase of our working session. After our field work is complete, we will then return to the conference hotel to reflect upon our experiences in a type of postmortem meeting and to consider the curation of a collaborative publication, devised through a weave of brief reflections that we will share throughout all phases of our work together.

Potential participants should submit a 300-word proposal/statement of commitment.

For any specific questions, please contact Adron Farris at adron.farris[at]

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In Memoriam: Public Spaces of Performance, Remembrance, Trauma, and Mourning

D.J. Hopkins, San Diego State University, dhopkins[at]
Shelley Orr, San Diego State University
Alison Urban, University of California–San Diego

Memorials can be critical nodes in a community’s network of public spaces. Memorials and similar sites serve as important archives of social memory; and they serve, too, as prompts for a repertoire of personal and collective performances. This working group welcomes researchers thinking about the relationship between performance and public space — including urban, architectural, cultural, and theatrical spaces — as seen through the lenses of trauma, mourning, and memory.

Elizabeth Son unpacks “the relationship between memorial objects and performance” by considering “what prompts and shapes embodied engagement” with memorial spaces. Memorial spaces can include memorials, monuments, museums, theatres, and numerous other sites, urban and otherwise. Performance practices can occupy and transform spaces never intended to serve as memorials.

Framing this issue for an urban context, Elin Diamond argues that: “Theatre space in general projects, on a small scale, what the city projects in large scale: [it] demarcates who is entitled to see / be seen and hear / be heard.” Who is institutionally licensed to take space in public for the performance of memory and mourning? How do those who do not see themselves represented in “official” histories or institutions engage and perform in these or other spaces? How can performance remake public space for / from counter-hegemonic experiences and memories?

We invite researchers to submit work in progress that addresses the relationship between performance and public space — including urban, architectural, cultural, and theatrical spaces among many built, natural and social spaces — as seen through the lenses of trauma, mourning, and memory. Participants’ work should consider memorials, museums, theatrical performances, and other sites and practices that structure public spaces for remembrance, political action, and education.

Peggy Levitt argues that a city’s “cultural armature” “echoes over time,” influencing its cultural institutions. Following Levitt, participants will be asked to meet off-site in order to explore and consider significant sites in the DC area, including, but not limited to: Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. These site visits will provide an opportunity for participants to discuss their experiences of / at these sites of memorialization and public mourning with the larger group, creating a shared / collective experience through which we will reconsider the current work of participants and seek to develop new research on this topic. In order to prepare for the working group session, we ask: When looking at the institutions on DC’s National Mall, how many are anchored to outmoded hierarchies? Which are reinventing what a museum or memorial can be and who it can represent?

The agenda for the working group session will include: Subgroup discussions of submitted work; reporting out to the larger group on each site visit, including both personal experiences and critical observations; and a broader, collaborative group discussion, followed by an opportunity for audience question and answer.

Issues to be addressed by applicants to this session include but are not limited to:

  • Native histories, indigeneity, land recognition
  • Sites to honor the war dead and to mourn members of the military who died in service to the public
  • Memorials and museums that mark the death of those associated with an identity group
  • The US Government shutdown, cutting off access to public sites
  • Museums, museum theatre, trauma in museums, trauma tourism
  • Mediatized spaces
  • Mass shootings, mediatized mourning
  • Representations of grief, trauma, mourning, memorials, etc. in dramatic literature, movement, and theatrical performance

Potential participants should submit (1) a paper/project title, (2) a 250-word abstract of the proposed paper, and (3) a brief biographical statement of no more than 150 words.

Papers of approximately 3000 words will be due on 3 September 2019. Subsequently, papers will be distributed to all participants, and sub-groups formed by the organizers. Group members will participate in peer-to-peer discussion of the papers prior to arriving at the conference, and we will visit one (or more) DC sites in advance of the session.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners D.J. Hopkins (dhopkins[at], Shelley Orr (morr[at], and Alison Urban (a1urban[at]

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Latinx Publics

Jon D. Rossini, University of California, Davis, jdrossini[at]
Patricia Ybarra, Brown University, patricia_ybarra[at]

As current US public discourse around Latinx bodies continues to invoke threat, limits, celebration, and appropriation we must find different ways of thinking about the historical intimacies of Latinx performance (on the stage, in the street, in everyday life) and consider the specific geographies and geometries of Latinx publics. We will examine and reimagine the intersections of performances and publics (in regional theater making, commercial touring production, experimental intervention, on and in the streets) in a world shadowed by the continued failed response to Hurricane Maria, family separation, cultural anxiety over migrant caravans, and increasing recognition of the shifting class, national origin, linguistic, and regional demographics of Latinx populations. How can we understand Latinx performance and reception in the present, and how might alternative conceptions be excavated from our pasts?

We consider the vectors of circulation within and through the global South, transatlantic and transnational mobilities, and other regional and local connections. We invite thinking about the persistence and power of the community celebrated in Luis Valdez’s writings on teatro and Arlene Dávila’s conception of Latino as a marketing category as well as the emergence of new voices, audiences, and organizational models that foster new ways of being in the world while recognizing the mediation of identity categories, economic conditions, and legislative change (civil rights, forms of governance, shifts in and outside electoral politics). While there is a contemporary urgency to these questions, we must remember the long history of colonialism and conquest, migration and circulation, assimilation, transculturation and resistance.

The working session will examine the heterogeneity of Latinx publics, both the specific and useful naming of individual constellations as well as the continued power of the modified umbrella category as a gesture of inclusive politics. In a sense, the work of the working session is to interrogate again (a cyclical return) the category of Latinx as a means of re-affirming, revising, or shifting the terms of its existence when understood as the product not only of a productive of specific historical, material, theoretical, and conceptual frameworks, but also of aesthetic modes, life ways, and social relations within social space. The working session will reflect the symbiotic interrelation between larger structural interventions and individual research and creative projects.

Individual Questions:

  1. How does your individual research project conceptualize/perform/name/construct/imagine/explore the contours of a Latinx public? How is this conceived within or separately (in relation to?) concepts such as community, Latinidad, identity, and ethnicity?
  2. Is there a specific relationship between (Latinx) performance and a (Latinx) public as conceived within your theoretical, methodological and practical approaches?

Structural Questions:

  1. What is the utility of thinking about the category of Latinx publics (as opposed to or in dialogue with audiences, communities, affiliative or interest groups, identities)? Does the umbrella term have a cultural, social, political or economic function? Does it need refinement in order to make it a functioning term?
  2. To what extent is the idea of Latinx public a function of history, politics, and/or particular ways of seeing? How does examining the history of Latinx performance through an exploration of publics provide new conceptions of Latinx performance?

Participants will share materials either from research in progress that they explicitly connect to the working session or an intervention crafted specifically in relation to the working session questions (no more than 15 pages). Participants will read all of the submissions and small online groups will be formed for more intense and curated dialogue and feedback. In addition, each participant will submit one or two relevant articles for the materials of the working session, along with a brief precis of its relevance for the questions being addressed to create a shared bibliography and reading list. The articles will be submitted within 3 weeks of acceptance and confirmation so that participants have access to materials during the summer. Participants will be expected to familiarize themselves with the precis of the pieces as well as the 3-5 most relevant articles for their work. Drafts will be submitted September 15th and small groups will work together to provide concentrated feedback to participants prior to a November 1 final submission. The working session at the conference will engage the large structural questions in relation to the readings and work of the individual groups, and the specific impact of the working group on individual scholars’ contributions. Potential participants should submit 250-word abstracts that engage the questions of the working session.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Jon D. Rossini (jdrossini[at] and Patricia Ybarra (Patricia_Ybarra[at]

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A Matter of Public Taste(s): Food, Performance, and Commensality

Joshua Abrams, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Joshua.Abrams[at]
Kristin Hunt, Arizona State University, kmhunt7[at]

Responding to the question, “In an age when public, shared spaces are being threatened or erased and when new technologies blur private and public domains, what does it mean to engage the public?”, this working group explores the shared act of cooking and the shared space of the table as sites of public engagement. Like theatre, food has always already existed at the crossroads of public and private, eroding difference(s). From food as a key site of creolization, tracing narratives of contact, colonialism and interaction, in both domestic and shared public spaces, to Jose Andres’s World Central Kitchen, which has stepped in to feed publics across states of emergency, from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to federal government workers during the 2018-19 shutdown, food provides a space of commensality, colliding bodily and political realities and imaginaries. Food serves as a means of staging and preserving public identities, as in the Smithsonian’s American Food History exhibit, which features Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen, a key site in the public staging of an American cuisine, or the Mitsitam and Sweet Home Cafes at the National Museums of the American Indian and African American History and Culture, which trace history through narratives of culinary “authenticity” and collision, exposing food as a theatrical device engaging multiple overlapping and discrete publics. Examining performances of cooking and eating, this working group will interrogate the crucial role food plays in delineating, remembering, constructing, nourishing, and contesting notions of the public.

Potential participants should submit 250- to 500-word proposals for work that engages with key questions of how food operates as a theatrical device, colliding public and private to engage with both culinary practices themselves and the role of the scholar/citizen/artist in engaging the public to understand the past and anticipate possible futures. Participants will exchange brief (10-12 page) research papers in advance of the conference, with conveners facilitating a series of pre-conference discussions around these essays and developing a shared off-site food performance in the greater Washington DC area on the Thursday afternoon prior to the conference. (Rather than ask individuals to represent or restage their research through cooking, as previous iterations of this working group have done, we will stage an event that collides the research ideas of all participants in an embodied performance, asking what it means to share food together in public spaces). In response to the organizer’s observation of the possibilities of performance as a means of intervening in and imagining new publics, we will explore “the ancient technology of the performing body” alongside and within the context of both ancient and contemporary technologies of cooking.

Pursuing our work in the space of the kitchen, itself a site in which public and private spheres often overlap, intersect, and come into conflict, our performances of cooking will expand and challenge working group participants’ individual writing practices and theoretical perspectives by exploring relationships between labor, food, the individual human body, and the collective publics invoked and created in events of cooking and eating. During our formal session, participants will reconvene to share their work and discoveries made in the process of cooking together. Small groups will be asked to present their pre-conference discussions and conveners will shape a broader discussion about the intersections of food, performance, and public spaces.

Potential Topics Might Include:

  • Food and the production of celebrity
  • Culinary Re-performances, such as Michael Twitty’s plantation performances
  • Historical developments of and challenges to public eating in relation to narratives of “decency”
  • Changing cultural performances of street food
  • Class narratives and food cultures, from haute cuisine to “hamberders”
  • Long tables and other public spaces of food/eating/cooking
  • Changing performances of cooking in the age of mass and social media
  • Relationships between talent/aesthetic achievement, (gustatory) taste, and morality
  • Political practices of consumption and food creation
  • Explorations of othering, authenticity, fetishizing, appropriation in relation between to food and performance of culture, race, or ethnicity
  • Food, theatre and the permeability of bodily and other borders
  • Conspicuous consumption, performances of excess
  • Revulsion, desire, and public protest
  • Definitions and policing of morals, table manners and permissible behaviors
  • Hunger as a mode of public protest
  • Food, cooking, and eating in immersive work in “private” spaces
  • Commensality as a mode of public engagement
  • Public spaces of competitive cooking and eating

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Joshua Abrams (Joshua.Abrams[at] or Kristin Hunt (kmhunt7[at]

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Monsters in the Public Sphere

Analola Santana, Dartmouth College, analola.santana[at]
Michael M. Chemers, University of California, Santa Cruz, chemers[at]

The papers will examine ways in which playwrights, theatre and performance artists, and activists have engaged the spectator with this extraordinariness in its potential for creating instances of dissidence towards the status quo, the artists push for the spectators to act as emancipated viewers who should “actively interpret” the political ramifications of the freak body in performance. Our panel will be as critically engaged with the creators of the works as with the monsters they represent; as Jeffrey Jerome Cohen has written “the monster and its dreamer are not two entities inhabiting a divided world, but two participants in an open process, two components of a circuit that intermixes and disperse both within an open, vibrant, unstable expanse.” How does performance engage, productively or destructively, in this open discursive milieu? Are these performances a form of testimonial as to deep-seated, perhaps repressed, social or personal anxieties? May they be utopian as well as dystopian in this regard? What explains the “attraction” to the monster in performance even as it repulses and horrifies? How does monstrosity intersect with discourses of ableism, racism, chauvinism, homophobia, xenophobia or other forms of fear-based social disqualification and by what means can we engage with the fecund assemblage that results between monster, author, and audience?

We seek to combine scholars and practitioners who will articulate a reflection not only on different histories and theatricalities of disqualified identities, but also on future directions for inquiry. Two months prior to the conference meeting, all participants will submit papers (8-10 pages) that we will use as the basis for our conversation at the conference. In addition, those who wish to share short performance pieces or images will be able to do so on the online discussion forum.

Potential participants should submit a 250-word description of your research project and a brief bio.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Analola Santana (analola.santana[at] or Michael M. Chemers (chemers[at]

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“Not a Pollyanna View”: Performance, Tourism, and Publics

Jennifer A. Kokai, Weber State University, jenniferkokai[at]
Tom Robson, Millikin University, trobson[at]

32 miles from ASTR’s 2019 conference's location in Arlington, VA, the Walt Disney Company once planned a grand new park called "Disney's America." As Senior Vice President Bob Weis described it, “This is not a Pollyanna view of America. We want to make you a Civil War soldier. We want to make you feel what it was like to be a slave or what it was like to escape through the underground railroad.” The explicit goal of the Disney Corporation was to construct a park that emphasized “common American themes and experiences.” The company was therefore surprised by the outrage of historians, those offended at the notion of reducing the experience of slavery to a ride, and those who lived in the area, which culminated in a 3,000 person march against the park. The park was ultimately abandoned.

As the 2019 ASTR theme, Theatre’s Many Publics, points out, performance—be it traditional drama or the immersive theatre of tourist sites like theme parks—engages with multiple publics. As the Disney Corporation found out to their chagrin, the goal of creating appealing immersive or touristic performances with a “common” understanding of history, can actually serve more to identify fractures, divisions, and the legacies of white supremacy that undergird tourism. Josephine Machon describes “immersive experiences in theatre” as ones that “combine the act of immersion—being submerged in an alternative medium where all the senses are engaged and manipulated—with a deep involvement in the activity within that medium.” While the term “immersive theatre” belongs to the 21st Century, the practice of immersive theatre has been going on in significant ways for decades. After all, what is a Disney theme park but “an alternative medium were all the senses are engaged and manipulated?” Further, Susan Bennett has drawn compelling links between theme parks and cities themselves, suggesting further opportunities for examination of tourism, theme parks, and performance.

This ASTR Working Group will continue the conversation on tourism and immersive theatre that began with the 2017 conference. We will continue to examine the imagined audiences for tourist performances, the role of the tourist as actor in the scripted dramas, and the ways that the changing reception of tourist attractions allow us to chart shifting notions of engaged publics.

Potential topics might include:

  • The impact of digital technology (social media, apps, etc.) on touristic performance
  • The relationship between immersion and identity
  • Historians and historical tourist attractions
  • Protests against tourist attractions and/or built into tourist attractions
  • The commodification of historical resistance and protest
  • Resistance and protest as entertainment and pleasure

Potential participants should submit: 1) their proposed paper title, 2) an abstract of 250 words or less, and 3) a short biography.

Those accepted into the working group will be asked to distribute full papers (8-10 pages) to all session participants by October 1.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Jennifer A. Kokai (jenniferkokai[at] and Tom Robson (trobson[at]

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Other Publics/Counterpublics: Performance Studies in/from the Global South

Sharvari Sastry, University of Chicago, sharvarisastry[at]
Ryan Hartigan, Cornish College of the Arts, rhartigan[at]
Rishika Mehrishi, Stanford University, rishika[at]
Joshua Williams, New York University, jdw368[at]
Vivek V. Narayan, Stanford University, v.v.narayan[at]

We are delighted to continue the work of the Performance Studies in/from the Global South Working Group at ASTR 2019 in Arlington. The conference theme—“Theatre’s Many Publics”—is particularly relevant to many of us working in, on, and from the Global South. The role of colonialism in framing the conditions of modernity in the Global South is by now well-known. Coloniality, as a form of governance and an apparatus of dispossession, compelled a new reckoning among colonized peoples about what constitutes a “public,” particularly in terms of space, resources, representation, and power. Under various colonial regimes across the Global South, theatre emerged as a critical site for the articulation of new forms of collectivity, resistance, and community. Now that we are ambivalently “post-” both modernity and colonialism, the question of publics and counterpublics across the Global South has taken new shape. Social media-powered popular uprisings like the Arab Spring demonstrate how digital technology and social media erode, as the conference CFP notes, “distinctions between public and private space.” What theatres does (post)coloniality operate in now, and what are its publics? How can theatre and performance—as theory, method, and analytic—help us in thinking about the many publics of, and within, the Global South? What points of divergence, connection, and incommensurability with the Global North, and within the Global South, can such an investigation reveal? Ultimately, what can such a performance-centric view of publics from the Global South contribute to the theory and practice of popular politics around the world?

The 2019 session will be our seventh iteration and will include a half-hour discussion exploring the theme and scope of an edited volume of work to come out of the Global South Working Group.

Potential participants should submit a 300-word paper proposal and a 200-word bio.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at astrglobalsouth[at]

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Pacific Publics: Transpacific Performance Working Group

Diana Looser, Stanford University, dlooser[at]
Shannon Steen, University of California, Berkeley, shannon.steen[at]

We are now two decades into “the Pacific Century.” For millennia, this vast oceanic world has been characterized by circulation and interchange: from the ancient voyages and modern diasporas of indigenous Pacific Island peoples, to the contested networks of colonization and militarization, to the burgeoning trade and economic zone that has displaced the Atlantic as the center of global cultural and financial power. Performances of many kinds have played significant roles in enacting, responding to, and critiquing these histories and circumstances, and this new working group provides a forum for supporting and advancing the exciting scholarship in theatre and performance studies taking place across the Pacific. At present, much performance-related research on the Pacific world tends to be split into numerous sub-regions (e.g., East Asia, US-China, Oceania/Pacific Islands, Australasia). Just as Black Atlantic scholarship brought into coherence a geocultural entity that had been previously only been seen as disparate regional systems, this working group considers how these very distinctive areas of the Pacific might be brought into productive conversation with one another, and how this approach might provide new insights into how, and to what ends, diverse “Pacific publics” have been constituted and engaged through performance.

Participants might address questions related to the following:

  • What are the contributions that the performance cultures of the Pacific can make to our current understanding of how publics are formed (in other words, how do the cultural performances of the Pacific world extend and enrich the theoretical contributions on notions of “the public” by Jürgen Habermas, Christopher Balme, Shannon Jackson, Miranda Joseph, and so forth)?
  • What is unique about the performance cultures of the Pacific world?
  • What does it mean to import the cultural studies basis of performance studies to a region that didn’t develop out of the industrial revolution?
  • What alternative models and theories, deriving from the Pacific world, might help us to apprehend the region on its own terms?
  • How do we meet the challenge of understanding such a vast and diverse area of the globe as a coherent geocultural structure? Can we? How is performance a productive lens for illuminating these connections and disjunctions?

A performance cartography of the Pacific world extends and rethinks the “transpacific turn” emerging across several disciplines, which examines the contacts and exchanges among different cultures and communities as they move throughout the region. We encourage proposals from a wide range of perspectives, sites, and methodologies to pursue a critical transpacific performance studies that reconceptualizes existing boundaries while paying heed to divergent power structures and differentiated histories, epistemologies, locations, and contexts, and that also acknowledges the erasures inherent in the concept of “transpacific” itself.

Working group members will prepare a 10-15-page paper (double-spaced) by September 15. These papers will be circulated online in small sub-groups for feedback and discussion prior to the conference. In advance of the conference meeting, small groups will generate a one-page report of their discussion and forward to the conveners a list of 2-3 major questions generated by that discussion. Conveners will then circulate these questions to the full group.

Our 3-hour meeting at ASTR will have two parts. After brief public presentations of the small group discussions, the conveners will facilitate whole-group discussions starting with the questions generated by the small groups (first two hours). Our last hour will be devoted to the development of a bibliography on the working group topic, and to a consideration of future directions for the working group. Submission instructions

Potential participants should provide (1) a paper title; (2) a 350-word abstract of the proposed paper. Participants are encouraged to address how the performance practice under scrutiny animates Pacific publics in a larger geo-cultural sense; (3) a brief biographical statement of no more than 100 words.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Diana Looser (dlooser[at] and Shannon Steen (steen21[at]

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Pedagogy of Extraordinary Bodies

Jessica Brater, Montclair State University, braterj[at]
Michelle Liu Carriger, University of Los Angeles, carriger[at]

Theatre indeed encompasses and coalesces many publics, but one that we as Theatre and Performance Studies academics encounter most often is the shifting public of the undergraduate classroom. Acknowledging that the front line in decolonizing, diversifying, and broadening the meaning and import of theater and performance is undergraduate-focused teaching, particularly in the ‘service’ and survey classes that make up so many students’ first and often only exposure to theater and performance studies, we propose to convene our working session ‘Pedagogy of Extraordinary Bodies’ for our final year. We will continue dialogue around training and support for diversifying and decolonizing theater syllabi, culminating in 2019 with the creation of a syllabus, assessment, and lesson plan peer-reviewed database to be initially populated with the work of the 2019 and earlier working session participants.

We look forward to the 2019 conference as the optimal time to conclude this multi-year inquiry into how our research activities and the current intellectual engagements underwrite our teaching practices, how to continue bringing our teaching duties, especially those ‘service’ classes which truly bring ‘many publics’ into our orbit, into line with our fullest hopes and aspirations for effective teaching and learning amidst the myriad challenges of workload, breadth of subject, brevity of time allotted, and student interest. Drawing on the resources of three annual meetings and the numerous participants we are especially glad that we will have the opportunity to put our labors into a tangible and ongoing form with the creation and maintenance of an archive of our working session’s labors.

For the 2019 ASTR conference, we will continue our work regarding one of the theater faculty’s nearest publics: the constituents of the classroom. Building on our initial group meeting at ASTR 2017, where we had over working group 30 participants and over 60 attendees at our session, through last year’s abbreviated meeting with associated video conference for remote participants, we intend to culminate our multi-year inquiry into pedagogy and sharing of teaching best practices with the creation of lesson plan and syllabus database as the primary contribution of participants in our ASTR 2019 working group. Our database will be hosted by Montclair State University and we will be able to use the assembled power of the participants to engage in peer review of lesson plans, vetting, and editing during our preparation and meeting time. Thus, the selected participants for the session will compile and precirculate pedagogical materials (such as lecture notes, slideshow media, and appropriate reading and/or viewing assignments) and peer review each other’s materials. The in-person meeting time will be utilized to talk through the submissions and delegate tasks for bringing the database and peer-review process to fruition.

Potential participants should submit a brief paragraph (250 to 350 words) describing their interest in this project and a sample of pedagogical material such as a lesson plan, lecture notes, slideshow media, or assignment.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Michelle Liu Carriger (carriger[at] and Jessica Brater (braterj[at]

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Performing a People’s Public: Theatre’s New Publics in Central and East Europe and Russia

Jacob Juntunen, Southern Illinois University, jjuntunen[at]
Margarita Kompelmakher, West Valley College, marga.kompelmakher[at]
Rachel Merrill Moss, Northwestern University, rmmoss[at]

In Theatre and Performance in Eastern Europe: The Changing Scene (2008), Dennis Barnett and Arthur Skelton outline the ways in which the communist period was artistically and socially generative – despite heavy censorship and political constraints – as performers and audiences were able to develop a mutually understood symbolic code by which criticism of ruling authorities and statements of popular defiance could be communicated. Following this cue, this working group will investigate the heterogenous, public-making possibilities in the historical spectrum of Central, East European and Russian theatre, as an antidote to the global moment of rising nationalism, xenophobia, and digital censorship and misuse. These activating stagings range from Yiddish theatre’s multi-lingual, multi-ethnic Polish and Jewish audiences in interwar Warsaw to the epitomization of a transnational, censor-dodging public created through Belarus Free Theatre’s live-streamed performances. Their occurrences have allowed, and continue to allow, deeply political conversations to occur. We invite our working group participants to delve into historical and contemporary theatrical publics in the region, and ask what we can glean from performance to discuss (and combat) times as debilitating and polarizing as those we live in now.

Looking to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia as sites of research, our goal is to discuss the multiple angles from which pre-war through post-Soviet theatres have approached the question of the “public” in provocative ways. With this in mind, we invite abstracts on a range of topics that engage with the audience as public, including but not limited to:

  • Use of symbolic language(s), allegory, and bodily gesture in theater to create publics
  • Theatre that redefines or deliberately alters local identity through national narrative, language, or other, such as the work of Farma v jeskyni’s (Farm in the Cave)
  • Theatre as public protest, for example Pussy Riot’s intervention in the 2018 World Cup
  • Theatre and performance that engages with/creates public memory, such as Słobodzianek’s Nasza Klasa (Our Class)
  • Audience as witness, such as the documentary-style work of Theatre.doc
  • Theatre that draws political retribution, such as the imprisonment of Kirill Serebrennikov
  • Festivals and other performances that themselves create a public, such as the guerrilla-style of Pomarańczowa Alternatywa (Orange Alternative)
  • New perspectives on canonical theatremakers who engage in emancipated/activated audiences and performance, such as Bakhtin, Brecht, and Havel

We welcome applicants working outside Eastern European theater studies, including the fields of Jewish Studies, Slavic Languages & Literatures, Translation Studies, Cultural Studies, History, and beyond.

In early September, 5-10 page paper drafts will be due, with a final paper version due closer to the conference date. One round of pre-conference discussion will be conducted via email prior to the final paper deadline. In Arlington, participants should bring an object specific to their paper that activates the idea of an audience as public. During our working session, we will discuss papers and objects, and conclude by discussing the possibility of a journal special issue in Theatre Survey, European Stages, or Contemporary Theater Review.

Potential participants should submit a 250-word abstract.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Jacob Juntunen (jjuntunen[at], Rita Kompelmakher (marga.kompelmakher[at], and Rachel Moss (rmmoss[at]

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Performing Multiple Publics in Global Asias

Jyana Browne, University of Maryland, jsbrowne[at]
Amanda Culp, Vassar College, amaculp[at]
Sissi Liu, Brown University, sissi_liu[at]

Now in its second year, the Global Asias working session explores how publics have formed historically and are currently (re)configuring in Global Asian contexts. This year's session, Performing Multiple Publics in Global Asias, builds upon new research in the emerging field of Global Asian Studies and seeks to define Global Asias broadly to encompass geo-political and lingo-cultural spaces as well as virtual communities. Our session will interrogate what constitutes a public beyond the Western intellectual tradition, re-examining and re-framing the theoretical foundations of “publics” from Global Asian perspectives. This session seeks to consider Global Asia(s) not as a singular geo-political or lingo-cultural designation, but as plural, embodied, and lived conditions experienced through the intermixing of race and ethnicity on a global scale, that play out in scenarios of migration and immigration, acculturation and assimilation. Our inquiry is guided by questions of performance making and reception: As a primary site of political discourse, how has performance helped to create distinct Global Asian publics and polities? How are racial, ethnic, sexual, religious minoritarian publics constructed and radicalized through performance? In diverse times and cultures, what does it mean for us to bring our work as scholars/citizens/artists to the multiple publics of Global Asias? In what ways does the concept of multiple publics complicate our understanding of and generate new approaches to exploring performance spaces? As we consider the ways in which performance has engaged the public in Global Asias, we welcome contributions about performing multiple publics as a mode of inquiry in a wide variety of historical and socio-cultural contexts.

We invite proposals (of 250 to 350 words) from participants working on historical and contemporary topics in and beyond East, South, and Southeast Asia and their diasporas. One of the goals of this working session is to generate scholarship that is theoretically and linguistically rigorous. We are therefore particularly interested in papers that integrate research in target Asian languages along with Euro-American scholarly frameworks. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The public as a contested site in Global Asian performance
  • Citizenship, inclusion/exclusion, and minoritarian belonging
  • Queer and trans public spaces in Global Asias
  • Genealogies of transnational feminisms and queer critiques of color
  • Afro-Asian solidarity
  • Publics in virtual spaces
  • The evolution of publics in Global Asias throughout history; how publics in early and pre-modern Asian performance traditions compare or relate to contemporary publics
  • Performing public events, protests, and memorials as political discourse
  • Theatre audiences as publics
  • Performance makers as shapers of publics and polities
  • Trans-Pacific reorientations
  • The history and development of theories of publicity in a Global Asian context
  • Scholarly work and public formation
  • The potential for performance to define publics both through inclusion and alienation

Before the conference, participants will circulate short papers (10-12 pages) in small, pre-assigned groups based on thematic connections. Participants will provide feedback on each other’s drafts for revision. During the working session, participants will share short summaries of their work before we break into the thematic small groups. After working together, each small group will then share the key ideas that have emerged from their conversation as part of a larger group discussion to which audience members are invited to join. After a short break, we will break into different small groups that are delineated along geo-linguistic lines to discuss the methodological questions we face in writing for both English-language and Asian scholarly audiences. At the conclusion of the session, we will all come together once more to share resource lists, action plans, and goals, and to discuss how the papers and ideas from the session can inform our scholarships, pedagogies, and artistic practices moving forward. Our goal is to support new research that can be published as articles or book chapters to advance the field of Global Asian performance.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at globalasiaastr[at]

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Pre-1850 Publics and the History of Performance

Julia Fawcett, University of California Berkeley, julia.fawcett[at]
Kristina Straub, Carnegie Mellon University, ks3t[at]

This working session will take up the conference theme’s provocative questions about how best to engage with “theater’s many publics,” but with particular attention to the unique challenges that these questions pose to scholars who study pre-1850 performance. “The public” is, after all, a concept with a long and storied history (as scholars such as Richard Sennett and Jurgen Habermas have reminded us). Today, we often use it to indicate those who are not part of a prescribed or exclusive elite: a public intellectual is one who writes for those beyond the Ivory Tower; a public forum one that anyone can attend. But in the past terms like “the voting public” or “public opinion” were often used to make invisible those groups and individuals—from women and the poor to racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities—who did not fit normative ideas of what a “citizen” or a “subject” should be. For this reason, these groups and individuals are often underrepresented in the public—and in the historical—records, and so scholars of pre-1850 theater and performance must innovate new theories, practices, and methodologies to rediscover and to publish their stories.

We welcome all topics on pre-1850 performance but are specifically interested, with a nod to this year’s conference theme, in papers dealing with the issue of inclusion in historical study. How can performance studies provide performance historians with new theories and methods for broadening the range of voices—both past and present—with which their scholarship engages? How can studying history deepen our understanding of our own culture’s many publics and how they developed? How can we use current theories from performance studies, queer theory, critical race theory, Indigenous studies, and/or disability studies to rethink historical publics, or to fill the gaps that absent voices have left in the archives? And what theories and methodologies can we use to listen to these many publics and understand their performances long after their time has passed?

Please submit abstracts of no more than 500 words.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Julia Fawcett (julia.fawcett[at] and Kristina Straub (ks3t[at]

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Private Lives in Public Spaces: Performances of Autobiography

Ryan Claycomb, West Virginia University, ryan.claycomb[at]
Ariel Watson, St. Mary’s University, ariel.watson[at]

As theatre and performance studies (and the humanities more broadly) turn toward public engagement beyond the academy, we find ourselves invoking the private selves that use theatrical, pedagogical, and scholarly performance as spaces to encounter those publics. We ask: how are publics and collectives defined against and through the private and the individual? These questions are particularly urgent since the impulse toward public humanities calls into question the nature of scholarly labor and scholarship itself.

This Working Session invites the development of theories of the autobiographical, private, and self-revelatory across a variety of publics and modes of performance. How does this paradox of the private staged for public consumption bedevil, subvert, or uphold our institutional structures and mores? Conceived and marketed among economic and aesthetic systems, modes of self-presentation and first-person narratives demarcate and undermine the boundaries between creative, scholarly, pedagogical, and administrative labor in our professional lives. They create an often-arbitrary distinction between the personal and the public, the individual and the collective, the official and the private, the real and the imagined, labor and pleasure.

In this session, we take up the many genres and venues through which private selves are performed, revealed, obscured, and documented in public(s) across theatre practice, pedagogy, and scholarship. In what sense do these genres reflect the autobiographical impulse? How do these constructions of the performing subject implicate the publics for whom performance happens? How do they negotiate the boundaries between privacy and revelation? And why value revelation in light of a deep cultural skepticism about authenticity?

Participants might approach these topics through some of the following lenses (or others unforeseen):

  • Theatrical memoir as archive and repertoire
  • Autobiographical modes of research
  • Theories of self-care and work-life balance as performative
  • Theatre criticism and theory as modes of auto-performance
  • The performed self on social media
  • Authority of autobiographical claims/performances in the era of “fake news”
  • Autobiographical devising in theatre and performance
  • Teaching as a performance of self or selves
  • Performances of non-theatrical memoirs on public stages
  • Spectatorship, reception, and study as autobiographical labor
  • Explorations of memoir and objectivity in theatre and academia

Potential participants should submit 250-word abstracts that propose a scholarly engagement with the subject. Proposals that experiment with memoir as a scholarly or theoretical form, or that blur the lines between performance, creative writing, and scholarship are also welcome. The conveners will assemble a brief bibliography of common readings to distribute to participants in advance of the distribution of papers. If selected, participants will circulate drafts of 10-20 pages in small groups by August 15, with feedback from the group to be provided by September 10. Members of the session will then be asked to append a 1-3 page autobiographical dramatic prologue to their paper, which engages with the theory of the work in their own first-person persona, before distributing it to the group as a whole.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Ryan Claycomb (ryan.claycomb[at] and Ariel Watson (ariel.watson[at]

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Public Animals and Performance

Kim Marra, University of Iowa, kim-marra[at]
Jen Parker-Starbuck, Royal Holloway, University of London, Jen.Parker-Starbuck[at]

How do non-human animals figure into concepts of “public” and “performance” in an age when, to quote the 2019 conference call, “public, shared spaces are being threatened or erased and when new technologies blur private and public domains”? As both method and subject of analysis, performance richly illuminates the ways non-human and human animal lives and representations have intertwined and constituted one another in public shared spaces, both real and virtual. Building upon our ongoing Working Group’s successful exploration at the San Diego Zoo during the ASTR 2018 Forums, we would like to consider interspecies dynamics in the self-consciously national public context of Washington, DC. Historical ironies abound in the National Zoo’s founding in 1889 by a Smithsonian taxidermist to save bison nearing extinction after decades of slaughter during Indian Removal. Animals—fossilized, taxidermied, and living—remain on public display within the Smithsonian system, which is “free and open to the public,” except when the government shuts down. These animals “perform” a public history of exchange and engagement; they are on display and show, and during “normal operations,” the National Zoo’s Webcams even voyeuristically stream certain of their animals’ activities to make them visible around the world. Foundational human-animal relationships are ubiquitously memorialized in public art and monuments throughout the DC cityscape inhabited by millions of living wild and domestic creatures. How do these animals perform with and for the masses of people living in and touring Washington to define USAmericanness and its complicated and contradictory legacies?

Capitalizing on the conference site in Washington, DC, we aim to expand definitions and understandings of “public” performance to include non-human animals. Our exploration will proceed in three parts: 1) a paper exchange and online discussion in advance of the conference, 2) engagement either virtually or on site with arguably “public” animals in Washington, DC, and 3) a synthesizing in-person discussion during a 2-hour session at the conference, ideally later in the conference to allow time for on-site exploration and engagement. This working group welcomes new and returning participants to build upon and extend the work of the Animals Perform I/II, Transspecies, and Animal Engagements Working Groups (ASTR 2014-18), which successfully nurtured an emerging interdisciplinary strand of theatre and performance studies, with ongoing publications and presentations by group participants.

Part 1: By September 15, we will exchange papers. While based in their specialized performance research, participants’ papers should concertedly engage what “public” means in relation to human-animal interactions and how non-human animals constitute and participate in “publics” with humans. The conveners will organize on-line discussion of the papers in advance of the conference to provide feedback and move our collective thinking by generating further questions about human-animal interactions in the self-consciously public and national circumstances of Washington, DC.

Part 2: Informed by these questions, participants will investigate places of human-animal interaction in the nation’s capital, either virtually or onsite, and gather observations and reflections in response. Such places might include, for example, the Smithsonian Museums, monumental statues, wild and domestic animals on the Mall, history paintings in the US Capitol, and the National Zoo. Whereas other DC sites are more quickly accessible between conference sessions, the National Zoo is about 10 miles from the Arlington conference hotel (an hour to reach by public transportation). It is not required for participation, and there are no conference funds to defray costs, but it is free and accessible via Metro, and those able and interested are welcome to accompany the Working Group conveners to the National Zoo on Thursday. As with our explorations in San Diego, we recognize the contested nature of zoos in animal studies and the multi-faceted roles they have played beyond fulfilling the need to look at animals that John Berger has interrogated. Consequently, we will address ethical questions raised through the performance of spectacle that zoos require, especially as they are imbricated in constructing a national public sphere.

Part 3: In a roundtable discussion format with some opportunity for audience Q&A, we will gather in our conference session to pursue the questions generated in our online exchanges and discuss our experiences from the Part 2 explorations as they apply to our focal questions and relate back to our individual research.

Potential participants should submit (1) a paper title; (2) a 250-word abstract of the proposed paper, including how it will address non-human animals and the “public” through performance; (3) a brief biographical statement of no more than 150 words.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Kim Marra (kim-marra[at] and Jen Parker-Starbuck (Jen.Parker-Starbuck[at]

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Publicizing (Theatrical) Working Conditions: Labor, Uprisings, and Unionization in American Theatre and Drama from 1880 to 1940

Claudia Wilsch Case, Lehman College/CUNY,[at]
Rick DesRochers, Lehman College/CUNY, richard.desrochers[at]

This session examines intersections of labor conflicts and theatrical performance in America from 1880 to 1940. Connecting with the conference theme, “Theatre’s Many Publics,” responding to scholarship by Colette A. Hyman, Arthur Frank Wertheim, Sean P. Holmes, Dorothy Chansky, Elizabeth Osborne and Christine Woodworth, Shauna Vey, and Timothy R. White, and expanding on last year’s ASTR working session, “Rousing the Theatrical Worker,” we ask participants to examine how the labor movement has engaged American audiences and the general public, from the days of vaudeville through the 1930s. Evoking applicable contexts of social class, political affiliation, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and/or sexuality, participants are invited to explore how (theatrical) labor has engaged the public, both onstage and off. Participants are encouraged to consider labor conditions that provoked revolts, ways workers have used the stage as a public platform for stirring labor action, and/or the connection of labor unions to American theatre and drama. As the center of government and as a site of political protests, Washington, D.C. area provides the backdrop for a discussion of (theatrical) labor from multiple perspectives. We envision this working session, which builds on and refines our initial labor-themed working group at the 2018 ASTR Forum, as part of a two- or three-year project that examines labor conditions, uprisings, and unionization in American theatre and drama from the late 19th century to the outbreak of World War II. We would like to use the work of this group as the foundation for an edited collection of essays on the subject of American theatrical labor conflicts, ultimately inviting participants to expand their conference papers into book chapters.

Potential participants should submit a 250-word proposal describing a paper that addresses a labor conflict from American theatre history that falls into the period from 1880 to 1940, including how that conflict engaged theatrical audiences and/or the general public. Applicants will need to identify a specific theatrical labor event or play/performance that addresses the complexity of labor conditions, uprisings, and/or unionization and sheds light on labor issues in the context of modern American theatre history and/or public history. Topic suggestions include but are not limited to African-American vaudeville labor and the T.O.B.A. circuit; the effect of the Gerry Society on child labor and family performance groups; the work of such theatrical unions as Actors’ Equity, IATSE, or the Dramatists Guild; the 1913 Paterson Strike Pageant; the 1919 Actors’ Strike; the Dramatists Guild’s minimum basic agreement; American workers’ theatre and/or agit prop theatre; theatrical (un-)employment and the Federal Theatre Project; the relationship of theatrical producers/managers to labor; and studies of American plays, vaudeville scenarios, or musical revues that dramatize labor problems.

The two-hour session will focus on discussing pre-circulated papers from 10-12 participants. Papers should be between 2000 and 3000 words and must be circulated to all participants in advance of the November conference.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Claudia Wilsch Case ([at] and Rick DesRochers (richard.desrochers[at]

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The Public’s Many Theatres

Ryan Donovan, The New School, rmdonovan[at]
Barrie Gelles, The Graduate Center, CUNY, barrie.gelles[at]
Catherine M. Young, Princeton University, cmy[at]

Outside of The Public Theater in New York City hangs a banner proclaiming “Theater Of, By & For All People.” As a landmark theatrical institution, The Public Theater sustains a local, national, and global profile. But, what role does the theatre that calls itself “The Public” play in the artistic, political, and cultural field of theatre history and contemporary performance?

Our working session will grapple with this question and explore what the institution of The Public Theater does in its many theatres, broadly considered.

The Public Theater’s archives and histories are ripe for new analysis and reexamination in light of the increasingly complex entanglements of aesthetics, capital, and politics since its founding by Joe Papp in 1954 as the Shakespeare Workshop and its re-branding in 1967 as The Public Theater. Furthermore, because The Public is engaged in many genres, many levels of development, and many locations and spaces, this working session invites a variety of approaches to a wide range of topics from cabaret and choreopoems to musicals and new plays.

We will examine and connect multiple histories of The Public. How might we reconsider The Public Theater’s impact on theatre in and beyond the US? What are the political implications of The Public’s mission and how has this translated into the work seen on its various stages? Who has been welcomed and who has been excluded throughout the history of The Public?

We invite consideration of The Public’s many theatres, extending from the literal spaces of performance to the networks of performance and playwriting originating at and coursing through The Public.

Potential participants should submit 150- to 200-word abstracts detailing their particular object of study and how it would engage with notions of the public/The Public. Please indicate the theoretical and historical frameworks that will support your inquiry.

Papers may address areas including (but are not limited to):

  • The New York Shakespeare Festival
  • The various spaces that The Public Theater uses (venues on Lafayette Street, Central Park, Broadway, the city itself)
  • Race, gender, ability, and sexuality at The Public Theater
  • The development of new musicals and plays
  • The Public Theater’s relationship with Broadway and Off-Broadway
  • Artistic Directors’ visions and tenures
  • Joe’s Pub and the reinvention of cabaret for downtown audiences
  • Marketing The Public Theater to the public
  • Audience development
  • The Public Theatre, design, and branding
  • Programs including Under the Radar, Public Works and the Mobile Unit
  • Labor disputes over workshop agreements and authorship
  • Social change and The Public Theater
  • Corporate sponsorship of The Public Theater
  • Public controversies
  • Radical art and politics at The Public Theater

Participants will be clustered into small group networks, and will exchange full papers (7-8 pages) prior to our convening in Arlington in order to identify common themes and generative divergences within each network. In addition, each network will send two key questions to the full group in order to spur cross-network and full-group conversation at the conference. For the working session, each network will create a digital presentation to think through how our conversations can be transformed into an open-access digital humanities resource.

Because participants are analyzing The Public Theater, our stance is that the record of our work should be free and accessible to the public. Therefore, after our time together at ASTR, we plan to launch a digital humanities teaching and learning resource about The Public Theater. We hope that this resource will serve to connect working session participants’ scholarship with the public, theatre scholars, and audience members alike.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Ryan Donovan (rmdonovan[at], Barrie Gelles (barrie.gelles[at], or Catherine M. Young (cmy[at]

Puppetry and Material Performance

Alissa Mello, Fulbright Fellow, Listaháskóli Íslands, alissa.mello[at]
Claudia Orenstein, CUNY Hunter College/The Graduate Center, corenste[at]
Dassia N. Posner, Northwestern University, d-posner[at]
Lawrence Switzky, University of Toronto, lawrence.switzky[at]

For centuries, puppets have wielded unique power by connecting humans with gods, fascinating publics of all continents and ages, and bringing a more complex form of liveness to live theatre, while expanding imaginative worlds, providing overt or under-the-radar political commentary, and modeling more egalitarian ways of connecting with the material world. Yet despite the flowering in recent decades of puppetry performance and ground-breaking expansions in its scholarship, puppetry’s ever-burgeoning publics outstrip available modes for analyzing its specifics and describing its power. In the spirit of this year’s conference, this Working Session proposes a deeper investigation into the methodologies of puppetry and material performance. We therefore seek papers that interrogate three key questions:

How can exploring puppetry’s connections and similarities across disciplines—cognitive science, object oriented ontology, phenomenology, philosophy, film and media studies, environmental studies, etc.—provide puppetry’s varied publics with a deeper understanding of its breadth and relevance?

How do we analyze and articulate creative laws that are specific to puppetry and material performance? How, for instance, are objects, materials, design, and manipulation techniques unique conveyers of meaning? Alternately, how do different puppetry forms—ranging from shadow theatre to giant puppets to productions at the boundaries of material performance—establish and communicate the particulars of their aesthetic universes?

How might the vocabularies of puppetry analysis provide new, richer ways to understand how objects function in art forms with shared concerns, such as robotics, animation, devised theatre, circus, mask theatre, and postdramatic performance?

The overarching goal of this Working Session is to foster active interest in and sophisticated analysis of puppetry and material performance within the broader field of theatre research. Our aim is to develop essays and methodological approaches for a new edited collection on puppetry that identifies key recurrent themes, expands the available scholarship, and provides researchers with analytical tools for future puppetry and material performance research. We are committed to encouraging conversations among scholars from diverse communities at every point in their academic career.

So that we can be more intentional as a group about developing these critical tools for and beyond the field, all papers for this Working Session should be structured in two parts: the first (2 pages) should explicitly address the particulars of the author’s methodological approach; while the second (up to an additional 8 pages) should apply that approach to the chosen topic.

Potential participants should submit a 300-word abstract and 200-word biography.

Key dates for selected participants: Papers (8-10 pages) should be distributed to all session participants by October 15. 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.

At the conference, participants will each present a brief (1-2 minute) abstract of their paper at the start of the session. Participants and audience members will then divide into their subgroups to discuss the themes that linked their papers. We will then reconvene with the larger group to exchange ideas. This will be followed by a discussion of the themes raised in the papers, including suggestions for how to further develop those themes.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Alissa Mello (alissa.mello[at], Claudia Orenstein (corenste[at], Dassia N. Posner (d-posner[at], and Lawrence Switzky (lawrence.switzky[at]

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queer nightlife performance: flesh, pleasure, and power at night (Muñoz)

Kemi Adeyemi, University of Washington
Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, Northwestern University
Kareem Khubchandani, Tufts University
*** Will return in 2020 ***

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Quiet Resistance: The Body as Site of Survival/Subversion

Matthew Shifflett, University of Mississippi, mtshiffl[at]
Matthew R. Wilson, George Washington University, mattwilson[at]

Classic treatments of political or protest theatre often elucidate performance acts that directly intervene in public discourse and mobilize their audiences, but this definition can privilege political performance as a discursive act within relatively open societies. In closed societies (pre-democratic, non-democratic, authoritarian), or in “private” (i.e., public) spaces, we might find other categories of subversion among performative acts that position themselves as apolitical and harmless. These performances go beyond the binary of “authority” and “resistance” and render instead a subjectivity that is simultaneously acquiescent and subversive.

This working group invites participants to explore performances that “embody” this paradox and to expand common privileging terms such as “political,” “protest,” and “subversive” by giving voice to performances of resistance within modes of survival. Examples may range broadly from Henry Louis Gates’s work on “signifyin(g)” or David Krasner’s interrogation of the nineteenth-century “cakewalk” to bodily subversion in the daily lives of minority and subaltern identities, as well as to “quiet resistance” movements within authoritarian regimes. This session further invites reexamination of the acquiescence-subversion paradox in historiography of pre-democratic periods, which has tended to see theatre makers as either enforcing or challenging hegemonic forces with less attention to strategies for survival while circulating within authoritarian regimes, as seen for example in the subversive but patronized performances of traveling troupes during the middle ages and early modern periods.

We invite work in any period or nationality, and from a diverse range of theoretical approaches. We also encourage submissions to think broadly about what constitutes a “non-democratic space,” a “body,” or a “performance.” By examining work that frames the body as a resource for navigating multiple layers of accommodation and resistance, we seek to open a dialogue between contemporary theory/PS and theatre history to redefine the resistance-acquiescence paradox.

While we welcome a broad range of interventions in this topic, we offer the following questions for potential participants to consider:

  • By what cultural logic do subversive bodies gain access to sites of elite performance and/or elite audiences?
  • To what extent are these subversive performances phenomenologically liberating—that is, how do they frame liberation as an event of the individual(s), rather than exclusively as a public political outcome?
  • In what ways does this performance draw on the forms, genres, tropes, and aesthetics of the dominant regime in order to subvert them?
  • What literacies would allow a spectator to "read" the subversive elements in this performance? How are those literacies tied to social, ethnic, national, or other identities?
  • What lines of continuity does this performance invoke with a shared cultural or aesthetic past and how might that continuity diverge from or even defy “official” histories of art and culture?
  • To what degree is the dominant power structure able to absorb subversion by giving subversive performances space in which to exist?

Potential participants should submit an abstract of 500 words or less identifying their intended sites of interrogation, theoretical lenses, and potential points of similarity or dissimilarity with other topics. Full papers will be requested at a later date from selected participants.

Prior to the conference, we will divide participants into subgroups based on compatible topics or theoretical lenses. Each subgroup will exchange papers, engage in an online discussion, and be offered the opportunity to revise the papers before posting all papers to the entire group. Then, subgroups will be responsible for putting together a presentation of key concepts, terms, or strategies that their subgroup's papers undertake. They will have the opportunity to address how each member's individual work intervenes with those themes in the presentation. In Arlington, the subgroups will each present, and we will use those presentations as the jumping-off point for discussion. The session seeks, through conversations among diverse participants, to share examples and approaches that may not, at first, be obvious as we reimagine what constitutes “closed space,” a “body,” a “performance,” “resistance,” the “political,” “protest,” “subversion,” and “survival.”

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Matthew Shifflett (mtshiffl[at] and Matthew R. Wilson (mattwilson[at]

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Right Wing Publics for Theatrical Performance

Joanna Dee Das, Washington University in St. Louis, joanna.d.das[at]
Kimberly Jannarone, University of California, Santa Cruz, kmj[at]

Publics for live performance come in many varieties, although academic scholarship tends to focus on performance that engages with progressive and liberal values. The cultural elite generally view theater as a home for left-wing people and ideas. But people from across the right-of-center political spectrum use theater and performance to spread their worldviews, including those who identify as mainstream conservatives and those who see themselves as part of radical right-wing movements. Such political performances do not fall into any one aesthetic category; rather, they include populist forms like the variety show, activist forms such as street performances and rallies, and experimental work. In the wake of the US 2016 and Brazilian 2018 general elections and similar political upheavals around the world, paying attention to such performances, and their influence, is imperative. Building on recent scholarship engaging with Christian conservative performance (by John Fletcher and Jill Stevenson), on worldwide experimental performance in the service of reactionary or right-wing ideologies (Jannarone et al), and more, this Working Group will aim to push the conversation into thinking about the publics served by such performances. We hope to explore how performance supports ideologies along the right-of-center political spectrum, who demands such performances, and what effects they have on their publics.

We welcome abstracts from scholars interested in what we are loosely calling right-wing publics for theater. We are open to research on any geographic and historical location or performance genre. Potential participants should submit a 250-word abstract that explains how the proposed paper relates to the topic. Once accepted, each member will be asked to pre-circulate a paper of 10 to 12 pages in length in the month before the conference. While everyone will read all papers, we will break the Working Group into smaller sub-groups of approximately three people each to read papers more carefully and provide written comments ahead of time.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Joanna Dee Das (joanna.d.das[at] and Kimberly Jannarone (kmj[at]

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Separations of Church and Stage: Performing Sacred and Secular Publics

Debra Caplan, Baruch College, City University of New York, debra.caplan[at]
Rebecca Kastleman, University of Virginia, rebecca.kastleman[at]
Heather S. Nathans, Tufts University, Heather.Nathans[at]

Problems arise from the act of performing belief in public. Across geographical and cultural contexts, many publics are marked as secular, yet continue to be shaped by the work of religious actors. Similarly, theatrical representations of religion often generate controversy. While some societies presume a distinction between religious and secular publics, however, others insist that religious practices and identities are intricately entangled with many forms of life. In such contexts, there may be no such thing as a “secular” theater. Where and how, then, do we differentiate between religious and secular performance? How do these definitions shape our account of theatrical audiences as well as the publics and counterpublics that they reflect?

Recent scholarship in theater and performance studies has awakened important inquiries into questions of religion, addressing subjects ranging from the Bible on Broadway (Henry Bial) to avant-garde endurance art (Karen Gonzalez Rice), and from antebellum Jewish theater (Heather Nathans) to contemporary Evangelical performance (Jill Stevenson). This working session will build on this new discourse to broaden and deepen accounts of staging religious beliefs and identities, while also examining performance’s historical debts to religious practice. We are particularly interested in research that expands beyond western religions and the American stage, situating religious performance in relation to processes of migration, diaspora, and transcultural exchange. This session also asks to what extent the terms “religious” and “secular” continue to offer analytic purchase for theater scholarship, and considers whether the “postsecular turn” in cultural criticism can offer fresh resources for the field.

This working session will engage with the conference theme by exploring how the notion of a modern public is conditioned by a presumptive division between religious and secular spheres. We ask, in particular, how religious performances may disrupt or reconfigure existing understandings of theater’s many publics. We welcome papers that pursue historical analyses, case studies, or theoretical and methodological reflections that will deepen our investigations of religion and secularity in performance. Contributions to the session may address questions including:

  • What sorts of publics are assembled through religious and/or secular performances?
  • What modes of spectatorship or participation do religious performances facilitate?
  • How do religious performances activate questions of race, ethnicity, and identity in performance?
  • Through what methods can questions of religion in performance be examined across national borders and cultural traditions?
  • How do religious performances accelerate or interrupt the circulation of capital?
  • In what ways might the emerging field of postsecular criticism enrich theater and performance scholarship?

We welcome projects that interrogate any aspect of performance across historical periods and geographical areas, and we encourage scholars at all stages of their careers to apply. Participants will share either articles in progress (20-25 pages) or substantive prospectuses (10-12 pages). Through the session, they will receive feedback that will help advance their work to publication.

Papers will be due to the working session conveners by October 1st. The conveners will then divide the papers into smaller focus groups in order to facilitate directed conversation about the papers’ central concerns, research methods, and objects of study. We will ask participants to read the papers in their focus groups by mid-October. Each focus group will then meet in a one-hour video conference session before the end of October, in which members will offer feedback on the papers in the focus group, explore intersections among the papers, and determine how to present their conversation to the entire working session.

When the working session meets at ASTR, each participant will briefly introduce the work of another member of their focus group, and a representative from each of the focus groups will share that group’s online discussion with the session at large. We will then break into focus groups, asking each group to generate one focused question for our wider discussion. In the second hour of the session, we will hold a full-group discussion addressing the questions raised in the focus groups.

Potential participants should submit a 250-word abstract on any topic related to religion, secularity, or other modes of public belief as it relates to theater and performance.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Debra Caplan (debra.caplan[at], Rebecca Kastleman (rebecca.kastleman[at], or Heather S. Nathans (Heather.Nathans[at]

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Social Dramas for Fractured Publics: Crisis and Reconciliation in Activist Performance

Sonja Arsham Kuftinec, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, kufti001[at]
John Fletcher, Louisiana State University, drjohnfletcher[at]

What should activist performance do, and for whom? Victor Turner’s classic theory of social drama describes two gestures of social change performance. In some instances (the breach and crisis stages), performance creates and deepens ruptures within the body politic. Historically marginalized groups claim center stage; previously silenced voices interrupt what L.M. Bogad calls the “hegemonologue.” At other stages (redress and reconciliation), performance heals social fissures: building bridges, fostering inter-group empathy, and re-establishing the public as unified.

Activists across the political spectrum disagree about exactly where we locate ourselves on this social-dramaturgical arc. Is this the time for making ties or breaking ties? One activist perspective pushes for crisis, decrying a lack of meaningful conflict between publics and viewing people as too reconciled to a hegemonic status quo. In this view, mega-corporations curate and curtail popular attention, distracting from a general complicity with oppressive political-economic-cultural realities. This conceptual formation advocates provoking generative crises and disruptions. Another view, however, laments out-of-control affective polarization between publics. As political groups increasingly cast their opponents as evil/dangerous, compromise and coexistence become unthinkable; democratic politics deadlock. The necessary activist strategy, from this perspective, works toward depolarization, finding common ground, and forging alliances.

Performing either breach or rapprochement today, however, proves complicated. Activists must grapple with the reality of manifold micro- and macro-publics and competing social dramas. Strategies for disruption appropriate to some struggles may disrupt efforts for redress equally germane to others. Social movements strive for unity in the face of schisms over representation and strategy. Populist forces stoke public passion for polarized conflict even as they promote agendas that require broad consensus. And in an online media culture that traffics in moral outrage, ingroup bias, and kneejerk reactivity, agents with ambiguous motives have emerged to blur lines between authentic social drama and ironic provocation. Which public—which audience—do activists perform for? Which drama, and which phase of the drama, takes precedence?

This group continues previous ASTR sessions exploring performance activism. We invite proposals that address questions around the conundrum of fractured publics and multiple social dramas. Possible topics include the following:

  • How do social movements and activist performances adapt to the reality of multiple competing publics?
  • How do different social dramas vie for the limited attention of society’s many publics?
  • What strategies (such as in-jokes, dog whistles, and esoteric memes) do activist groups use to tailor their performances to specific publics? What happens when such bespoke performances reach the wrong public?
  • How do activist performances mobilize rhetorics of crisis and/or reconciliation?
  • When have performances of public crisis clashed with performances of public reconciliation—and vice-versa?
  • How do rhetorics of reconciliation and/or crisis get mobilized for ends other than activist, such as with commercial Twitter bots, for-the-lulz trolls, or government-funded agents provocateurs?
  • What do case studies (historical or contemporary) of activist endeavors playing out different points in the social drama cycle teach us?
  • How does the existence of manifold publics and multiple social dramas alter the conditions for success or failure of activist performances and social movements?
  • Is Turner’s crisis-into-reconciliation social dramaturgy viable in 2019? What alternatives or heterotopic imaginaries might work better?

We plan a two-hour seminar session in which twelve participants share and expand upon conversations and arguments made by e-mail conversation over the months preceding the conference. Participants will email ten-page papers to each other by September 15. Based on the papers’ questions, subjects, and methods, we will organize participants into four subgroups of three. During the month leading up to the conference, subgroup members will exchange mails among themselves about each other's work. At the conference, before our main meeting, the subgroups will meet separately to plan a ten-minute presentation to the group. The presentation will consist of three minutes summarizing (what were their contributors' arguments?), five minutes updating (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 1.5 hours. During the remaining half-hour, we will open the conversation to auditors, who may pose questions or contributions of their own.

Potential participants should provide both an abstract (500 words maximum) and a brief bio (250 words maximum).

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners John Fletcher (drjohnfletcher[at] and Sonja Arsham Kuftinec (kufti001[at]

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Theatre’s Many Crowds

David Calder, University of Manchester, david.calder[at]
Jordana Cox, University of Waterloo, j8cox[at]

When performance happens, crowds are often on the scene: performers can draw a crowd or stand out from the crowd; crowds, themselves, can perform. They hum in the lobbies of theatres; they snake through airport security; they march, litter, and hold up traffic. Crowds are a fixture of modern public life.

In theories of collective action, however, “the crowd” often recedes to the margins while the more respectable “public” takes center stage. Whereas the crowd appears to be scattered, libidinal, out-of-control, the public is disciplined, effectual and—especially since Habermas—“rational.” In stories of democratic social change, “the public” stars, while the crowd lurks in the shadows – perhaps an understudy, rival, or unruly foil.

What is the relationship between theatre’s many publics and its many crowds? We welcome papers that consider how crowds perform historically, conceptually, and historiographically.

Last year, participants in the Crowded Spaces working session convened digitally to discuss the actions and affects of crowds: how crowds feel, sense, do, and know. This year, we welcome new and returning participants to consider key questions emerging from that conversation: when and how do crowds become publics, in the theatre, online, and in the streets? How do critics and onlookers distinguish crowds from publics, and what is at stake when they do? Can crowds have opinions? How might elements of the crowd’s excess—in scale, force, affect, or proximity—address limitations in the public sphere? What risks and possibilities do crowds present for engagement, protest, collective action?

Potential participants should submit an abstract (up to 350 words) for a 10-12 page paper, and a brief bio (up to 150 words). Topics are not limited to a particular historical period or geographic area, and might include:

  • Describing social formations: “crowds” and “publics” in theatre criticism and historiography
  • Crowds in transition: how crowds become publics; how publics become crowds
  • Crowds and violence: stampedes, riots and uprisings
  • Crowds and utopian performatives
  • Interventions in crowd theory and/or public sphere theory
  • Crowds and public space
  • Crowds and public memory
  • The individual and the crowd (e.g. the ‘lonely crowd’ of modernity)
  • Crowd affect
  • Dramaturgical metaphors: crowd as villain, hero, etc
  • Crowd-sourcing and public humanities
  • Representations of crowds onstage
  • Crowd control: surveillance, kettling, security, and discipline
  • Crowd scenes: putting the crowd on stage; the crowd as character
  • Faces in the crowd: how crowds are marked by race, gender, ability, class, sexuality
  • Historiographical and/or methodological issues in studying crowd performance

New and returning participants are all welcome to apply.

The conveners will divide the participants into thematic subgroups based on their abstracts. Participants will pre-circulate papers of 10-12 pages by October 15, 2019. In advance of the conference participants will be expected to read all other papers and provide written comments on the three or four papers from their own subgroup. Participants will also be invited to contribute to a collective bibliography on crowds and/in performance. Co-conveners will comment on all papers.

At the start of the working session, participants will meet in their subgroups to discuss each other’s comments and questions. These initial conversations will feed into a full group discussion during which we will consider our conceptual framing of crowds and the methods and methodologies we might employ in our study of them. In the interest of “crowdsourcing,” we will ultimately open the discussion to contributions from audience members (who might—we hope—be a crowd).

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners David Calder, (david.calder[at] or Jordana Cox (j8cox[at]

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Theatres of Public Diplomacy

James R. Ball III, Texas A&M University, jimball[at]
David Donkor, Texas A&M University, dadonkor[at]
Derek Goldman, Georgetown University, dag45[at]

“International politics is being increasingly conducted on a great stage, as it were, under the eyes of a watchful audience … one neglects the theatre of power only at one’s peril.” –Raymond Cohen, Theatre of Power, p. 224

The craft of diplomacy is spectacular, theatrical, and performative, and so begs the attention of scholars of theatre and performance. This working session is dedicated to analyzing and theorizing the performance of states on the world stage. Though revived ethnonationalisms and resurgent populist leaders seem to signal a world turning to isolationism, the spectacle of global politics remains no less essential to the everyday experience of the world’s citizens. Events like Brexit, withdrawals from the ICC, denouncements of the UN, threats to defund NATO, attacks on journalists, and so on all suggest that public diplomacy has ceded its pride of place to the blunt exercise of power in the administration of world affairs. Nevertheless, the practice of international relations continues to be a primary tool with which governments achieve their desired ends. In recent years, scholars have analyzed the history of cultural diplomacy and the theatricality of statecraft. This working session seeks to extend these conversations in order to consider cultural diplomacy, diplomatic theatre, and the spectacular performances of states, their leaders, and their populations on an expanded field of the global arts of statecraft.

Our goal is to generate new conversations on the role of performance in diplomacy and to advance interventions into global politics by artists, scholars, and activists. Treating theatre as both an artform and as a practice used by politicians, technocrats, and embassies, we seek to unite scholars interested in intercultural performance, the use of theatre as a soft power tool, the performance of politics on international stages, performance and global governance, the theatricality of international law, speechmaking, negotiation, and so on. In this way, we hope to mark new directions and forge new networks for theatre research and performance studies in the fields of political science and international relations.

This session will take advantage of the conference’s location by inviting participants to look closely at the agencies and spaces in Washington, DC, where diplomacy is performed (including the US Diplomacy Center at the State Department, the Art Museum of the Americas at the Organization of American States, and embassy row). Participants will be invited to tour one or more of these sites in advance of our working session’s meeting, as fits with their research interests, to better consider some of the stages on which states perform. These visits will inform and inflect discussions during our session. These excursions will begin early on Thursday, 7 November; we ask participants in our working session to plan to arrive in the DC area by Wednesday, 6 November.

This session will engage with the conference theme by emphasizing the public nature of political performance and the use of theatre to advance the goals of individuals, communities, and nations in global contexts. We seek a working session of 12-15 participants offering varied perspectives on the stagecraft of statecraft. Papers might examine any of the following:

  • Public diplomacy in speeches, debates, off-the-cuff remarks, and so on;
  • The work of institutions of statecraft, whether national, regional, or global; public or clandestine;
  • State dinners, state visits, and official embassies;
  • Commemorative events (e.g. inaugurals)in which the state enacts its power, identity, and legitimacy;
  • Costuming and props that support the performances of states;
  • Protocols, conventions, treaties, and unwritten forms of international law;
  • Cultural diplomacy and soft power;
  • Media that publicize the performances of states, from traditional journalism to the latest tweets;
  • Activist performance and citizen responses to state power;
  • Aesthetic responses to perceived global crises, such as climate change, migration, or war;
  • Playwrights and artists who dabble in diplomacy or take up the work of statecraft (e.g. Václav Havel), or statesmen and women who take up the arts (e.g. Condoleezza Rice);
  • or any related areas.

We are excited to receive work in various stages of development. Potential participants should submit a 250-word abstract of your project. Before we convene, participants will be organized into smaller groups based on their research areas. Participants will circulate and respond to drafts (approximately 3000 words) among their subgroup in advance of the conference and report on those discussions during our working session.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners James R. Ball III (jimball[at], David Donkor (dadonkor[at], and Derek Goldman (dag45[at]

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Theatre's Private Publics and the Politics of Performance

Andrew Friedman, Ball State University, alfriedman[at]
Andrew Goldberg, CUNY Graduate Center, agoldberg2[at]
Jennifer Joan Thompson, CUNY Graduate Center, jenniferjoanthompson[at]

Theatre has the unique capacity to operate as both a public and private space. Often, theatre will take the hidden, the unspoken, or the private and make it visible before an audience, thus engaging in an act of publicity. But many forms of theatre, for the duration of a performance at least, seal off the outside world, inviting an audience inside a space of privacy.

Both of these gestures have a political valence: theatrical acts of publicity can challenge ideologies by rendering them apparent or contingent, engage in acts of representation or recognition, or stake a claim to certain rights; theatrical acts of privacy can provide an arena for subversive ideas to find articulation, reconfigure social relations, or encourage new political subjectivities to emerge. Or might theatre not dissolve these concepts altogether, suspending the very categories of “private” and “public” through performance? In this working session, we seek to explore theatre’s public/private indeterminacy and ask what opportunities such a consideration might provide for theorizing theatre’s political potential.

Our consideration of the political potential of theatre’s public and private will be grounded in three primary lines of inquiry:

  1. The suspension of the public/private binary: What political opportunities does this blurring of the public and private that is inherent to theatre open up? How does theatre use private experiences to create and configure publics? How does the “private” experience of the theatre get translated into “public action”?
  2. The desire for secrecy: What does a consideration of theatre that is private, secret, or hidden offer our understanding of the political nature of performance? What is the political value of shunning publicity? How might privacy aid in forming, creating, or repairing communities, and ultimately perhaps, publics?
  3. Excessive publicity: How do controversies, scandals, or other moments of runaway publicity transform the political potential of performance? How do such transformations intersect with the agency of artists and audiences and what do they tell us about theatre’s political capacity? Can theatre ever become too public?

We aim to create a session that incorporates historical and contemporary perspectives across diverse cultures. Papers might engage with these questions through the following topics:

  • Theatre that renders the private public, that aims to transform private experiences into public politics
  • Theatre that marshals the public/private indeterminacy of the theatrical event to explore, destabilize, or radicalize political subjectivity
  • Theatre that reframes notions of ‘private’ and ‘public’ in a diversity of ways and from comparative perspectives or epistemologies (e.g. indigenous, non-western, counter-cultural, and historical)
  • Theatre that explores the limits, indeed finitude, of private and public domains in the age of new media and surveillance
  • Clandestine, underground, or censored theatre
  • Heterotopic and/or utopic theatres; the public/private indeterminacy of “non-places”
  • The politics of performances that expose the private artistic process
  • Theatre that creates private experiences in public spaces
  • Theatre that courts publicity, intentionally or unintentionally
  • Theatre that takes an antagonistic stance towards the public
  • Theatre that becomes “public” in unexpected and uncontrolled ways

We are requesting papers of 10-12 pages in length, due on October 15th. Members will then be assigned to a small thematic subgroup (3-4 members). We will ask participants to prepare a short response and some questions for each of the members of their subgroup. When we convene at ASTR, the first half of the working session will be dedicated to a small-group discussion of papers. We will also ask each group to generate a few questions/provocations prompted by their discussion. We will then open the conversation to the larger group, which will be guided by the questions generated in the small groups. Submission guidelines:

Potential participants should provide (1) a paper title; (2) a 250-word abstract of the proposed paper, including how it will intersect with the working session’s theme; (3) a brief biographical statement of no more than 150 words.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Andrew Friedman (alfriedman[at], Andrew Goldberg (agoldberg2[at], and Jennifer Joan Thompson (jenniferjoanthompson[at]

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Transfeminisms' Many Publics: Towards a Pedagogical Resource for Transfeminist Education

Amy Meyer, Tufts University, meyer.amy.e[at]
Bess Rowen, Villanova University, bess.rowen[at]
Janet Werther, The Graduate Center, CUNY, Jwerther[at]
Rye Gentleman, University of Minnesota, gentl014[at]

As Alisa Solomon wrote in The Queerest Art (2002), “that theatre should be the art potentially most offensive to social order makes obvious sense: onstage the human body is absolutely present in all its sweating, spitting specificity” (9). Predicated on the live co-presence of performing bodies and spectatorial witnesses, theatrical performance in all its “sweating, spitting specificity” is deeply bound up in the social, as are our experiences of gender and sexuality.

Often frictional reinterpretations of gender, trans and gender non-conforming performances—of mundane selfhood or highly theatricalized character—are still perceived as offensive to the social order and its presumptively “normative” public. While the federal government seeks to eliminate transgender Americans from rhetorical existence, and pronoun usage is debated under the auspices of academic freedom, transgender performance nonetheless proliferates, and spectacularly so: in the past few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of trans representation in theatre (Jess Barbagallo in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Kate Bornstein and Ty Defoe in Straight White Men), television (Pose, Transparent, Sense8), and beyond. How can transfeminist theatre and performance studies scholarship productively intervene in these oppositional discourses on trans life and experience?

We aim to gather scholars motivated to center transgender embodiment and experience in theatre and performance studies and, together, to foster new methodologies that can be circulated publicly. We want bring together both new and established scholars who are doing work in transfeminist studies, and create a forum that enables discourse about transfeminist scholarship and pedagogy that will continue beyond the site of the conference.

Last year the Transfeminisms working group worked collaboratively to build a preliminary bibliography of key theoretical and historical texts for use in transfeminist theatre and performance studies. The goal is to establish ourselves as the ideal and intended public for transgender studies scholarship. Building on that work, this year’s working session will focus on the address and intended audiences of our performing subjects, as well as that of our own writing. Questions include: Who are the publics of transfeminist performance? Who are the publics of transfeminist theatre scholarship? What necessary publics has our work failed to hail, and how can we most effectively address a broad public of theatre audiences and scholars perhaps unfamiliar with or made anxious by transfeminist critique?

Framed in part by these questions, our working group this year will focus on the co-creation of a “Transfeminist Theatre and Performance Studies Pedagogy Resource” which we plan to make publicly available after the conference session. Participants in the group will propose and create the content for this resource including an annotated bibliography, a best practices document, a sample syllabus, and other materials that would work to further our aim of creating a resource accessible to all who want to further cultivate a transfeminist pedagogy in their classrooms. In addition to contributing to this content, each participant will contribute a short piece of writing (3-5 pages) in response to a prompt based on the positioning of theatre and performance studies as a public for transfeminist studies. These short pieces will become the introductory material for the resource created by the group. Our time on-site will be divided between discussing the shared themes and concerns that arise from our work and solidifying our ideas and plans for the online resource.

Potential participants should provide a 250- to 350-word description of and rationale for the content you propose to submit to the resource project described above.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Amy Meyer (meyer.amy.e[at], Bess Rowen (bess.rowen[at], Janet Werther (Jwerther[at], and Rye Gentleman (gentl014[at]

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Transnational Performance: Bridging Disjunctive Publics

Joyelle Ball, Stonehill College, joyelleball[at]
Yasmine Jahanmir, American University of Kuwait, yassij[at]
Haddy Kreie, Drury University, hkreie[at]

In 1967, Guy Debord lamented the expansion of mass media, or “spectacle,” as integral to modern unity—unity built on disjunction, contradictory unity wherein “the demonstrated division is unitary, while the demonstrated unity is divided” (Society of the Spectacle, 54). Two decades later, Appadurai reminds us that “the sheer speed, scale and volume of each of [the global flows] is now so great that the disjunctures have become central to the politics of global culture” (“Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” 301). And in 2006, citing the inconvenience to globalization theory that such resistant cultures and economies as rural Africa provide, Ferguson notes that “material inequalities and spatial and scalar disjunctions” are the foundation of dominating global patterns” (“Globalizing Africa?,” 49). These scholars claim that, increased transnational interconnectivity has produced enduring public anxiety regarding the sanctity of cultural difference and the promise of cultural hybridity, resulting in a deepened alienation within the social relationships that define various publics.

Transnational performance practices (e.g., cross-cultural performance, intercultural performance, culturally specific performance performed beyond the limits of its specific geographic origin, digitally integrative performance, and tourism, among others) sit at an intersection of Appadurai’s five global flows (people, media, technology, capital, and ideology) and have the potential to respond to the disjuncture that dominates this globalizing moment by engaging transnational publics in events that remain connected to liveness and co-presence. Transnational performance has the capacity to compose real and imagined publics out of audiences, performers, politicians, and bystanders. As the conference is near to Washington D.C. — a city that is both emblematic of national identity as well as deeply transnational in that embassies are officially tasked with negotiating global flows of commerce and culture — we are invested in how particular spatial relations develop intersectional or paradoxical notions of public.

This group asks the question: How do transnational performances intervene in the crisis of disjunction, especially where contingent publics are concerned?

This group seeks short scholarly papers that engage with questions of transnational performance and disjunctive (or conjunctive) publics. Potential research questions include questions regarding how transnational performance practices (broadly defined) might:

  • bridge distinct publics and polities across continents and performance genres
  • resist structural authorities to bridge many local, national, and international publics
  • enable mass communication outside of traditional transnational communication channels
  • negotiate divergent political discourse
  • deploy mobile digital technologies and social media to collapse public and private space
  • capitalize on publics who become performers through engagement with multiple publics
  • conjoin publics that are geographically disperse
  • reaffirm feelings of dislocation amongst publics
  • shift as migration and tourism increase
  • reimagine theatre of the past in ways that speak to new generations

In assembling this working group, we hope to engage with diverse methodologies and theories in order to have the most nuanced and stimulating conversation. We hope to arrive at a better understanding of the vital role that theatre plays in an increasingly mechanized, digitized, and globally-oriented world.

Potential participants should submit a 250-word abstract explaining how your paper engages with the questions of the working group. We take the notion of a working group to be just that, a sharing of work at all stages. Working group conveners will begin the process by soliciting a set of short readings from participating members in mid-June. What research has inspired you or have you found critical in your research related to the group’s topic? Specific papers do not need to engage with these readings directly, though they will provide a common ground for discussion and feedback. Beginning in early August, participants will submit their short (roughly 10-page) papers. All participants should read and briefly comment on all papers in the group. In early October, we will divide into smaller groups based upon thematic, topical, and/or theoretical interests, and will share feedback and ideas more deeply within these groups. During the conference session, participants will have the opportunity to share their research with the larger group. Each small group will have a platform for interrogating thematic connections or disjunctures within their group’s papers. Following this we will come together as a group to discuss broader implications, conclusions and discoveries, engagement with shared readings, and the larger conference theme. We will also encourage social media participation and collaboration related to our work throughout the process through the dual use of a working group hashtag and the ASTR 2019 hashtag.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Joyelle Ball (joyelleball[at], Yasmine Jahanmir (yassij[at], and Haddy Kreie (hkreie[at]

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Worlds of Knowledge: Science, Performance, and the Public

Cole Remmen, University of California, Santa Barbara, coleremmen[at]
Bella Poynton, University at Buffalo, bdpoynton[at]

No longer confined to the proverbial “ivory tower”, scientific breakthroughs are now regularly matters of public knowledge. Advancements in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and medicine help shape ways of considering ourselves and the universe in which we live, becoming touchstone elements of public consciousness. Furthermore, technological inventions are increasingly integrated with our everyday lives, from communications software to medical advancements to interactive machines such as robots and artificial intelligence entering public (and private) spheres.

In recent years, the representation of scientists in media has boomed, with science fiction dominating film and television. Science-driven and science-fiction theater has grown in popularity, invigorating the stage with new thought-provoking stories and demonstrating the power of theater as a tool for the communication of scientific ideas. Public interest in science has rocketed not simply for new findings, but for participating in the scientific process itself; “citizen science” projects offer the public opportunities for civic engagement in scientific discovery, from classifying galaxies (Galaxy Zoo) to mapping the human optic nerve (EyeWire) to predicting the structure of AIDS-related enzymes (Foldit). At the same time, the curious trend of science denialism has grown, with climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, and conspiracy theorists of all types engaging in public discourse on every level, from social media to the halls of Congress. Meanwhile, scientists have demonstrated a renewed engagement with the public, as evidenced by countless TED talks, science outreach programs, and STEM activism like 2017’s March for Science.

The interplay between science, performance, and issues of the public is at an all-time high. At this crucial point, performance studies can provide new ways of considering this relationship, offering vital interventions into our understanding of the role of science in society through theater, notions of embodiment, and performance. This working session will consider the ways in which performance intersects with (or constitutes) public engagement with/of science.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Representations of scientists in media
  • Embodiment of scientist identity
  • Science pedagogy as performance
  • STEM advocacy and activism
  • Science and public policy
  • Science outreach and communication
  • Public research engagement (citizen science)
  • Science history
  • Science museums and exhibitions
  • Astronomy performance
  • Climate change performance
  • Biology performance
  • Anatomy and medical performance
  • Science-driven theater
  • Science fiction
  • Posthuman publics
  • Social machines
  • Robots
  • Cyborgs
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automation and labor
  • Virtual and augmented reality
  • Digital communities
  • Social media and communication technology

The goal of this working session is, firstly, to expand the discussion of the nexus of science and performance in order to forge new connections, and expand the boundaries of research within this burgeoning discipline. A second goal of this session is to aid participants in refining research and articles-in-progress, both through pre-conference feedback on written work and through invigorating scholarly exchange during the working session that will be inclusive of the diverse perspectives and interests of the conference participants.

This working session will take the format of a roundtable. Members of the session will first have an opportunity to share their work in small subgroups of 3-5 members. These subgroups will be determined prior to the conference and written work will be exchanged within them for the purpose of pre-conference feedback. During the working session, participants will expand upon the pre-conference feedback and explore new avenues and connections for their research. Following the subgroup meetings, the whole working session will come together and share findings, intersections, and items of interest with the larger group, forging broader research connections within the working session and considering bigger questions at the nexus of science, performance, and the public. The working session will be open to outside participants.

Working session members will prepare an 8-12 page paper (inclusive of footnotes) that must be uploaded to the working session’s website by October 9, 2019. Each working session member will provide feedback by October 23, 2019, for the members of an assigned subgroup of working session participants. Pre-conference communication and discussion among members of your subgroup is encouraged.

Potential participants should submit a proposal/abstract of no more than 250 words. This abstract should propose a paper that explores intersections of science and performance with particular attention to issues of the public. For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Cole Remmen (coleremmen[at] and Bella Poynton (bdpoynton[at]

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