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2020 Working Sessions
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Afterlife and its Consequences: Repetition, Capital, and Public Life 

Laura MacDonald, Michigan State University
Bryan Vandevender, Bucknell University

In Subsequent Productions, Jonathan Miller contends that plays achieve canonization when they continue to motivate performances across time. By his charge, a play’s afterlife—the production history that follows its premiere—determines its worth and import: “the play passes through the development that is its birthright, and its meaning begins to be fully appreciated only when it enters a period that I shall call its afterlife. ” (1) 

While Miller limits his analysis to Shakespearean performance, a wide variety of theatrical traditions and performance phenomena such as rituals, festivals, pageants, adaptations, tours, foreign productions, longruns,  revivals and repertoire manifest afterlives. The subsequent performances that constitute a work’s afterlife and make it suitable for canonization not only endows the work with cultural capital that propels its afterlife further, but also activates a public life that extends beyond the theatre and the ephemeral performance itself. The work’s public life has the capacity to organize communities and facilitate memory-making, the establishment of shared values, and on ongoing dialogue. It can also equalize and/or bridge theatre audiences and makers, as persistently present plays and performances can develop more intense and sustained relationships with their audiences than with original creative teams.  

While scholars have long studied theatre products, and pre-performance processes, theatre products’ circulation beyond their initial creation, and the impact of those that are most persistent have received comparatively less study. This working group will  investigate the notion of afterlife and the capital that afterlife both produces and requires. Rather than privileging one or a handful of repetitions, such as opening or closing night, we aim to examine the accrued capital of a more substantial collection of repetitions. Because so many kinds of theatre and performance consolidate a wealth of performances, we welcome investigations of long-running plays and musicals, classic plays and musicals in revival, national and international tours, regional and international productions, opera and ballet repertoire, seasonal fare such as nativity plays, The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol, as well as annual community pageants and performances, though these examples are not exhaustive. 

Interested scholars should submit a 250 word abstract introducing their interest in the afterlife and capital of particular repetitions in theatre and performance. Repetitions’ capital has also prompted challenges or interventions, such as Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s Jane Austen plays as an alternative to A Christmas Carol . We welcome explorations of new, original work in response to repetition. To foster complex and multi-valent engagement with afterlife and capital, all participants will read and comment on several papers in advance of the meeting. Papers must therefore be submitted by October 9th. The organizers will also suggest 2-3 relevant readings in advance which may prove useful while preparing final drafts and as common ground during group discussions. To facilitate in-depth thinking and discussion during the session itself, participants will initially be broken into several small groups and given guiding questions by the organizers. The group as a whole will then reconvene for the latter part of the working session in order to tie together different conversational threads and to consider avenues for future work. 

Proposals based on practice-as-research are welcome, and scholars might consider designing a task or exercise to facilitate as part of the working session. The organizers will also curate any visual material and/or documents submitted by participants and will make these available before and during the working session. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at macdo282[at]msu.edu or bmv003[at]bucknell.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Alternative Medievalisms: Repetitions of the Medieval in Contemporary Performance

Carla Neuss, UCLA
Christopher Swift, NYCCT, CUNY
Jesse Njus, Virginia Commonwealth University

From its Latin roots of "seeking backwards," repetition ruptures linear temporalities and evokes the past in new ways while laying groundwork for potential futures. Perhaps no other historic-temporal imaginary is as regularly and imaginatively evoked as that of the "medieval." From T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral to Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, Game of Thrones festivals to Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo’s The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey O!,  medievalisms broadly signal, in David Matthews’s words, "feelings about the past" leveraged towards ever-evolving ends in the present and future.

This working session seeks to investigate medievalisms as they are performed and embedded in broader social movements and cultural production. As it has in earlier moments of cultural transition, the "medieval" is reemerging once again today in the crosshairs of contemporary political and social upheaval. This contemporary repetition of medieval is frequently re/presented in service of a false ontology of whiteness, from the appropriation of an imagined homogenous medieval past by ethnic nationalists to many of the medievalisms cited above. Yet as Wahala Dey O!—a Nigerian adaptation of Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale—reminds us, performance as restored behavior can reveal new epistemological foundations from which to reassess the past. The possibilities inherent in this reassessment are illustrated by the current turn within medieval studies towards a global Middle Ages as exemplified by the work of scholars such as Geraldine Heng. The recurrence of the medieval in our contemporary moment is repeating with a difference, proliferating alternative medievalisms. 

This session will support the development of papers that interrogate the medieval as it circulates through various forms of performance while challenging dominant narratives that have previously characterized the impetus to seek and repeat the medieval past. We encourage submissions that engage and build upon the following questions:

  • How have medievalisms and their temporal imaginaries circulated within contemporary political and social phenomena?
  • How has nostalgia for the Middle Ages functioned affectively and efficaciously across performance, cultural production, and the everyday?
  • In what ways do medieval/ist discourses and performances rupture pre-existing formulations of time, space, migration, race, or religion? 
  • How have artists and practitioners readdressed medieval themes in order to produce new histories, alternative memories, and unexpected utopias?
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The panel conveners encourage submissions from scholars working in a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, performance studies, history, language and literature, cultural studies, and political science. In order to foster productive interdisciplinary conversations, members will respond to focused prompts a few months prior to the conference. As conceptual threads emerge, participants will be placed in thematic subgroups to exchange papers. At the conference, subgroups will meet independently to discuss revelations, intersections, and repetitions, followed by a meeting of the entire working group for a broader discussion about the reiterative power of medievalisms.

Please include your name, professional affiliation, email, and a 250-word paper abstract that connects your research with the themes of the conference and working group.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at cneuss[at]ucla.edu, cswift[at]citytech.cuny.edu, or janjus[at]vcu.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Black Mothers of Performance Studies: Birth, Death and Rebirth in Early Black Women’s Performance Studies  

Maisha S. Akbar, Fort Valley State University
Shondrika Moss-Bouldin

In response to repetitive, cross-generational performances of intersectional sexism, racism and classism, we, Black women artist –scholars of the 21st century, find ourselves tasked with “re-birthing” the interdisciplinary cultural production of our foremothers. This working session explores difference, power and resistance in Black women’s contributions to the fields of theatre and performance studies. Specifically, we plan to explore the ways institutions continue to exclude our Black mothers. In doing so, we challenge a white supremacist definition of motherhood since some of these women did not physically give birth; however, they created performance- based movements, which laid the foundation for others such as the Civil Rights movement, #Blacklivesmatter and #sayhername.  A recovery of lynching plays as a “lost” genre of American drama as well as a “rememory” of Zora Neale Hurston’s oeuvre serve as guiding case studies for our working session activities. By centering Black women’s cultural production as well as foregrounding our own experiences of exclusion, this session seriously examines how Black women’s performance functions after repetition of white supremacy. Since most Black women artist-scholars find ourselves undervalued, due to additional invisible labor we must perform, this session performs urgent imperatives of nurturing our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental selves. 

New Orleans, a performance-saturated location, is a crucial setting in which to facilitate this session, especially as a birthplace of Black culture and spirituality. New Orleans is also meaningful to us because the city hosts the Essence Festival, an annual convening and celebration of hundreds of thousands of Black women making New Orleans a “ground zero” for the study for Black women’s cultural performance. In addition to “cradling” Black women’s non normative creative practices, New Orleans’ unique relationship to performance based traditions, particularly those centered upon intersectional subjectivities,  mourning and death (i.e. second line music and dance ritual), as well as costuming and masking, make New Orleans an ideal setting for our working session.   

Participants will participate in a variety of pre-session, working session, and post-session activities. The activities foregroundBlack women’s memory as well as validate our lived experiences. Our working session will engage participants in a variety of Black feminist centered ways that facilitate restorative acts, performances of self -care and intellectual contribution thereby creating spaces of “Black girl magic,” also known as freedom.  

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at akbarm[at]fvsu.edu or s@scworks.tv.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Disidentifying Borders: Coalitional Futurity and Migration (Muñoz Working Session)

Dominika Laster, University of New Mexico
Hillary Cooperman, Rollins College

The Louisiana State Penitentiary—the largest maximum-security prison in the US—lies on the site of the former penal plantation Angola, where enslaved individuals brought forcibly from West Africa were compelled to work the 18,000-acre plantation. Situated in the state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the prison—still referred to as Angola—stands as synecdoche for the historical continuity of racialized mass incarceration and the reproduction of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation within the contemporary prison-industrial complex. Beyond the “straightjacket of repetition” exacted by the reiterative mechanisms of the penal system, Angola is also the site where, in the 1980s, a group of incarcerated activists known as the Angola Special Civics Project mobilized coalitional strategies to advance an abolitionist agenda contesting the very logics of the carceral state.

This fall, not more than 140 miles from the Penitentiary, we will convene the second of a three-year José Esteban Muñoz Targeted Research Working Session whose aim is to bring together scholars, activists, and artists with similarly positioned but often segregated activist and academic fields of inquiry. Our first year focused on Indigenous sovereignties, this year we turn to the consideration of abolitions, and our final year will be devoted to utopias.

Turning our attention to abolitions, we take Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s notion of “carceral geography” as a starting point to think about the interrelationship of landscape, resources, political economy, policing and controlling of populations around the globe and in our everyday lives. We will consider global repetitions, mimicries, and reproductions of the expansive network of federal and private prisons in the US, and their interlinkages with migrant detention centers, and the imprisonment of Palestinians behind checkpoints and borders in the West Bank and Gaza. We will also propose prison abolitionism as a direct refute to the carceral state and carceral geography because it strikes at the root cause of a deep systemic crisis stemming from endemic colonial, racial and neoliberal ideologies and discourses that continue their projects by criminalizing those most marginalized and vulnerable in the US and around the world. Guided by the 2020 conference theme, we will ask what is possible after repetition—after the unremitting replication of historical violence: how can performance interrupt this repetition? How can taking up the incomplete project of abolitionism allow us to reconfigure our modes of thinking and doing in ways that elude the compulsion to repeat?

Our intention is to elicit difficult, but necessary, conversations on how to build coalitions across diverse lines of activism. 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.

This year, we invite applications from those interested in joining us as we investigate some of the following questions:

Coalitional Scholarship and Activism

  • How might a combination of performance studies, critical race studies, feminist and queer theory, critical indigenous studies, and radical activist praxis be brought to bear on questions of abolition and/or coalitional modalities of resistance?
  • What are some concrete examples of coalitional work across prison abolitionism, immigrant justice activism, queer liberation movements, and indigenous organizing, and how are these manifested in aesthetic and activist practice?
  • What are historical and contemporary examples of intersectional abolitionist practice—including organizing inside prisons—and how do they resist the carceral state?
  • What are the ways in which prison abolitionism and queer liberation converge—critically, theoretically, and practically?
  • How can indigenous and decolonial epistemologies, methodologies, and praxes speak to prison abolitionism?

Embodied Experience

  • What are the everyday experiences of the carceral? What are the social and political performances that further legitimize the carceral state and to what ends? What role do multi-national corporations and technology play in reinforcing carceral geography? How does capitalism thrive in and through carceral geography? In what ways does prison abolitionism work against carceral geography?
  • What is the relationship between the lived experiences of transgender individuals and incarceration, as well as carceral systems more broadly? How can transgender studies inform prison abolitionism? \

Performance/Aesthetics

  • What are aesthetic depictions of abolitionism and how to they intervene in carceral systems? What work is being done through performance to draw attention to prisons and detention centers? How do arts-based projects with prisoners promote notions of prison abolitionism?
  • Beyond repetition, what new temporal and spatial arrangements can prison abolitionism propose? What new lexicon, critical lenses, and methodologies can it bring to our thinking of the relationship between performance, time, and history?

Please 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 any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at dominika.laster[at]gmail.com or hcooperman[at]rollins.edu. 

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Disrupted Nationhoods and the Repetition of Change: Theatre and Performance in Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia

Dennis Beck, James Madison University
Alisa Ballard Lin, Ohio State University
Rachel Merrill Moss, Northwestern University

Continuing from last year, we invite proposals to our Central and Eastern Europeanfocused group that advance our conversation toward dismantling artificial binaries (east/west, national/state, tradition/progress, minority/majority, etc.) based on static notions of repetition and reperformance. We want to further explore performance and theatre as means to disrupt core conceptions of seemingly clear-cut “new nationalisms” and cultural boundaries and identities. With our shared focus on countries reshaped and reconstituted numerous times, we ask: what does reperformance mean in a context where identities have been reformed amidst repeated geographic upheaval and political turbulence? What meanings does repetition create where the most frequent form of repetition is change? What can reperformance mobilize for audiences who have often witnessed it merely perform rearranged, narrativized pasts to serve agenda-laden purposes? How does performance conceptualize “national” and ethnic identities of the region–themselves often transnational–as borders are redrawn around/through them? How does performance offer useful disruptions of localized identities that embrace, integrate, or reject the global and transnational beyond recycling the familiar? Within such a context, does repetition or reperformance inevitably fail? If so, what modes allow us to analyze theatre and performance from this part of the world?

We invite papers that examine repetition and reperformance within the context of Central, Eastern Europe, and Russia, shining a light on the various angles through which performances refract the distinct messiness of the culture, history, violence, and majority/minority relations within the region. We encourage proposals that disrupt the neat, artificial binaries and repetitions from before, behind, and after the Iron Curtain. Among others, topics could include:

  • Performances that expose slippages between history and political narratives.
  • The reprisal of traditions/canonical work in ways that question their conventional valuation.
  • Ways in which new/newly recognized populations offer methods and forms that undermine or move beyond repetition.
  • Performative police/security tactics as reincarnations of different historical practices.
  • Performance of documents, statistics, and interviews.

In early September, conveners will request 5-10pg. drafts from group members; we anticipate around 15 participants. We hope to attract scholars from beyond Eastern European Theater, including from History, Jewish and Slavic studies, Translation and Cultural Studies, etc. Based on common vocabularies, theoretical foundations, or interests (but ideally not geographical overlap), conveners will divide papers into groups of 3-4. Before meeting in New Orleans, small groups will circulate papers, offering feedback via email, culminating in revised 10-15pg. drafts in mid-October. Papers will then circulate to the entire working group. In New  Orleans, one third of our session will be dedicated to tracing linkages, repetitions, and revisions on themes that engage the full group, with the aim of generating broader discussion topics, but also to form small breakout groups different than the ones from September. These small groups will riff off a shared theme/thread amongst papers. The final third of our session will be recording these breakout group themes/discussions, sharing them with the full group, and tracing linkages across the working session as a whole. With these in mind, we will discuss the possibility of a journal special issue proposal for Theatre Survey, European Stages, or Contemporary Theater Review.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at rmmoss[at]u.northwestern.edu, beckdc[at]jmu.edu, or lin.3183[at]osu.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Early Modern Performance After, Beyond, and Through Repetition

Danielle Rosvally, University of Buffalo
Donovan Sherman, Seton Hall University

Early modern performance thrives on repetition--uncanny returns, compulsions, religious ritual, and political ceremonies-- yet scholarship on this period often repeats itself in less generative ways by rehearsing and reinscribing the same theoretically conservative ideas. We hope to explore understandings beyond this deadening repetition by inviting work that reinvigorates our understanding of early modern performance as a place of dynamic possibility. As we reconsider early modern texts, how might we redefine early modern theatre as a set of practices alongside and outside of canonical works? Conversely, how can we study canonical figures such as Shakespeare in new, vital, even provocative ways so as to displace their overdetermined status as supposed pinnacles of humanistic achievement? 

Paper topics may include: the recovery of historically marginalized voices (queer, differently abled, nonwhite, trans) from dominant narratives; critiques of disciplinary orientations (for instance, a long-overdue reckoning following the call to action by Kim F. Hall, Kimberly Ann Coles, and Ayanna Thompson of early modern studies as an attractive field to far-right extremism); analyses of digital and virtual adaptations (CGI effects at the Globe, games such as Play the Knave); engagements with non-European early modern forms (Islamic, indigenous American, Asian); and the reimagination of what constitutes early modern “theatre” by focusing on other modes of performance (religious, social, political).  We also invite papers that examine traditional drama in conversation with performance studies and other contemporary theoretical innovations.   

Participants will first send abstracts and brief bibliographies to the conveners, who will then divide the session into small groups based loosely on shared interests (with attention to diversity of rank and identity). Each group will exchange full papers and each participant will offer, via email, generative, constructive feedback to the others in their group. The full set of abstracts and bibliographies will be made available to the entire session (and will be printed as handouts for auditors at the meeting). At the conference session, we will begin by breaking into the pre-assigned groups, who will converse about commonalities, themes, challenges, and other productive elements of their papers. Each group will come up with one or two trends, culled from their discussion, they find exciting for the field of early modern performance. After half the assigned time for the session, we will meet as a whole. The conveners will moderate discussion (with an emphasis on hearing from all participants), first asking each group to report on their trends, then broadening our focus to future directions for our work and possible future projects as a group (a listserv? social media group? publication? podcast?). We will open up to auditors in the final ten minutes. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenors at drosvall[at]buffalo.edu or donovan.sherman[at] shu.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Echoes of Place: Repetition and Spectatorship in Site-Specific and Immersive Performance

Kelley Holley, University of Maryland, College Park
Dave Mancini, UC Santa Barbara

As cultural geographer Tim Cresswell reminds us, “Places are never finished, but are produced through the reiteration of practices – the repetition of seemingly mundane activities on a daily basis.” (2014 116) Emerging from both cultural products and everyday practices, places have a fraught relationship with repetition. Repetition informs the never-ending project of place, and yet place defies the possibility of repetition. As place-based forms like site-specific and immersive theatre become increasingly popular, they encounter a similar friction between the necessity and the impossibility of repetition. Immersive performance often depends upon repetition to train its audience, to build a level of comfort that allows for audience members to take risks and become active agents within the performance. As a genre site-specific performance plays with the possibility of time recurring, allowing place to aid in the sensation of proximity to the past. Alternatively, site-specific performance uses repetition to ground its temporality in the routine moments of the present. However, such supposedly mundane actions, such as riding a bus, allows for uncontrolled circumstances that are the domain of the unrepeatable. To experience place is to intermingle the constant and the ephemeral, in a never ending loop. Significantly departing from the temporal modality of traditional dramatic performance, site-specific and immersive performances understand that the individual, unrepeatable experience is inherent to its brand of spectatorship. The unparalleled experience of serendipitous spectatorship and the inherent necessity of repetition often render new sensations familiar. Echoes reverberate from a place’s past, co-mingling with a spectator’s prior knowledge, urging them to experience the site as simultaneously new and unfamiliar. This working group will interrogate questions such as:

  • Can place be repeated?
  • What are the dramaturgies of site-specific and immersive performance and how do they impact a spectator’s experience of place and time?
  • How does the spectator experience the tensions between the repeatable and unrepeatable qualities of place?
  • What causes an existing site to transform temporally/spatially?
  • How is a site defined by performance in the spectator’s memory?

This working group seeks 10-12 page individual papers on the themes related to place, temporality, and audience experience in regard to site-specific and immersive performance. In advance of the conference, papers will be circulated between participants via a Google group. Participants will then be paired, providing feedback and posing broader questions raised by the papers. Then, participants will form subgroups that will continue these conversations, addressing the posed questions and finding valuable connections between papers. Each subgroup will share their discussions with the group as a whole. The working group will participate in a pre-conference gathering in which we compose short place-based performances or experiences around New Orleans, a place famed for the reverberations of its past. During our conference meeting, we will welcome visitors and further explore the concepts and questions that emerged out of our previous discussions. Understanding personal experience to be a significant feature of our theoretical framing, these site visits will allow the group to investigate how shared spectatorship results in singular encounters with place.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at kholley[at]umd.edu or dmancini[at]ucsb.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Ecology and Performance Working Group

Kelli Shermeyer, University of Virginia
Ashley Chang, Yale School of Drama
Antonia Krueger, Eckerd College

Within indigenous and scientific epistemologies alike, repetition, replication, and reliability help structure our understanding of the world. Taking the long view, we can see rhythms to global warming and mass extinction. An even longer view, however, reveals cycles so sublime that we have yet to see their conclusion or initiation: the lifespan of our sun, for example. And if we zoom in too close, patterns lose their clarity, dissolving into an intricate and even random web of cause and effect: lightning never strikes twice.

In environmental politics, repetition becomes reiteration. “I have been constantly talking about our rapidly declining carbon budgets,” activist Greta Thunberg said at COP25. “But since that is still being ignored, I will just keep repeating it.” Activists find themselves battling an equal and opposite logic of repetition: formidable traditions of production and consumption at local and global scales.

In all cases, repetitions both visible and invisible, knowable and unknowable, are shaped by a wild assemblage of actors and re-enactors. Writing on pattern, scientist Jérôme Chave has observed the decline of “a fixed ecological theatre: the theatre is being rapidly and relentlessly redesigned by the players themselves”; old patterns are actively reworked by human and nonhuman agencies.

Beginning at ASTR 2005 and continuing in 2010, 2012, and 2014–19, this working group is a key forum for connecting artists, theorists, and educators in performance and ecology. This year in New Orleans, we explore repetition’s ecological temporalities: its slow violences and its flash floods/fires; its archeological palimpsests left by geophysical evolution; its posthumanist premonitions pitted against humanist norms; and its fears of meteorological forecasts (will there be another Katrina?) alongside its bleak faith in them (will “freak” weather events become routine?). We ask: how might the temporal collapses, expansions, ruptures, and continuities possible in performance give form to (un)predictable ecological time signatures?

In 2020, we hope to provide a forum for discussing works-in-progress, theoretical frameworks, and methodologies; to publish an annotated bibliography of projects by scholars working today; and to foster camaraderie through a trip to the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University, which has a history of producing free exhibitions on environmental issues.

We will invite participants to submit abstracts of their research; place them in small groups organized around theory, practice, or pedagogy; facilitate peer-to-peer feedback through multiple rounds of iterative pre-conference conversation; and, at the session, ask each group to share the connections between its members’ projects through 25-minute presentations, performances, workshops, or site visits.

In addition to allowing participants to bring their individual work, we will continue to hold space for alternative models of scholarship. Last year in Arlington, we took seriously Amitav Ghosh’s  call to refuse “the individualizing imaginary in which we are trapped” by asking participants to collaborate on experiential provocations instead of presenting traditional academic papers. The results—a manifesto, choreographic scores, and a critical tour of the US Botanic Garden—foregrounded collectivity, dialogue, and process in ways the group found deeply generative.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at ashleydchang[at]gmail.com, kruegeas[at]eckerd.edu, or kelli.shermeyer[at]gmail.com.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Enveloping Worlds: Toward a Discourse of Immersivity and Participatory Performance

Elizabeth Hunter, San Francisco State University
Scott Magelssen, University of Washington

In The New York Times’ “33 Ways to Remember the 2010s” reflection on the last decade, theatre critic Ben Brantley credits Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More with spawning “[a]round the globe, an ever-multiplying slew of immersive productions.” Productions in this style often feature site specificity, an audience who roams freely (or is lightly guided), and performers who engage in some level of audience interactivity. In addition to drawing the attention of a wide public and the co-chief theatre critic for the nation’s paper of record, such productions have also begun to interest scholars. Writing in 2013, Josephine Machon offers a scale for evaluating the relative immersivity of a given production; and Susan Bennett’s 2009 article, “The Peripatetic Audience,” considers how site-specific performance creates “an expanded context of theatricality in the world.”

Though immersivity has been folded into working sessions focused on other main topics, this is the first ASTR working session in which the primary frame is immersive practice. The 2020 conference theme is an ideal context to begin this conversation, because immersive theatrical practice trades in the non-linear configuration of time in performance. Unlike productions that seek repetition of the same performance for different audiences across nights in a run or towns on a tour, immersive productions more often seek to thwart repetition, promising instead an audience experience that is at once radically individual and temporally communal. Immersive practices also offer rich ground for considering the unintended consequences of attempting to create guaranteed repetition. From method acting training programs to elementary school shooter drills, immersivity is often deployed—sometimes disastrously—with the express purpose of training new or non-performers to repeat key behaviors on cue.

This session is aimed at scholars and practitioners interested in the many ways immersivity—analog and digital—opens a non-linear discussion of the historicity and phenomenology of theatre across content areas. The working session will combine small and large group discussion and a pre-session excursion to an immersive event in New Orleans as a shared research experience.

“Enveloping Worlds” invites 200-word abstracts for papers exploring the idea of immersivity and participatory performance, broadly construed. Topics might include (but are not limited to) experiments in audience participation; immersive simulations for training purposes; three-dimensional educational environments in museums and other cultural attractions; immersivity and technology; notions of immersion that help us rethink historical modes of theatre, performance, and spectatorship; challenges to fully immersive experiences including along lines of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and so forth.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at ebh[at]sfsu.edu or magelss[at]uw.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Experiment After Replication (Experimental Methods Working Session)

Sarah Klein,University of Waterloo
Yelena Gluzman, University of California, San Diego

Technoscience, with its taxonomies and technologies, increasingly dominates the sensorium, the self-in-society, and paradigms for knowing. The site of experiment - fundamental to technoscience - also activates theater and performance traditions of shared fields of action, experience and risk as a way toward knowing. How do embodied methodologies of theater, performance studies and practice-as-research extend theories of semiotics, new materialism, actor-network theory and various notions of performativity to offer new ways of experiencing, conceptualizing and intervening in the products and logics of technoscience? The recent “reproducibility crisis” in experimental science has become a lightning rod for contesting what counts as legitimate knowledge. It has become an impetus for methodological reform movements in scientific fields from psychology to clinical medicine, as well as recent calls to extend reproducibility as a universal criterion for all scholarly research. It is also opportunistically weaponized by climate skeptics to undermine consensus in the ongoing global catastrophe. Thus, we are in a moment where it is necessary to carefully consider how performance approaches can position themselves in relation to these crises - strategically, ethically, and epistemically.

How might experimental methods in our field speak to experiments staged in labs, and how can embodied reinterpretations and performative reenactments reframe the crises around failures to replicate, and thus validate, experimental findings? How might experimental performance methods make possible difficult conversations with scientists, engineers, policy makers, and the communities they want to serve?

We invite abstracts for 2000-3000 word papers (or short draft audio/video/performance works that can be shared digitally), especially projects that consider insights and obstacles at their research site to address how experimental work can elucidate the practices and performances of technoscience - including but not limited to laboratory science, technologies of influence, convenience, translation and surveillance, modeling practices and climate research - in its production, dissemination and uptake. 

The goals of this working session are: 

  1. Compile methodologies, bibliographies, premises, and ethics of experimental performance approaches and critical collaboration around technoscience.
  2. Assess and articulate a “state of the field” of performance approaches to studies of, and interventions in, the practices of technoscience.
  3. Support the development of scholarly publications (including less traditional media forms), networking and critical collaboration around experimental work engaging with technoscience.

The format of this working session is:

  • Before the conference: Conveners divide participants thematically into small (3-5 person) subgroups. Subgroup members share their contributions by September 15, responding to each other by October 15. On October 26, the full working session will gather online for introductions and a preliminary discussion, articulating the most pressing questions about experimental performance approaches to technoscientific phenomena. Conveners will distribute these questions to the group. Participants then revise/expand their contributions and share revised drafts by November 1.
  • In New Orleans: Sub-groups meet to discuss each other’s papers and approaches, especially as they can elucidate one or more posted questions. (1 hr) The full group re-convenes for open discussion of the posted questions from the perspective of specific cases, issues and approaches gleaned in sub-groups. The full group discusses venues to build on emergent networks and shared interests, including possible publication opportunities and future gatherings. (1 hr)

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at sarah.klein[at]uwaterloo.ca or egluzman[at]ucsd.edu

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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“F” Word Backlash: Repetition and Beyond in Feminist Performance

Angela Sweigart-Gallagher, St. Lawrence University
Victoria P. Lantz, Sam Houston State University
Melissa C. Thompson, University of Maine - Farmington

Writing in the opinion section of The Guardian in October 2016, columnist Suzanne Moore opined “thankfully, this is not a dude-only election,” suggesting as she did so that women voters might hold off Trump’s insurgent candidacy and that they could even kill off the GOP establishment who backed him. While her optimism proved premature, Moore succinctly identifies a common interpretation of Trump’s rise: “For Trump has been a long time coming: he is the embodiment of the backlash against feminism that many of us recognized in the early 90s.” 

Drawing on Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women (1991, 2006) many historians and social scientists continue to use the term “backlash” to describe periods or moments of intense hostility to the real and perceived political, social, or economic gains of women, people from the LGBTQ community, and People of Color. In fact, the editors of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society devoted the Winter 2020 issue to essays that address the theory and lived experiences of backlash. 

In Faludi’s text, and for many feminist scholars and activists since, backlash is deeply tied to the experience of repetition—the sense that each “wave” of feminism and feminists must fight the same (or similar) fights against the same (or similar) foes. Backlash and the fight against it are, in effect, history repeating itself. In this view, repetition marks a sort of failure for feminism and is a tiresome, exhausting, and profoundly dispiriting experience. Writing in 2013, admittedly before our current backlash, Victoria Browne issues a challenge for feminist scholars that brings us to the reconsideration of the purpose and experience of repetition. Browne urges feminist scholars to “wrench repetition from the linear, teleological understanding of historical change” so that “it can become a potent force rather than a tiresome requirement that can only mark feminism’s failure” (915). Instead, she builds a model for feminist time that reconsiders the generative potential of repetition entirely: 

Repetitions and resurfacings do not waste or use up precious time, or fill in dead time while historical change is stalled or held off. Rather, untimely repetitions and resurfacings are the very mechanism of change, within a historical time that is multilinear and internally complex. (915)

We ask participants to consider what other modes of feminist time, time-marking, and time-keeping might we consider alongside or instead of repetition. For example, how might feminists, particularly feminists scholars and theatre/performance artists understand, create, or mark time through:

  • Interruption
  • Catastrophe
  • Refusal
  • Subversion
  • Physical or Absent bodies
  • Resistance
  • Relationships
  • Alliance
  • Community
  • Successes

This working group grows out of the pre-election “Reclaiming the ‘F’ Word” feminist working group (ASTR 2015). The ideas we explored five years ago seem incredibly distant and also almost exact repetitions. We will draw on ideas from that initial working group and the many shifts over the last five years, and focus on the concept of feminist performance: 1) as a backlash against repeated and destructive gender norms, 2) as currently cycling through a backlash after the 2018 elections, and 3) as a place where feminist ideas articulate, challenge, repeat, or reconstruct themselves.

References:
Browne, Victoria. “Backlash, Repetition, Untimeliness: The Temporal Dynamics of Feminist Politics.” Hypatia, vol. 28, no.4, 2013, pp. 905-920.
Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women, Crown, 1991 and 2006.
Moore, Suzanne. “The Backlash against Feminism has Hit a new Low with Donald Trump,” The Guardian. 12 October 2016.

Those accepted into the working group will be asked to distribute full papers (maximum 4000 words) to session conveners by October 1. We will organize participants in subgroups based on their essays. Subgroup participants will respond to each other’s essays, and develop a (repetitive) “Feminist Backlash to Feminist Backlash” manifesto/edict/concept statement. At ASTR, the subgroups will declare/share/perform their “Backlash Backlash” concepts and the working group will explore topics in-depth based on the papers. 

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

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at vicky.lantz[at]gmail.com, asweigart[at]stlawu.edu), or Melissa.Thompson[at]maine.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Forgetting, Again...Repeating Queer History

AB Brown, Colby College
Jaclyn Pryor, Reed College
Lois Weaver, Split Britches
Peggy Shaw, Split Britches

This working group is interested in themes of memory, history, and repetition in queer activism and performance. Together, we will interrogate queer modes of transmitting history in dialogue with foundational scholarship in queer theory concerned with reproduction, queer futurity, and performativity. In light of the absence of conventional biological genealogies, we ask how queerness repeats its history and how, in turn, these histories get repeated. What tropes, strategies, and practices--particularly in the realms of activism and aesthetic performance--repeat generationally? How do LGBTQ youth participate in historical forgetting, queer death, and queer erasure in their contemporary political and performative practices? In part, this working group responds to contemporary manifestations of identity politics, particularly in LGBTQ communities, and what this means for queer politics, performance, and history. We have been struck by the tense simultaneity of queer youth longing for elders and a sense of history alongside a rise in cancel culture in queer politics which tend to forget or even intentionally irradicate queer elders, historical structures, and identity/community formations. If queer history can rely on neither institutional nor biological preservation, what are the affects of these emerging political formations on LGBTQ history, performance, and activism? What are we bound to repeat? Can queerness offer us particular tactics for addressing such amnesias and their repetitions?  In this vein, this working group will also engage conversations of queer temporality that might help us reconfigure linear, performative, and repetitive relationships to history.

This working session will take the place of a one-hour long table, a discussion format developed by Lois Weaver, that will be open to the public for general dialogue about experience of remembering and forgetting queer history and politics. This could take place in a conference room or in a more public forum.  We will then break into small, pre-determined working groups of 3-4 to workshop pre-circulated papers developed around similar themes. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at ab.brown[at]colby.edu or jacpryor[at]reed.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Global Asian Performance Beyond Repetition

Jyana S. Browne, University of Maryland
Po-Hsien Chu, Universtity of Maryland
Amanda Culp, Vassar College

The Global Asian Performance Beyond Repetition working session explores how concepts of time have been formed historically and linguistically in Global Asian contexts and how Global Asian performance practices theorize, express, and transform time. Our session will interrogate how Global Asian theatre and performance have been institutionally and temporally segregated in Anglophone scholarship by a series of repetitive narratives that create misleading binary categories of “past” and “present.” This session challenges the conventional perception of Global Asian theatre cultures and performance traditions as exotic, repetitive, static, and/or backwardreaching. We center Global Asian temporal registers as the primary mode for understanding the time signatures embedded and embodied in Global Asian performances. Building upon our meetings in 2018 and 2019, this session seeks to articulate Global Asia not only as a geopolitical and lingo-cultural designation, but as a corporeal and lived condition—one that is experienced through the intermixing of race and ethnicity on a global scale, one that plays out in scenarios of migration and immigration, acculturation and assimilation. This year we are expanding our conversation to include questions of pedagogy, and investigating how we, as a community of scholars, can disrupt the ways in which Asian theatre is taught and how (mis)information is repeated in the western academy in an effort to generate space for new scholarship as well as a more representative model of the diversity of forms that constitutes Global Asian theatres. Our inquiry is guided by questions such as: How is time conditioned by language, and what are the emic designations by which Asian artists have imagined, classified, and theorized performance? In what ways is repetition itself a foreign category projected onto Global Asian performance practices? How has scholarly writing shaped concepts of Asian performance as the temporal counterpart of Western theatrical and performative practices?

We invite proposals 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 and bring Asian theoretical concepts into dialogue with Euro-American scholarly frameworks. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Repetition as expectation
  • How linguistic registers shape temporality
  • Repetition of narratives of “past” and “present”
  • The role of text in scripting/documenting/permitting repetition
  • Actor training and virtuosic performance
  • Costumes and other material temporalities
  • The repetitive exclusion of non-normative bodies
  • Theatrical modernization and new media
  • Syllabus redesign and pedagogical experimentation

Before the conference, participants will circulate short papers (10-12 pages) in small, preassigned groups for feedback and revision. The in-person working session will include three iterations of small groups to foster discussion about thematic, geo-linguistic, and pedagogical concerns. 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 jsbrowne[at] umd.edu, pchu6[at]umd.edu, or amanda.culp[at]gmail.com.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Growing Out of Repetition: Aging as Method and Praxis

Suzahn Ebrahimian, Brown University
Doria Charlson, Brown University 

The theme "After Repetition" invites us to grapple with the effects of age on the theoretical foundations of theatre and performance studies as a discipline and to reflect upon aging as a reflexive and inevitable process. Aging can both frame, and provide a way out of, repetition and into alternate temporal frameworks. This working group asks: is aging an act of repetition? And, how do we encounter praxes of aging as scholars and artists? Aging is a wonderfully ambiguous category of analysis, presenting us with degeneration, breakdown, exhaustion, and death in the same breath as tradition, regeneration, wisdom, and ripeness. Aging opens doors into a wealth of temporalities. Aging might invite fermentation, rot, and decay into theatre and performance methodologies, bringing along analyses of sensorial, affective encounters beyond the visual or haptic. Engagement with aging might prompt our archival practice to rigorously recognize dust, fraying, and the degradation of sound and image as offerings, rather than dismiss these realities as regrettable effects of time. Within our current social landscape aging helps us question our relationships to ageism, youth, seniority, and our collective future. We might ask: how is our own aging process both experienced and performed politically via the media we consume, the institutions we navigate, and the art we create? Scholars might consider how corporeal experiences of aging are classed, raced, gendered, and otherwise interpolated into social legibility. Aging spurs industries and economies; scholars may wish to interrogate commercial attempts to stall/stop aging, infrastructures like Social Security, or labors of senior caregiving. Aging can prompt temporal conflict through narratives of obsolescence and memory loss, as well as temporal comfort through notions of kin, intergenerational community, and duration. Aging connects us with our own bones, skin, land, elders, and ancestral legacies, capaciously holding space for what is "After Repetition."

This working group invites papers that play, through form and/or content, with aging broadly and imaginatively defined. Papers may take up any of the above areas or offer their own unique perspective on how aging might help us think “after repetition.” We welcome thoughtful scholarly essays, as well as rigorous pieces of non-traditional or experimental forms of writing or recorded/documented original performance, inspired by aging, that prompt new methodologies or theoretical imaginings. Those interested in joining this working group will submit a proposal or abstract. Once selected, participants will be assigned to a sub-group and will share their papers for individual feedback at least six weeks ahead of the conference. During the working session, we will be discussing the cross-connections, points of contact, and points of contest, amongst sub-group papers. With the hope that our gathering will extend beyond New Orleans, working group members will be invited to contribute to an ongoing collectively-sourced bibliography on aging and/as performance that can be accessed freely by the public. It is the hope that this working group activates not only careful consideration of aging through a scholarly lens, but also a community that can spark mobilization, networks of care, and radical attention.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at suzahn_ebrahimian [at]brown.edu or doria_charlson[at]brown.edu

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Images and Repeatability: Theatre, Performance, and Visual Culture

Hesam Sharifian, Tufts University
Kyna Hamill, Boston University

The August 1997 issue of TRI dedicated to Theatre Iconography both anticipated the future of theatre and visual culture and at the same time disclosed the deeply-rooted anxiety of the status of illustration. Robert L. Erenstein wrote: “Theatre iconography […] involves the search for a new dialectical relationship between the written word and the theatre illustration, one in which the illustration is not immediately interpreted as an appendage to a text.” Christopher Balme also introduced “the referential dilemma” in which he urged theatre scholars to go beyond “fixed, unequivocal referentiality” and see the relationship between the visual arts and theatre in a variety of ways, informed by cultural, social, and aesthetic discourses. While a careful examination of pictorial evidence enriches our historical understanding of the events of the past, the images should be seen as complex cultural artifacts, worthy of multidimensional examination. Furthermore, in the 21st century, we must also consider how access to images through digital platforms have complicated or even changed “the referential dilemma?” How are theatrical images used and understood in a culture so used to reproducibility and repeatability? 

Addressing the ASTR 2020 theme of “Theatre and Performance after Repetition,” this working group invites scholars to re-examine the complexities of theatre and visual culture. We welcome studies that probe any intersection of theatre and visual arts, and present new methodological and historiographical interventions. Some questions to consider: 

  • How does your work interrogate the use of images in an “age of reproducibility” and repeatability?
  • Has the field of theatre and performance studies gone beyond using images as mere decorations or ‘wall-papers’ in the last few decades? How do historiographical methodologies inform our ‘readings’ of visual material?
  • What has changed in the age of ‘Digital Humanities?’ While digital capabilities have certainly democratized ‘access’ to archival image, what are the perils of solely relying upon digital replica of an image?
  • How has the field incorporated visual material in the classroom? While certain images ‘repeatedly’ ornament commonly used textbooks, how can educators convey the complexities of referentiality to the students while drawing attention to the ways in which the image has created dominant historiographical narratives over time?

Taking the form of a seminar, this working session invites participants to read a selection of foundational historiographical and theoretical texts in advance of the conference. In your conference paper (6-8 pages), we ask participants to find ways to respond to how the readings have, or have not, illuminated the particular issues of importance and challenges that they encounter in their own work.

Colleagues are asked to send an abstract of 300 words or less. Participants will circulate their papers via an online platform by mid-September 2020. These papers will be organized by the conveners into subgroups with thematic similarities to the readings. In the weeks leading up to the conference, subgroups will exchange critical ideas and responses to the readings.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at hesamedin. sharifian[at]tufts.edu or kyna[at]bu.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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In Memoriam, Part 2: Repetition and Remembrance 

D.J. Hopkins, San Diego State University
Shelley Orr, San Diego State University
Alison Urban, UC San Diego

Building on the momentum and scholarship produced by the In Memoriam session at the 2019 ASTR conference, this working group seeks to further explore and theorize how memorials can serve as critical nodes of a community’s network of identity. Public spaces like memorials, museums, and similar sites serve as important archives of social memory; and they serve, too, as prompts for a repertoire of repeated personal and collective performances. In continuing this working group, we seek to consider how memorials, museums, theatrical performances, and other sites and practices might structure public spaces for remembrance, healing, political action, and education. 

The session invites 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. Contributions may ask: What is the role of performance in the production of memory? Of history? The repeated nature or again-ness of performance already implies a relationship with the past. Memorials, memorial spaces, and memorial performances redouble that engagement and provide a memory of history in ways that are personal as well as social. This working group will seek to incorporate the critical-theoretical engagements of session participants with the role that performance takes in the production of memory and the construction of history.

The agenda for the working group session will include: Subgroup discussions of submitted work; site-visits in New Orleans in advance of the session; reporting to the larger group regarding each site visit, including both personal experiences and critical observations; and a broader, collaborative group discussion that pulls together the responses to these sites and the engagements of the participants’ papers; this group discussion will be followed by an opportunity for audience contributions and questions.

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

  • Native histories, indigeneity, land recognition
  • Memorials and museums that mark the death of those associated with an identity group or natural disaster
  • Mass shootings, mediatized mourning
  • Memorial representations in dramatic literature and theatrical performance.
  • Sites or performances that respond to disasters and / or loss of life, recent or historical.

We ask applicants to 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. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at dhopkins[at]
sdsu.edu, morr[at]sdsu.edu, or a1urban[at]ucsd.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Infrastructural Sites and Cites: Interrogating Unattended Methods and Policies in Performance Research

Jasmine Mahmoud, Seattle University
Patrick McKelvey, University of Pittsburgh
Sarah Wilbur, Duke University

Performance requires support: a vast array of infrastructures, institutions, and policies, and political economies foster its material conditions and enactments. But how do policies and practices of support get established, mapped, and understood across histories and geographies? And how, practically speaking, do artists negotiate and mobilize resources in local contexts? 

Our working group invites methodological attention to performance infrastructure and welcomes emergent theories and histories of arts policy and production. The analytical shift we propose resists habituated approaches to repetition in performance studies and the absenting of performance practice from the received historiography of public policy. Rather than faithfully reproduce such citations, we wonder: How might policies and performances interact if we relegate repetition as a default understanding? Consider the example of the United States.

In 1959, the city of Philadelphia adopted the New Deal’s “percent for art” model, spurring similar-but-not-equal adoptions by other governments across subsequent decades. 21st century artists also regularly mobilize philanthropic resources earmarked for “creative placemaking” in contradictory ways. Through the critical interrogation of patterned understandings of how artists live and work, performance researchers can advance the political project of achieving parity of opportunity in art and cultural practice.

We encourage interventions that elaborate the shaping influence of cultural policy, arts infrastructures, and political economy on the lives and work of artists. We also invite contributors whose work challenges habituated attitudes around the study of performance praxis. We prioritize submissions that productively derail staid preoccupations with events and representations as axes of inquiry in theatre, dance, and performance studies. By focusing on alternative/minor patterns and under-utilized citations/citational practices, we challenge analytical defaults that have hindered more nuanced consideration of how economic and institutional policies regulate arts practice, how artists move with and despite policies that regulate their working identities, and how access to capital motivates the movement of arts work.

Invited areas include papers that:

  • Provide performance theorizations of specific policy issues (gentrification, redlining, racial disparity, cultural redistribution, health access, educational attainment, labor protections, support for the aging and disabled) and their shaping influence on arts praxis
  • Investigate topics, methods, and citational sources that suffer from damaging repetition, misrecognition, and/or misuse in theatre, dance or performance research
  • Analyze institutional power, policy, and performance in ways that challenge dominant orientations
  • Actively challenge binary (domination/resistance) configurations that repetitively (but never exhaustively) explain how artists sustain enabling environments for their work
  • Open up new archives and repertoires of performance and their material/economic infrastructures to close examination

Participants will pre-circulate papers (8-15 pages), which will receive rigorous feedback from colleagues with allied interests. We also establish an online workspace where the group will aggregate annotated citations that meaningfully intervene into our above-listed topics of concern.
 
Our session will be divided into three one-hour segments: a breakout session for small group feedback on pre-circulated papers, collective discussion about our online collaboration, and aspirations for future infrastructural research into the next decade, with a focus on how to form research, creative projects, and coursework around these entanglements. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at sarah.wilbur[at] duke.edu, mahmoudjasmi[at]seattleu.edu, or ptm17[at]pitt.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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“It was Funnier the Second Time:” A Working Group on Repetition in Comedy Studies

Grace Overbeke, Columbia College Chicago
Matthew McMahan, Emerson College

There has been a tremendous energy institutionalizing the study of comedy, with the development of official “Comedy Studies” majors in schools like Columbia College Chicago, Emerson College, and Depaul University. Along with these new programs have come productive collaborations resulting from convened discussions within media studies (such as the American Studies Association, the American Humor Association, and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies). Therefore, it is now time to gather comedy scholars working in theatre. The theme of "repetition" provides a fitting occasion since it has long been one of the key mechanics of comedy. In his essay, “Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic,” Henri Bergson argues for repetition as “one of the usual processes of classic comedy” because it brings together the incongruous elements of “something mechanical in something living.” Indeed, many of the well-known devices are founded upon repetition, such as the "rule of threes," call-backs, running gags, catch phrases, and joke formulas (e.g. "why did the chicken cross the road?").  Broader theoretical concepts related to comedy such as parody (Linda Hutcheon), mimicry (Homi Bhabha), imitation (Judith Butler), and signifyin' (Henry Louis Gates Jr.) all involve the concept of repetition.

Participants in this working group can explore a broad array of questions surrounding repetition in comedy, such as: 

  • What are the ways that repetition functions as a technique in works of comedy?
  • How are canons of comedy formed through repeated inclusion/exclusion of specific comedians? Similarly, how are joke types/formulas/subjects ‘canonized’ through repetition and recognition?
  • How does repetition in comedy reinscribe negative effects, such as harmful stereotypes, mythic beliefs, and rigid social structures? What room is there within repetition to undermine these effects?
  • How does repetition undermine or motivate innovation within the field? 

Recognizing that Comedy Studies cuts across many fields, we welcome projects from scholars that examine repetition (broadly conceived) in comedy across geographical areas, disciplinary lenses, and historical periods.

Participants will share written works-in-progress ranging from 10-15 pages (such as articles, chapter segments, and conference papers) in small groups, where they will perform online peer-reviews to help these projects on their path toward publication. The session will culminate in a full-group discussion addressing the issues and questions that have been generated through the small-group peer-review processes. 
 
Papers will be submitted to the working session conveners by September 25. The conveners will read all submissions and divide accepted papers into small groups based on related subject matter and methodological approaches. Conveners and small groups will conduct online discussions to exchange preliminary feedback and generate overall questions and themes by October 30.
 
During the conference session, the first part of the working session will reunite the small groups, allowing them to discuss the works in progress. The second part will facilitate a conversation with the larger group regarding takeaways, questions, and observations on the central idea of repetition. The group will ask what other tools and theories from broader theatre studies (and other disciplines) are useful for the distinct field of comedy studies. 
 
Potential participants should submit an abstract of approximately 250 words.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at goverbeke[at] gmail.com or matthew_mcmahan[at]emerson.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Laissez les bon temps chauffer: Gastronomy, Performance, and Temporality in New Orleans

Joshua Abrams, Central School of Speech and Drama
Kristin Hunt, Arizona State University

Heeding the call to “make use of the resources only New Orleans provides,” this working group repeats and diverges from prior sessions exploring food and performance, attending to the temporalities of culinary performance framed by New Orleans, a globally significant gastronomic location. From king cake to tableside bananas foster, from Mardi Gras throws to second-line jazz funerals to “sucking the head” and “Voodoo” recipes, food and performance traditions in New Orleans constantly overwrite and inflect each other. We invite scholars and practitioners to reconsider performance and food in contexts of creolization, syncopation, and preservation, key features of New Orleans’s rhythms, engaging overlaid regimes of training and practice and challenging received traditions of theatre and performance studies:

The impulse toward Preservation, a cultural project echoed in Preservation Hall, encompasses the challenge of crafting livable foodways in a city largely below sea level with ecological and economical challenges as well as the “straightjacket of repetition” rejected in the demolition of Confederate monuments still enshrined elsewhere or the creation of “Black Restaurant Week.” These complex impulses position New Orleans as a city in transition toward a more just ideal where stories and sensations blend and ferment.

Ongoing cycles of Creolization map the city’s cultural influences, from indigenous to Afro-Caribbean and African diasporic to Spanish and French colonial culinary contexts, evoking vast and overlapping spaces of culinary knowledge and labor (kitchens, fields, dining rooms).

In Syncopation, repetition repeats/undoes itself in a violation of expectations, temporarily upending rhythmic patterns or overlaying multiple rhythms. Engaging repetition but refusing it as a trap, syncopation undergirds culinary practice in the jazz brunch, the late-night cocktail lounge, and the musical backdrop, literal and metaphorical, of everyday performances of cooking in which culinary knowledge transforms and transfers in repeated acts of preservation and creolization.

We seek proposals engaging these themes individually or in combination. For participants in a prior iteration of this group, we encourage proposals that refract work through these new lenses. Participants will exchange 10-12 page papers before the conference, enabling a series of pre-conference discussions. Papers might consider relationships between food and performance in New Orleans contexts such as Congo Square ‘free day’ markets, Mardi Gras, celebrity chefs, alcohol and public disorder, Williams and the Southern Gothic, Tales of the Cocktail, racialized narratives of scarcity and looting post-Katrina, and the like, or they might employ syncopation, creolization, and/or preservation to rethink other issues and locations. At the conference, each participant will restage/reiterate their work in an edible format (a repetition of our first group’s engagement, preserved, creolized, and syncopated in relation to New Orleans). Proposals should articulate not only the proposed research but also the planned edible reiteration, recognizing that this may shift in encounters with each other’s work (for instance, multiple participants may collaborate on an edible performance). Finally, interrupting our repeated patterns, we will engage a new task-scape as conversational framework: a shared act of clearing away after our scholarly meal, working towards a planned anthology

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at joshua.abrams[at]cssd.ac.uk or kmhunt7[at]asu.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Navigating the River

Anita Gonzalez, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor amanjo@umich.edu
Iván A. Ramos, University of Maryland, College Park

Tides come and go. The river repeats itself as ecological, economic, cultural bodies transport themselves up and down its tributaries. The Mississippi River draws from world’s fourth largest drainage basin, pulling waters from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Trail which release themselves into the Gulf of Mexico. Performance cultures – sonic, embodied, metaphoric-migrate along the rivers’ tributaries as the waterway winds its way from Minnesota to New Orleans. Indigenous communities have named the river in Ojibwe, Dakota Myaamia, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Arapaho and Pawnee. For Africans in diaspora, the Mississippi has marked pathways to freedom as workers migrate from agricultural to urban spaces moving where political pressures are least oppressive. Performances of blues, minstrelsy, folklore and medicine travel along the river revealing stories or codes of local communities contiguous to the river. New Orleans in particular, located at the southern end remains a cauldron for hybrid performance styles based upon African chants, melodies, dances and calls. Multi-lingual texts reflecting French, Spanish and creole heritages are embodied in multiple ways in the Delta basin. As the call suggests, “the city is simultaneously a threshold and a destination.” The Mississippi River also enters into the Gulf of Mexico where migrations from Mexico, Cuba, Haiti and other Caribbean communities interact with the cultural and environmental detritus of the river. Jim Crow racism, oil residue, artifacts ecological and political, accumulate just south of the basin. Brown waterways invite performance commentary, sometimes scripted, but more often expressed through vernacular responses. The working group is a call for papers which respond to the brown waterways of the Mississippi and its tributaries through performance analysis. Our location in New Orleans prompts the call. 

Applicants will be asked to submit 250-word abstracts related to the call.

We especially welcome participants working across the following disciplinary/methodological sites:

  • Historiography
  • Cultural studies
  • Dance 
  • Audience
  • Sound studies
  • Transnational studies
  • Race, gender, and sexuality studies
  • Eco-criticism
  • Experimental aesthetics and contemporary art 

The format of our working group prioritizes 1) intergroup conversations around related threads and 2) inclusion of non-literary performance modes in our discussion of migratory practices. 

In order to facilitate the first priority, contributors will be expected to submit 10 to 15-page papers by September 15 to share with the working group before the conference. Co-conveners will create conversational threads for discussion ahead of the conference by October 15 so participants can convene around intersecting nodes of interest. 

In order to facilitate the second priority, participants will create or find short sonic pieces in relation to their work and the theme of the call to present and discuss during our meeting. This will also allow observers of the working group to more readily participate in group discussions of our writings at the conference.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at amanjo[at]umich.edu or iramos[at]umd.edu

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Necessary Rehearsals and Repetitions: Performance Criticism and/as Infrastructure

Paul Bonin-Rodriguez, The University of Texas at Austin
Kristin Leahey, Boston University

  • How does performance criticism (re)make and support theatre?
  • How do theatre and performance scholars regard the role and importance of performance criticism and support its existence as a field?
  • What are the many forms that theatre and performance criticism take in the public and scholarly realms?
  • How might performance criticism operate as a rehearsal (repetition) of a performance event combined with critical inquiry into the substance of the work, its relevance to local arts policy concerns of place, time, and community, as well as performance history?
  • How might theatre professionals support performance criticism in turn?

This working group focuses on the state of performance criticism and the role it plays in contemporary performance-making. It also operates as a means for theatre and performance scholars to advocate for their field and their work. 
 
Necessary Rehearsals and Repetitions reflects a response to questions raised by 2019 ASTR Plenary Roundtable: The Practice of Public-Facing Scholarship. We are two scholars and theatre professionals who have been writing about the crises of public facing scholarship. Kristin’s article-in-process examines the attrition of arts criticism with the concurrent trend of the divestment of local and regional newspapers in the U.S. The reduction of news coverage and the elimination of positions in every sector of the press have created news deserts throughout the country. The arts and culture beat is one of the first to be cut. Simultaneously, the theatre industry recognizes the need for more critics of color and gender diversity in a field dominated by white, cis-males. The subject matter and style of work have continued to change, as has who makes the art. Should not who assesses this work as well?  This essay investigates some of the trends, questions, and the contemporary evolution of the field from the perspective of the artists. Paul’s research focuses on the frequent identification of arts criticism as a critical source of support policy literature, with few philanthropic efforts being devoted to support. As legacy newspapers move to cut staff performance critics, as some critics associations experience declining philanthropic support, and awards and fellowships for visual arts critics only highlight the lack of similar resources in performance criticism, Paul’s paper argues for the value of a policy-informed materialist criticism as a means to support artistic communities and the field of performance criticism itself.
 
The working group offers a workshop for articles and OpEds focused on the state of popular performance criticism as a trade and resource, particularly in the U.S. The conveners remain open to submissions that are international in scope. Participants will be invited to submit articles-in-progress, along with suggestions for where they might publish the work. Respondents, who will be assigned from within the group, will serve as reviewers for each article, responding to substance as well as fit for each journal. Each participant will receive two responses prior to ASTR 2020.  When we convene, writers will meet in-person with reviewers, strategize publishing plans, and discuss the state of the field.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at pbonrod[at] austin.utexas.edu or kleahey[at]bu.edu

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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New Repetitions: Towards an Intersectional Rehearsal Pedagogy

Karie Miller, Dickinson College
Elizabeth Wellman, Ohio State University
Kelsea Miller, Lewis & Clark College

The patterns of creation, rehearsal, and production have within them, their own embedded repeated patterns and rituals. As we train, we build technique through repetition, as we rehearse, we build performance through repetition, and when we perform, we repeat the prepared ritual of the performance. The practice and actions within each pattern have been informed and honed over time, many now deeply engrained in Western performance, and often retaining the values of their originating decades.

This working group proposes to consider “Theatre/Performance After Repetition” through a Practice-As-Research model, by first questioning what is necessary to continue repeating, and, then, imagining what might take its place. This session will culminate in the creation of a flexible rubric of questions which might interrogate working rehearsal practices, allowing directors to cultivate intersectional feminisms in their art spaces. In a time of increased drive toward institutions of belonging, diversity, and equity, theatre artists are in a prime position to adopt practices and spaces of inclusion. If, as Augusto Boal suggested, theatre allows us to imagine and rehearse a revolutionary future, intersectional innovations in our classrooms, rehearsal halls, and performance sites have the potential to foster justice beyond the walls of theatrical institutions.

This working group questions the primacy of some hierarchical rehearsal models, and proposes, in their place, an intentionally intersectional, feminist rehearsal/making/learning space. Building on Watkins’ “The Feminist Director in Rehearsal: An Education” (Theatre Topics, 2005),  Young’s “Feminist Pedagogy at Play in the Rehearsal Room” (Theatre Topics, 2012), and Case’s Toward an Intersectional Pedagogy Model (Taylor & Francis, 2016), we first consider the practical disruption of rehearsal rituals which erase, dismiss, or disempower women, people of color, trans people, and other marginalized bodies and secondly, imagine the implementation of new rituals that may counter inherent repetition of patriarchy and white supremacy. 

Through shared readings, small group activities and large group retrospectives, this working group will emerge with recommendations for alternative patterns theatre artists might employ to break our industry out of cycles that seek to undermine it. As a beginning point to a larger discussion, this session will culminate in the development of a working rubric for rehearsal rituals. Prior to conference proceedings, working group members will share reading material, correspond and brainstorm, and draft a working document virtually over the months leading up to the conference, arriving at ASTR with a diverse set of strategies to consider. During our 3-hour working session, participants will work in both break-out groups and the larger context, sharing new repetitions for use in our future practice as directors and teachers.

Collaborators interested in participating should submit a 250-500 word abstract framing their interest in this project, along with any relevant experience and expertise within theatre, performance, arts, social justice, mental health, or other connected disciplines. We seek participants from a wide range of backgrounds to engage collectively in this practice-based inquiry and welcome all proposals for consideration. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group convener at millekri[at] dickinson.edu

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes: Perseverance and Perseveration in Activist Performance

Sonja Kuftinec, University of Minnesota
John Fletcher, Louisiana State University

What are the roles and risks of repetition in activist performance? 

Like performance, activism relies on repetition. Movements for social change value perseverance, the repetition inherent in keeping on keeping on. They practice what Sara Ahmed terms willful insistence, asserting and re-asserting demands in the face of institutional intransigence or apathy. Reiterative performances of remembrance, utopia, and renewal likewise foster activist longevity. Even scholarship about activism operates with a repetition-centric vocabulary of waves, memes, repertoires, and cycles. 

Yet repetition per se is no virtue. Repetitiveness may signal disfunction instead of strength, perseveration (repeating behavior regardless of context) rather than perseverance. Willful insistence can calcify into dogmatism. Repertoires can fall into predictable routines. The camaraderie of shared struggle can devolve into insular echo-chambers. Such pitfalls loom especially large as movements shift online, where digital media platforms replicate certain kinds of actions (the spectacular, outrageous, and immediate) while muting others (the subtle, nuanced, and/or slow). 

Inspired by the conference theme, then, we invite a conversation about the value and limits of repetition in activist performance practice, scholarship, and pedagogy. 

Relevant questions include the following: How do activists, critics, and/or historians assess the quality of repetitions in activism? How might activist-performance modes become overused, repeated not for efficacy but for other reasons (nostalgia, desperation, lack of imagination, commercialization)? How might groups across the political spectrum/globe be doing the same thing and expecting a different result? What might constitute activist historiography beyond the repetition rhetoric (cycle, waves)? Are we capable of recognizing activist tactics or mindsets that do not repeat? What might utterly innovative activism look like? Conversely, when might social movements be innovating too desperately, chasing the latest tactic/fad rather than refining or persisting? Having run this working group several times, we also want to invite former participants to consider how their perspectives on activist performance have changed. Have they developed new practical/critical perspectives, or do they find themselves on repeat?

We propose a two-hour seminar session in which 12-16 participants expand upon conversations and arguments shared by e-mail in the months preceding the conference. Participants email ten-page papers by mid-September. Based on the questions asked or methods used in these papers, we organize participants into four subgroups. During the month leading up to the conference, subgroup members exchange mails among themselves about each other's work. At the conference, before our main meeting, the subgroups meet separately to plan a ten-minute presentation to the whole seminar. The presentation consists of three minutes of summary (what were their contributors' arguments?), five minutes of update (what issues have our conversations raised?), and two minutes posing a “pressing question” to the seminar. After each pressing question, the seminar spends ten minutes discussing the subgroup's arguments and question. Four subgroup reports plus discussions take up 80 minutes. With ten minutes of buffer time (announcements, transitions, overtimes, etc.), the first phase of the seminar thus takes 1.5 hours. During the remaining half-hour, we open the conversation to auditors, who may pose their own questions or contributions.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at kufti001[at]umn.edu or drjohnfletcher[at]gmail.com

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Once More, in a Lifetime: Renewing Dance Studies at ASTR

Kirsten Pullen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Evleen Nasir, Texas A & M Health Science Center

In 2010, ASTR partnered with CORD (Congress on Research in Dance) for its annual conference. That fruitful collaboration led to more, and for the next several years multiple working sessions focused on intersections between dance and theatre studies. Though recent conferences included dance-focused papers, 2017 was the last year ASTR hosted a working session explicitly on dance. This session returns to dance studies, reconnecting scholars who shared work in the past decade and welcoming new voices.

This session is conceived as the (re)generation of new work, but is also an opportunity to begin conversations about an anthology on commercial dance inspired by and dedicated to Jessica Berson’s contributions to ASTR and the field. Undoubtedly, this session will repeat some of the themes present in working sessions convened by Berson and Pullen in the 2010s. But in keeping with the theme of the conference, we also invite scholars to present work on dance that disrupts mere repetition—whether in performance itself or in the arguments we make about it. Therefore, we also seek scholarship at the other end of the temporal spectrum: work that can be described as "once-in-a-lifetime" or stresses the ephemerality of embodied performance.

We hope participants will reiterate the centrality of dance to performance and theatre studies. Papers might revisit previous scholarship, consider overlooked dance histories and dancers (perhaps especially those that were often replayed or restaged or were “one in a million”), or engage with dance in and around New Orleans from the 18th C to the present. Conversely, papers might consider what forms of dance escape repetition and which are especially repeatable, or explore how repetition contributes to popular dance history. In all cases, we assume contributors will emphasize how the moving body crystallizes representations of race, gender, sexuality, and class in both contemporary and historical sites.

The seminar will encourage dynamic conversation in New Orleans, using structured pre-conference dialogue. In late summer, group members will post visual texts, primary sources, or other background material about their paper topics on an online discussion forum. The posting schedule will be flexible and no previous forum experience is necessary. About one month before the conference (or no later than Friday, October 9), participants will circulate papers to the group. Working session members will be paired, and each will prepare a short abstract of their partner’s paper. Members will also produce at least one general question about the seminar’s themes and topics. At the ASTR conference, the co-convenors will use these questions and summaries to develop discussion between participants and the audience. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at kpullen[at]illinois.edu or evleenn[at]gmail.com.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Performance and the Cyclical Spectacle of Disaster: Animals, Ecosystems, and Swamplands

Jen Parker-Starbuck, Royal Holloway, University of London
Kim Marra, University of Iowa

With half the city below sea level and amidst rich swampland, New Orleans resounds with cycles of disaster and renewal, offering a rich site for exploring these cyclical dynamics through the lens of performance, both in “The City that Care Forgot” and elsewhere. In 2021, global disasters such as the Australian fires and the outbreak of the Coronavirus immediately remind us of the toll on humans and nonhumans alike. This working group continues its analysis of animal and nonhuman performance by focusing on and around disaster narratives. The ecology of New Orleans’s port and swamplands holds histories of colonialism and slavery, petroleum production and animal life, flooding and flourishing. These histories often lay bare a tension between human and nonhuman forces, especially as tankers burst or levees break, and toxic rot and oil slicks infect myriad life forms while fires erupt on water. Behind disaster’s impact upon the human communities, are countless stories of nonhuman animals drenched, burned, or stranded—stories destined to repeat again and again until “nature” overtakes humanity or vice versa.

This working group keys our analysis of the performance of disaster and the nonhuman to New Orleans’ swamp and port eco-systems, but also more broadly and comparatively considers spectacles of disaster on other stages. Building upon our ongoing Working Group’s successful exploration at the San Diego and Washington D.C. Zoos during ASTR 2018 Forums and 2019 conference, we will facilitate field exploration of the swampland through the Louisiana Swamp feature at the zoo (or other swamp tours) to pursue questions such as:

  • How does the spectacle of disaster encourage a human response to nature?
  • How can a performance frame help us process the contrasting animal horrors of
    fire and flooding and strategize advocacy?
  • How do institutional rhetorics of conservation address catastrophic animal
    suffering?

Open to new and returning participants, our group will proceed in three parts:
Part 1: By October 1, we will exchange papers. While based in their specialized performance research, participants’ papers should engage with the cycles of disaster and their impact upon human-animal interactions. The convenors 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.
Part 2: Informed by these questions, participants will investigate specific sites in New Orleans, either virtually or onsite, and gather observations and reflections in response and in relation to their own work.
Part 3: In a roundtable discussion format with some opportunity for audience Q&A, we will gather in our conference session (ideally Saturday afternoon) 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. 

We ask applicants to this working group to provide (1) a paper title; (2) a 250-word abstract of the proposed paper, including how it will address the working group theme; (3) a brief biographical statement, no more than 150 words.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at Jen.Parker-Starbuck[at]rhul.ac.uk or kim-marra[at]uiowa.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Performance in the Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Kevin Byrne, University of Arizona
Ana Martínez, Texas State University

In the "Make Them Dance" chapter of her compelling yet unrelenting 2019 book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Shoshana Zuboff writes, "surveillance capitalists declare their right to modify others' behavior for profit according to methods that bypass human awareness, individual decision rights, and the entire complex of self-regulatory processes that we summarize with terms such as autonomy and self-determination."  Along with a slate of other recent works about the role of technology in shaping our lives and distorting our sense of community, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism resonates with the work of theatre practitioners, theorists, and historians.  It discusses the private uses of public space, how companies create online marketplaces as a means of behavior modification, and the legal battles by privacy advocates over both "the right to be forgotten" and "the right to the future tense."  

The acquisitions of Big Tech—profiles, purchases, posts, preferences, even someone's daily movements whether they are playing Pokémon Go! or not—have altered the way we think about theatre and the means of creating it.  As Big Tech takes over public spaces, where is performance?  As Big Tech appropriates the language of performance, how can we discuss it?  As Big Tech monopolizes repetition, how does the performer move?  (Think of the time and effort that goes into making a TikTok video, which demands music, repetition, copying, choreography, and display.)

This working group asks for submissions that address surveillance capitalism in, around, and through performance.  Papers can cover performances that resist the permanent-ness and present-ness of surveillance and the incessant recording of data.  Or theatre that is especially complicit in it.  Or playtexts that specifically address the concept of technological surveillance.  Or public actions that have found ways around it.  As Jenny Odell writes in How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, "I argue for a view of the self and of identity that is the opposite of the personal brand: an unstable, shapeshifting thing determined by interactions with others and with different kinds of places."  This working group wants to identify and understand the shapeshifters.

We will put working group members in conversation with each other over the summer so that, at the conference in November, we can facilitate a lively discussion into this topic.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at kjbyrne[at]email. arizona.edu or alm462[at]txstate.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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"Performance Literacy" and Public Writing

Christopher Grobe, Amherst College
Brian Herrera, Princeton University

Politicians are forever accusing one another of performing political action, staging activist upswells, and turning government into mere theater. Good politics, good activism, and good governance, they imply, is never performed, never staged, and never theatricalized.

We know better. Politics is a performing art—and always has been. Even “authentic” populists and “unspectacular” liberals are performing their ideas and their identities into existence. We also know, therefore, that performing your politics is not a heinous act, but an inevitable fact of public life. The question, therefore, is not whether performance is happening, but how and to what end. How does performance sustain activist affect, promote ideology, forge community, shape identity, and generate power?

These are crucial questions, but trying to answer them in traditional scholarly venues can be frustrating. Even when they emerge from historical research or specialist theorizing, our political interests and activist passions move faster than a revise-and-resubmit. Public humanities initiatives like the Op-Ed Project have tried to quicken things up, but at the cost of yoking scholars to narrow rhetorics (“As a theater historian…”) and staccato rhythms (the daily news cycle). So, scholars react by going on Twitter, where the rhetoric is even narrower (“A THREAD”) and the timeline even shorter.

Can we, as theater artists and performance scholars, learn how to inhabit a more expansive political now? Can we create “just-in-time” scholarship that will also last?

This working session, a collaborative experiment, will incubate new approaches to performance scholarship on politics. None of us are experts in politics exactly, but our performance expertise makes us experience politics differently. We want to reconceive this shared, specialist perspective as a teachable “performance literacy.” Through experimental writings and group discussions we will try to define that literacy—and teach it to others.

Applicants are asked to submit:

  1. a short “pitch” (<100 words) for a solo-authored piece in the mold of an LCAC essay (www.lightscamera.org/be-a-contributor)
  2. a “statement of interest” describing broader concerns or investments in the performance of politics (<100 words)
  3. a URL for a piece of public writing they have published (or, if none, a piece they admire by someone else)

On the basis of these submissions, participants will be sorted into groups, which will hold two meetings online. During the first, in late September, they will discuss drafts of their solo-authored pieces. They will then send session organizers a question or problem that arose from that discussion. During the second, in late October, groups will plan a collaborative project or a cluster of solo essays on a question/problem of shared significance.

Participants will come to New Orleans ready to move forward with that project. In short presentations, they will pitch it to editors and to the group. Then, they will get some work done. This will be not just a workshop, that is, but a working writer’s room. Participants will leave with new skills at pitching and crafting public scholarship—and with two new pieces in the works.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at cgrobe[at] amherst.edu or bherrera[at]princeton.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Performing the Parish Calendar: Ritual Enactment Beyond Repetition

Dana Tanner-Kennedy, University of Alberta
Rebecca Kastleman, University of Virginia
Kimberly Jannarone, Yale School of Drama

New Orleans has long been a crossroads of religious cultures and calendars, a palimpsest of celebrations that organize sacred and secular time. From the city’s French and Spanish Catholic colonial past to its thriving Jewish community, and from the Vodou head-washing ceremonies of St. John's Eve to the exuberant indulgence of Mardi Gras, the varied history and religious demography of New Orleans offer a yearly cycle of festivals that evoke questions of diverse relationships to time. While religious calendars regularly repeat sacred moments that call for commemoration, these events often make the present enactment co-present with an original, mythic phenomenon. As Hans-Georg Gadamer wrote: “Enactment is the festival’s mode of being, and in the enactment…past and present become one in the act of remembrance.” This working session engages with the conference theme by exploring how the unique time signatures of religious ritual and spiritual practice, as well as performances that stage them, can contribute to thinking outside, beyond, or alongside repetition in theater and performance. Contributions to the session may address questions including:

  • Experiences of time enacted through Afro-diasporic belief systems in performance;
  • How syncretic religious traditions meld disparate liturgical calendars and time signatures, particularly in the performance traditions of New Orleans;
  • How language organizes notions of time cross-culturally, and how that manifests in religious practice and ritual performance;
  • Catholic missionary practices as a performance of settler colonialism, and Native performances of sovereignty and survival;
  • How secular mass performance aspires to mimic seasonal and temporal structures of religious calendars;
  • How religious time creates a temporal vantage point from which actors can stand outside of history in order to critique it.

Across these wide-ranging inquiries, this working session seeks to build on existing scholarship on theater and religion inspired by, but not limited to, the cultural crossroads of New Orleans.

By October 1st, participants should submit either articles in progress (20-25 pages) or substantive prospectuses (10-12 pages).  The conveners will divide participants into smaller focus groups in order to facilitate directed conversation about the papers’ central concerns, research methods, and objects of study. By mid-October, participants will engage in a one-hour discussion to offer substantive feedback and determine how to present their conversation to the entire working session. At the November conference, the small focus groups will convene first to generate one question for a larger discussion with the full group. 
 
To submit to this working session, please provide a 250-word abstract on any topic related to religion, secularity, or other modes of belief as it relates to theater and performance. We welcome projects that interrogate any aspect of drama or performance across historical periods and geographical areas, though we are particularly eager to consider projects that center the spiritual, racial, and cultural diversity of New Orleans. We encourage scholars at all stages of their careers to apply.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at dana.tanner.kennedy [at]gmail.com, rk3cw[at]virginia.edu, or kimberly.jannarone[at]yale.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Perverse Speculations and the Queer Sensorium

Tavia Nyong'o, Yale University
Jayna Brown, Pratt Institute
Eng-Beng Lim, Dartmouth University

This working group invites new and emerging research in theater and performance studies that speculates on the worldmaking possibilities of queer performance (broadly construed), after the end of the world. In an era of endless crisis and catastrophe, queer performance attunes us to dimensions and frequencies of sensory perception that bring into question the scientific and fictional epistemes of terror that would claim us for dead. Picking up on feminist, queer of color, and postcolonial critiques of anthropocene discourse, we will ask what other alternatives to liberal humanist categories might we be bringing to bear? This working group invites papers that investigate new (by that we mean fierce, urgent, unnatural, anti-disciplinary) provocations and poetic constellations that rethink entanglements of bodies, ecologies, and mattering; aesthetic experimentation that defy the traditional analytics of distinction and subject/object binaries, including subjectless and objectless critiques; transnational and decolonial methods where “elsewhere” is not merely a turn from the West; and undertheorized and under-researched areas of inquiry. To what extent is the question of perversity and queerness animating speculations and sensory connections generative of this work. How, for instance, is the radical potential of queer sex vis-a-vis racialized, historical erasure and material precarity reclaimable in the archive or life itself? Convening in New Orleans fifteen years after Hurricane Katrina, the group will take stock of the beautiful experiments whose defiant and persistent reiteration in the wake of the failures of authoritarian and neoliberal capitalism (locally, nationally and around the world) also affords an opportunity to re-imagine old and new ways of being, feeling and thinking. 

This group will work by exchanging papers in advance of the conference, based on pairing or clustering decisions made by the co-conveners. To better align the conversations, we will invite participants to add to a group working bibliography based on their submitted projects. We will also exchange names, bios, titles and detailed abstracts for everyone in the working group. This will give participants an opportunity to read broadly across the working group and dialogue deeply with one other member. At the same time, co-conveners will develop a set of questions to the group as a whole, based on our reading the entire group of papers. During our face to face meeting in New Orleans, half the time will be devoted to reporting back on the individual dialogues, and half the time picking up the larger thematic questions raised by the group. We may adjust this 50/50 division of time depending on the ultimate size of our group and the amount of time the group is allotted.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at tavia.nyongo[at] yale.edu, jaynabrown[at]gmail.com, or eng-beng.lim[at]dartmouth.edu

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Pre-Gutenberg Performance: Orality as Repetition & Beyond

Andrew Walker White, George Mason University
Allison Hedges, University of Maryland College Park

This group will address the many shades of performativity, repetition, spontaneity, literacy and orality inherent to pre-modern, pre-print cultures. It will seek to examine these traditions as braided together, complementary, beginning with the school tradition and considering the ways in which education—when it consists of the memorization and embodied performance of culturally significant materials—enables, or precludes the possibility of spontaneous performance in the public sphere. What are the fundamentals of spontaneous speech and performance in pre-modernity? How do we distinguish between spontaneity and ‘twice-performed’ utterance? How do we distinguish between ‘dead’ letters for the eye and mind, and living letters for the tongue and ear?

Only relatively recently have scholars made the performative aspects of pre-modern texts a concern, rejecting past interpretations of public inscriptions and manuscript pages as ‘literary,’ dead media. It has become clear that pre-Gutenberg culture was performative by nature, with ‘texts’—not unlike today’s vinyl or DVDs—assuming the presence of a live, fully-bodied ‘player’ to produce meaning. To this day, cultures around the world prize the role of memorization and performance of foundational materials—scripture, poetry, legends, etc.—all of them using the written/inscribed word as a script, a pre-text. 

We seek papers that understand the pre-modern word is not for the eye, but for the tongue and ear. We also seek new ways of understanding how memorization, once embodied, provided the foundation for seemingly spontaneous public interactions—as priests, bureaucrats, as leaders, educators, and as public intellectuals. 

To that end, we welcome both theatre history papers that discuss performance before 1450, and performance studies papers that address the importance of orality in cultural communities both inside and outside the Western sphere. In particular, we are seeking papers that discuss oral traditions of performance that stretch back long before words were commonly written; a time when words gained power and meaning only by being spoken, heard, learned, repeated, and passed down. This might include ancient and medieval theatre around the globe, as well as modern theatre that strives to keep ancient traditions alive through embodied practice and repetition. Likewise, it might include liturgical drama, religious ritual and recitation, call and response—all of which have as much power in today’s houses of worship as they did more than a thousand years ago.

After selecting the abstracts, we will establish sub-groups in which scholars will share papers, and read each other’s work in order to engage in more in-depth discussion. The size of these groups will depend in part on the number of approved submissions, but will also set practical limits on the reading load for each conferee.  We will set a due date (well prior to the conference) for sub-group members to submit draft essays to each other.  On the day of our session, all participants will take turns, offering attendees brief summaries of their papers/interests in open session, before breaking into separate sub-groups, to which our guests are of course invited to participate.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at awhite45[at]gmu.edu or athedges[at]terpmail.umd.edu 

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Puppetry and Material Performance Working Group

Alissa Mello, Independent Scholar
Claudia Orenstein, CUNY Hunter College/The Graduate Center 
Dassia N. Posner, Northwestern University
Lawrence Switzky, University of Toronto (lawrence.switzky@utoronto.ca) 

For centuries, puppets have brought a complex form of liveness to live theatre. They repeat yet
don’t repeat the humans they recall. They are deeply alive yet fully inanimate. This working session investigates the elusive how of puppetry and material performance. How do we articulate the elements of the puppet’s unrepeatable repeatability—unrepeatable because of its distinctness as a performance form, yet repeatable because its fundamental qualities span time and geography. We seek papers that investigate puppetry’s functions from three main perspectives:

  • Materiality: How do the materials of which the non-living performer is made shape its dramaturgy, animacy, life, ontology?
  • Performance: How do puppets and puppeteers make meaning? How do we articulate the language of the puppet’s movement, animation, transformations?
  • Perception: What complex cognitive processes are in play as puppeteers and audiences encounter the conflicting simultaneities of belief/disbelief, life/death, magic/the uncanny, and agency/control?

Because puppetry defies simple categorization, we are especially interested in papers that think synthetically across these themes. We also welcome papers that build intellectual bridges between puppetry/material performance and related discourses (robotics, phenomenology, artificial intelligence, ritual, object-oriented ontology, affect theory, cognitive science, spirituality, animism, thing theory)––while using the puppet itself as the central anchor of analysis.

Session participants are welcome to submit either new work or revisions of essays presented in previous years. Our aim is to develop (over three years, with this year being the third) methodological approaches for a new edited collection on puppetry that identifies key recurrent themes, expands available scholarship, and provides researchers with sophisticated analytical tools. Working session authors will be invited (but are not required) to submit their essays for possible inclusion in the book after the 2020 working session concludes. We are committed to encouraging conversations among scholars at every point in their career. 

The aim of this working session is to foster sophisticated analysis of puppetry and material performance within the broader field of theatre research. So that we can be intentional as a group about developing critical tools for and beyond the field, all papers for this working session should be structured in two parts: an explicit (2-page) reflection on how the puppet’s distinctive qualities function within the author’s category of greatest interest (materiality, performance, perception); and an application of this reflection: an in-depth analysis (up to an additional 8 pages) of the author’s chosen topic/case study.

  • Session participants post papers to the discussion board by October 1. Papers are then read by group participants and feedback posted by November 1 to facilitate preconference discussions.
  • Participants each present a thematic snapshot their research at the start of the session, dividing into subgroups to discuss common themes, and then reconvene as a full group to exchange ideas. This is followed by discussion and suggestions for further development.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at alissa.mello[at] gmail.com, corenste[at]hunter.cuny.edu, d-posner[at]northwestern.edu, or lawrence.switzky[at]utoronto.ca

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Qualifying Comprehensivity: Repetition and PhD Candidacy

Arianna Gass, Univeristy of Chicago

Geared towards current or recent PhD students (and their policy-making advisers), the "Qualifying Comprehensivity" Working Session convenes a conversation across intellectual and institutional homes about the disciplinary repetitions involved in the PhD candidacy process. As Shannon Jackson recounts in Professing Performance, the field of performance studies is marked by an epistemological anxiety that brings about genealogical repetitions, as "scholars continually find themselves rehearsing and revising various kinds of intellectual histories.”  Many other scholars have meaningfully addressed the field's inter-, anti-, or post- disciplinary leanings. This working group considers the PhD candidacy process as a site of disciplinary repetition. Candidacy requirements both articulate the educational philosophy of performance studies via the texts they repeat and reproduce, and they delimit, define, or denote what texts and practices constitute the field of performance studies at a moment in time. The working group seeks to understand disciplinary formation in terms other than, or in excess of, repetition. First, how are examinations being implemented in ways that interrogate performance studies as an inter/anti/post discipline? How might they better serve this mission? How does performance practice as research manifest in the examination phase, and how does it change our relationship to disciplinary repetition? What challenges does practice as research present, particularly for students from diverse institutional, disciplinary, economic, and linguistic backgrounds? 

Before the workshop, participants will share a brief (500w) overview of the examination or qualifying process at their institution, as well as their examination lists. Students compiling their own bibliographies for their exams can seek advice or ask questions of other students, and professors may choose to share lists (with the permission) of their advisees. Participants will be asked to share five questions with the group prior to meeting in New Orleans and to prepare a three-minute presentation that includes information on their own disciplinary background and training, the candidacy process at their institution, and a brief personal narratives of the process. This two-hour working session will begin with a lightening round of introductory presentations, an overview of the organizers' findings, and will continue with conversations that address participant questions, collated and organized prior to the meeting. Outcomes include:

  1. A report that reiterates the organizer's findings of cross-institutional candidacy processes
  2. A report of best practices on how to include performance traditions/skills/embodied knowledges as part of the exam 
  3. A guide to funding/institutional support for the inclusion of archival content, training, or practice as research in the candidacy exam. This might include institutional or other barriers that prevent meaningful engagement with practice as research, as well as a curated list of inter-institutional or institutionally specific supports.
  4. Collected and collated exam lists and formats from students across institutions, organized by "sub-field," and published via ASTR or the organizer’s website

For any specific questions, please contact the working group convener at ariannagass[at] uchicago.edu 

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Queer Nightlife (Muñoz Working Session)

Kemi Adeyemi, University of Washington
Kareem Khubchandani, Tufts University
Ramón Rivera-Servera, Northwestern University

This working session honors and extends José Esteban Muñoz’s theorizations of “everynight life” performances by centering the labor of queer and trans people of color, indigenous people, and migrants across the world who apprehend the risky medium of the night to explore, know, and stage their bodies, genders, and sexualities in the face of systemic and social negation.  

We will engage directly with the conference’s interest in what “time signatures” other than repetition we can think with to understand how performance galvanizes people, communities, and politics. Repetition is key to queer nightlife settings. It’s at the heart of the comfort and satisfaction, the feelings of interpersonal community and accountability, that can come from seeing the same people, hearing familiar music, and moving your body week after week. Repetition can also be the death of queer nightlife. Going out to the same club and seeing the same people and listening to the same music can drain the body, spirit, and pocketbook. The duration of repetition can give rise to boredom, pessimism, and exhaustion. How many times can we hit the same dance move to the same song each week? How many times can we watch the same drag queen perform the same song (badly, at that) each time she performs? Will that hot butch continue to ignore every “ladies night” at this crummy bar? We continually return to the queer night for the very possibilities that the monotony of repetition might be broken; that next time it will [might be? could be? should be?] be different. 

We invite scholars and artists to think about the broad range of metrics that repetition measures and, importantly, how they are exceeded and interrupted in queer nightlife’s clubs, bars, house parties, alleyways, parks, sex work scenes, dating apps, dance pedagogies, sartorial style, and more.

We invite scholars and artists to submit proposals exploring repetition and its remains, from accumulation (e.g. of rhythms, feelings, and communities) to loss (e.g. of rhythms, feelings, and communities).

  • How are people like party promoters displacing repetition for other modes of moving through the queer night?
  • How are people like attendees refusing repetition (e.g. staying in or going out and causing a scene to break up the monotony)?
  • What theoretical interventions into the timespace of repetition help us think about queer nightlife in new ways?
  • How are people actively engaging with the “negative” affects that accompany, exceed, and interrupt repetition, from joy to boredom to exhaustion to...?

We hope participants will bring to the table interdisciplinary methods, analytics, and formats to studying queer nightlife performance: documentary film and theatre, dance ethnography, sound studies, cabaret performance, fan studies, analyses of dramatic literature, biographies, and film, etc. All accepted contributors will share versions of their work (up to 10 written pages, or up to 10 minutes of footage) prior to the conference. The conference session will offer an opportunity to discuss individual works, highlight major themes, identify lacunae, and imagine possible collaborations and new directions. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at kadeyemi[at]uw.edu, kareem.khubchandani[at] tufts.edu, or r-rivera-servera[at]northwestern.edu. 

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Re-Inventing the Rules: Theatrical Labor Conflicts in the Progressive Era

Claudia Wilsch Case, Lehman College/City University of New York
Rick DesRochers, Lehman College/City University of New York

This session examines intersections of labor conflicts and theatrical performance in America with a focus on the Progressive Era, from 1890 to 1920. Connecting with the conference theme, “Theatre and Performance After Repetition,” responding to scholarship by Arthur Frank Wertheim, Sean P. Holmes, Elizabeth Osborne/Christine Woodworth, Timothy R. White, and Max Shulman/J. Chris Westgate, and expanding on our previous ASTR sessions, “Rousing the Theatrical Worker” (2018) and “Publicizing (Theatrical) Working Conditions” (2019), we ask participants to examine the connection between theatrical labor, conflict, and repetition. Considering applicable contexts of social class, political affiliation, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and/or sexuality, participants are invited to explore how theatrical labor has been characterized by repetition and/or how theatrical labor has disrupted repetitive patterns. Participants are encouraged to explore labor conditions during the indicated time frame that provoked revolts and reforms, ways workers have used the stage as a platform for stirring labor action, and/or the connection of labor unions to American theatre and drama. With its annual Mardi Gras celebration and the laborious, recurring preparations for Fat Tuesday, New Orleans provides the backdrop for a discussion of theatrical labor through the lens of repetition. We envision this working session, which builds our 2018 and 2019 ASTR groups and condenses their scope, as part of a larger project on theatrical labor conflicts and unionization in American theatre and drama. We aim to develop this work into an edited collection of essays on the subject of late 19th- and early 20th-century American theatrical labor conflicts, ultimately inviting participants to expand their conference papers into book chapters.

Interested scholars should submit a 250-word proposal through the ASTR website describing a paper that addresses a labor conflict from American theatre history that falls into the period from the 1890 to 1920, including how that conflict engaged with or defied repetition. Participants will need to identify a specific theatrical labor event or play/performance that addresses the complexity of labor conditions, revolts, reforms, and/or unionization through the lens of repetition and sheds light on labor issues in the context of Progressive-Era American (theatre) history. Topic suggestions include but are not limited to: labor conflicts on the vaudeville circuit; the effects of Progressive-Era reforms on (child) performers; efforts of theatrical workers to unionize; the 1913 Paterson Strike Pageant; the 1919 Actors’ Strike; the relationship of theatrical producers 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 distributed to participants in advance of the November conference.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at claudia.case[at] lehman.cuny.edu or richard.desrochers[at]lehman.cuny.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Reaching the End Station: Planning, Building, and Finishing Digital Research Projects

Kalle Westerling, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Debra Caplan, Baruch College, CUNY

Theatre and Performance Studies scholars are particularly equipped with tools to handle the flexibility and ephemerality of digital projects and have the ability to undertake critical and transformative digital scholarship. The aim of this session is to incubate more of this work in our field. How can new media technologies and digital humanities methodology reframe and challenge our notions of theatre and performance and the ways that we write about art forms? How can they inform the ways that we make art in the very first place? How is the idea of repetition embedded, questioned, thwarted, or inquired in artistic pieces informed by technologies and digital research methods? How have new media technologies changed how we conceive history and performance and conduct our research?

Digital projects are often iterative until they are not. That is, we must come to an end but until then, we may not entirely know what the end product looks like. We keep asking questions as we conduct our research or experiment with the artistic output of the tools that we use. We encounter an audience first in a VR installation, a blog post, or academic Twitter. From the audience’s responses, we change, refine, create differences with and within our projects. At an arbitrary point, we reach what becomes the “end station.” Perhaps we simply stop working on the projects, we have a new project that we have started working on, or a new grant that requires our attention. While few of our projects may have an end form like a monograph, a journal article, or a book chapter, in order to get our projects started in the first place, we must have an idea of what our projects will look like at this proverbial end station. We call this a vision.

The goal for this session is to help participants identify technological needs for their digital humanities projects, create a project plan, identify key audiences, constituencies, and collaborators, and assess what resources they have available. We draw on a broad definition of what defines a digital project and welcome projects at a range of stages that have yet to come to their end—projects that are in conception, in development, underway. They may be of one or more types—maps, data visualizations, text analysis, scholarly or artistic forms of publishing. We welcome scholars who are experienced with digital humanities work and those who are new to it.

This session invites participants to share methods and practices from digital projects in Theatre and Performance Studies and to raise questions about planning, building, and creating digital research projects. Participants are invited to submit their vision of what their project looks like when finished. The visions will be disseminated before the conference in an online forum and a group discussion will precede the conference.

During the conference, participants will collaboratively think through ideas and plans, identify useful tools and resources, and provide suggestions on how to further develop their projects.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at kwesterling1[at] gradcenter.cuny.edu or debra.caplan[at]baruch.cuny.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Reenacting Revolt, Reimagining Freedom 

Dennis Tyler, Fordham University
Alisha Gaines, Florida State University 

In November  2019,  hundreds  of  Black  and  Indigenous  folks  participated  in  the  Slave  Rebellion  Reenactment  (SRR),  a  two-day  community-based  performance  and  film  production  restaging  the 1811 German Coast uprising, the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. Dressed in French colonial garb and armed with cane knives, muskets, and sickles, reenactors marched over twenty miles, tracing the path  of  the  enslaved  upriver  from  present-day  LaPlace,  Louisiana,  toward  New  Orleans.  Our  working  session  will  be  open  to  artists,  academics  at  different  ranks,  activists,  and other creatives who  either  participated in the Slave Rebellion Reenactment, and/or those who would like to think  critically  about  the  political  possibilities  of  performing  slavery  reenactments  in  the  twenty-first century.

Envisioned  and  organized  by  artist,  Dread  Scott,  and  documented by filmmaker, John Akomfrah,  SRR  created  a theatrical occasion to imagine another world. Rather than end the SRR “accurately” with  the  violent  deaths  of  enslaved  people,  Scott  concluded  the  SRR with a celebration in Congo  Square. ASTR would provide another occasion, to gather from varied backgrounds—as intellectuals, practitioners,  and  activists—to  foster  a  critical  conversation  around  the  following  questions:  Do  slavery  reenactments  prioritizing  death  and  anti-Black  racial  violence  merely  reproduce histories/regimes of racial dominance and systemic violence? What can a restaging of a slave revolt teach  us  about  power,  compassion,  history,  and memory? What psychic and cultural work is done  when  a  slave  rebellion  is  staged  as  a  performance  with  volunteer  actors?  What  role  should spectatorship,  media,  and  technology  play  in slave reenactments? How are the Black body and the  slave body taught, performed, and collapsed onto each other for Black and non-Black participants? How  does  the  ASTR  conference  location  of  New  Orleans  enable this discussion? And ultimately,  can  a  slave  rebellion  reenactment  ending  with  a  speculative  invocation  to  freedom  disrupt  other histories/regimes of oppression? This working session will initially be guided by the aforementioned questions. Participants will be  given the questions along with articles contextualizing and summarizing the November 2019 SRR in  advance. They will then be charged with writing a 3-5 page, reflective, creative, and/or scholarly  response to the questions and articles that will be submitted to the conveners. Based on those  submissions, sub-groups will be created by the conveners prior to the conference. Those  sub-groups, each made up of reenactors, scholars at any stage, and creatives, will read the responses  of their sub-group members in preparation for a dynamic, in-person dialogue. During the working  session, the sub-groups will meet and share their reactions to each other’s work before joining the  larger collective to address the originally posed questions as well as anything else sparked by their  discussions. In short, this session will act as an active learning seminar about history, performance,  slavery, and how reenactment enables or forecloses the conference’s overall theme of repetition. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at dr.dennistyler[at]gmail.com or amgaines[at]fsu.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Reimagining Business Performance After Repetition

Joy Palacios, University of Calgary
Nicole Edge, Mount Royal University

Day in and day out, whether at work or play, human life involves interfacing with business, and never more so than in the 21st century’s industrialized, globalized, technologized cultures. Business provides the backdrop, framework, resources, and means through which contemporary performances take shape, from theater and performance art to the performance of everyday life. While business has the potential to improve the world and quality of life, failed business performance has far-reaching personal, political, social and environmental implications. Our shared future depends on pushing beyond protest and critique to reimagine business and reach for an after-repetition.

Motivated by the conviction that business can perform better, can be better, this session will critically examine the way business creates and deploys performance(s) by seeking greater understanding of how organizations use theatricality, spectacle, role-playing, improvisation, scripts, and ritual. 

Performance theory has often considered business performance in terms of soulless, mechanical repetition aimed only at wealth accumulation. For example, Peggy Phelan contrasts “non-reproductive” live performance art with “the smooth machinery of reproductive representation necessary to the circulation of capital” (148). Certainly, repetition makes brands recognizable, cuts costs, and generates recurring revenues. Although corporations might appear unhuman, business cannot function without people. Thus, to push beyond repetition we must attend to the humans who enact business. We ask: 

  • What happens if we focus on performances that aid or ease people’s work or workable lives? 
  • How or when do business performances foster collaboration, creativity, coordination, and inclusivity? 
  • How might alternative business performances rupture unwanted repetitions of oppression, exclusion and marginalization? 
  • How do historical forms of business performance inform, haunt, or offer alternative models for the present?
  • If performance theory were to push beyond anti-business positions and instead apply creativity and ingenuity to rethinking business, what new insights might emerge? 

In posing such questions, the working session will focus on the overlaps, crossovers and exchanges between business, performance, and their theories.  

Participants will be invited to engage three or four preliminary readings at the intersection of performance and business, including extracts from works such as Jon McKenzie’s Perform Or Else: From Discipline to Performance (2001) and Maurya Wickstrom’s Performing Consumers: Global Capital and its Theatrical Seductions (2006). These readings will provide a shared backdrop for individual papers. Papers (up to 12 double-spaced pages) will be submitted to the organizers by October 1st. We will then ask participants to work in small groups to review and e-respond to each other’s work by November 1st. At the conference working session, the participant sub-groups will first meet to discuss their common areas of interest and to engage with feedback. In the second hour, the collective will convene for a discussion, moderated by the organizers, based on 3-4 overarching themes that connect the papers. We will also discuss the development and circulation of a critical bibliography for research and teaching in the area of performance and business.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at joy.palacios[at] ucalgary.ca or nedge[at]mtroyal.ca.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Repetition and its Afterlives: Perspectives in/from the Global South

Paige Johnson, Barnard College (pajohnso@barnard.edu)
Rishika Mehrishi, Stanford University (rishika@stanford.edu)
Sharvari Sastry, University of Chicago (sharvarisastry@uhicago.edu)

Continuing the work of the ‘Performance Studies in/from the Global South’ working group since 2011, this session frames a geographically expansive conversation among such potential sites as Africa, Latin America, South/ Southeast Asia, China, Turkey, and the Middle East. The conference theme, “Theatre and Performance after Repetition,” is particularly relevant to many of us working in, on, and from the Global South. Conceptualizations of theatre and performance as repetition – as twice-behaved, restored, iterative – emerge primarily from a Euro/American-centric context. Repetition-as-mimicry has been a critical, if “unintentional” strategy of postcolonial subversion. At the same time, notions of cyclicality are routinely and uncritically attributed to minoritarian cultures of the Global South, primarily to posit them as ahistorical. While theorists such as Édouard Glissant have shifted the critical perspective of repetition as a mode of knowledge-making, how does the concept of repetition as an “acknowledged form of consciousness” help us think through our understanding of the Global South as “écho-monde” constituted by the spiraling, rhizomatic, intermingled, and interdependent relationalities between the South-South and North-South? Taking up the challenge “to center other time signatures that may be related to, but diverge from, repetition” and in the light of these debates, we ask: is there a way to decolonize the idea of repetition itself to account for new ways of understanding it in the context of the Global South?

The working session welcomes papers that critically interrogate the notion of repetition and its afterlife within the context of the Global South. Potential participants should submit a 300-word paper proposal and a 200-word bio. 

In the spirit of seeking what lies “after repetition,” the Global South working group hopes to build upon the processes of working that we have developed iteratively over the last seven sessions. In our eighth iteration in 2020, we hope to continue with our usual format of one three-hour session:

  • Selected papers will be distributed into four panels and pre-circulated prior to the conference
  • Participants will be expected to read and comment on their colleagues’ paper in advance of the conference
  • The working session we will begin with a general introduction, following which we will
    divide ourselves into breakout groups to discuss individual papers and share feedback

In addition, we plan to reserve thirty minutes at the end of the session to discuss the general working of the group and publication possibilities. This year, we also hope to actively create opportunities to collaborate with other allied [Global Asia/EastAsia/Arab] working groups. Beyond the conference, we also intend to maintain an online reading group comprising all interested past, present and future working group participants.

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

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Repetition and the Human: Disavowals of “Humanity” in Performance

Melissa Blanco Borelli, University of Maryland, College Park
Leticia Ridley, University of Maryland, College Park

Our working group is interested in examining dance, theatre, and performance practices that work against, alongside, and through the discourses of “the human” to imagine other modes of being. The disciplines of Theatre, Dance, and Performance have attempted to represent and/or establish the human through its performative enactments. Take, for example, the goal of naturalism in the long 19th century as one that sought to represent the “real” ways humans felt, acted or behaved; or the torso contractions of Martha Graham’s modernist dance technique which provided a glimpse into the psychological machinations of an assumed universal soul. These are just two broad examples of how theatre, dance, and performance offer the notion of coming closer to represent the “human experience” or to aesthetize the senses, feelings, and ideas of an assumed shared humanity.

This working group offers an opportunity to utilize the scholarly work of Jamaican philosopher Sylvia Wynter and its contemporary iterations in the work of Alexander Weheliye, Katharine McKittrick, and Saidiya Hartman as a point of departure to question the very foundations of the concept of “human.” We seek to open up a conversation between Black studies’ insistence on rethinking the human alongside the current turn in performance studies to consider interspecies relationships and to question the ways in which the Anthropecene continues to privilege the Enlightenment idea of the “human.” This particular ideological repetition manifests as aesthetic productions yet we question the efficacy and limits of representing the “human” to begin with. In keeping with the conference theme and questions, we ask: Are there other ways of understanding difference, power, and resistance that are not necessarily shaped by repetition, or in this case the repetition of the discourse of “the human?” More specifically, are there other ways of reconceptualizing and understanding the “human” without relying on repetition as an analytic frame? What does a refusal to adhere to Enlightenment notions of the “human” look like? What are the generative possibilities for performance to begin to repeat a new form of “humanity?”

The working group schedule will proceed as follows:

  • Participants will be asked to provide an abstract for an 8-10 conference length paper.
  • The group will be sent out a reading list curated by the Co-Chairs. These will lead to 2
    (2-hour max) online discussions/meetings.
  • Online Meeting 1: A discussion among the group to find resonant themes and ideas. CoChairs will then divide the large group into several smaller groups who will then be
    responsible to read and comment on short rough drafts by a target date..
  • Online Meeting 2: Groups meet in assigned clusters to discuss and develop work.
  • ASTR Working Group Meeting: Final meeting between clusters to discuss work for the
    first 1:15 part of the session. After a 15-minute break, the group will convene as a whole
    and the entire group will have a discussion based around a set of pre-circulated questions
    by the Co-Chairs. The ultimate goal of this working group is to generate material for an
    edited journal on the topic Performance and the Human.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at mblanco[at]umd.edu or lridley@umd.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Repetition at Scale: Humans/Machines/Systems

Miriam Felton-Dansky, Bard College
Lindsay Brandon Hunter, University of Buffalo, SUNY

Digital technologies frequently ask users to grapple with repetition figured as iteration, often on a massive scale. Circulation, citation, propagation, and mutation are central, constitutive actions in all manner of digital communication and participation. Moreover, the blizzard of digital iteration with which users interact on a daily basis takes place on profoundly asymmetrical ground. The emotional logic of what Shoshana Zuboff calls “epistemic inequality” feels familiar, from the revelations of Cambridge Analytica to the threatened proliferation of deepfakes: panic, numbness, and denial, to be re-iterated days or months later when the next betrayal of privacy-- or of the epistemological paradigms anchoring our ways of knowing--erupts into the public view. 
In light of the conference theme’s call to look beyond existing models of repetition, this working group proposes that we need a more complex set of tools for encountering iteration at this scale. Confronted with iterations that multiply, adjust, and propagate in ways unanticipated by humanistic models, we look to the insights of artists like Kenneth Goldsmith (Printing out the Internet), Gillian Wearing, the algorithmic theater of Annie Dorsen, and identity squatter Simon Farid--whose works mobilize large-scale redundancy, machine learning, language modeling algorithms, and artifactual digital footprints--to help us understand massively-scaled iteration and its implications. Projects that speak to digital iteration from a non-digital perspective or a pre-digital historical vantage point are as welcome as those that engage directly with digital iteration at scale. 

Guiding Questions: How do humans, machines, and digital algorithms repeat at scale, and how are artists troubling the distinctions between these kinds of scales? How can theater and performance history -- especially histories from beyond the digital age -- inform our approach to machinic repetition and vice versa? How might theatrical repetition and iteration reproduce or challenge the kinds of epistemic inequality created by an algorithmic world? How do the iterations of digital systems interact with other forms of large-scale repetition, like pre-digital technologies of broadcast, or the cultural action of mimesis? How might attention to scale illuminate the questions of veracity, authorship, privacy, and consent that attend what John Fletcher has referred to as “bad faith” performances of digital deception? 

Because we aim to foreground the particular research needs of the members of this working group, we propose a simple, responsive framework for its process. Once group members have confirmed their participation, we will circulate abstracts and ask each member to contribute a resource to a group bibliography, amassing a list of resources that speak to our guiding questions. These will be due well in advance of the paper deadline (Sept 1) to allow members to make use of the bibliography in crafting 10-15-page papers due Oct 15. In addition, before we meet, each participant will prepare a substantive introduction to one other paper in order to facilitate conversation. When we gather in New Orleans, we will allow these introductions to forge connections and aim for an organic discussion with group members and observers. We will conclude by articulating a series of questions that can drive our investigations forward.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at mdansky[at]bard.edu or lhunter[at]buffalo.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Repetition, Readiness, and the Future Effects of Rehearsal

Patrick Anderson, University of California, San Diego
Natalie Alvarez, Ryerson University
Paige McGinley, Washington University in St. Louis
Katherine Zien, McGill University 

This working session seeks to bring together scholars who are thinking through the social, political, historical, and theoretical implications of rehearsal and training. In what ways have theatrical practices been pressed into extratheatrical service to generate repertoires of bodily, behavioral, and affective discipline? The stakes of this research are tangible, and they are high: for example, training is currently being used to rehearse and even script how police use force and de-escalate conflicts. While “performance” is often held up as an emancipatory practice, how must we, as scholars, respond to widespread training and rehearsal practices that habituate participants to the perpetration of violence, anticipate black and brown criminality, and script a tightly-circumscribed set of options? At the same time, how are grassroots communities (both past and present) harnessing the rehearsal as an organizing practice and a prefigurative politics that brings desired futures into being? 

While rehearsal is a practice based in and on doing it again, the rehearsal opens up various time signatures of performance that stand alongside, augment, and trouble investments in repetition. How does the rehearsal’s orientation toward prospective performance not only describe “a speculated-upon future,” as Tracy Davis argues, but also stage a slippery relationship between the now and the yet-to-be? Repetition may be the means by which institutional forms of knowledge become entrained in bodily behaviors. But repetition may also, paradoxically, offer the means by which this entrainment becomes dehabituated, opening up the body to ways of knowing and thinking otherwise – repetition with a difference. This session offers an opportunity to chart rehearsal’s futurity and potentialities both emancipatory and violent: as sites of minoritarian knowledge production, study, and planning—“rehearsals for revolution” as Augusto Boal would say—and as sites where the strategies of statecraft are tested, refined, and inscribed on the bodies that execute them. 

The group will seek to map current and emerging research on this topic, as well as to examine salient questions concerning the role of rehearsals in extratheatrical domains. To that end, we will aim to create a collective bibliography of readings that have been integral to group members’ research. Flowing from the readings, we will have group members submit a short piece of writing (2000-2500 words) that responds to this bibliography. In the spirit of this session’s topic, we intend to encourage writing that is at the “rehearsal” stage - writing that is rough, takes risks, and is prone to failure.  In advance of the conference session, participants will read all materials written in response to the collective bibliography, and prepare a short “interlocution” to bring together several of these pieces. In the session itself, participants will first meet in small groups for a discussion of these interlocutions (lasting roughly 20-30 minutes), and then the larger group will reconvene to consider questions and emergent concerns that frame the larger conversation (lasting roughly 1 hour). The final half-hour will be opened for a free-form discussion with audience members, with the specific purpose of posing directives for future research.

Interested participants are invited to submit a 250-word abstract.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at pwa[at] ucsd.edu, natalie.alvarez[at]ryerson.ca, pmcginley[at]wustl.edu, or katherine.zien[at] mcgill.ca.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Repetition, Realization, Remediation: Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century

Jim Davis, University of Warwick
Kate Newey, University of Exeter
Patricia Smyth, University of Warwick
Kate Holmes, University of Exeter

This Working Session seeks to interrogate different modes of repetition in play between visual and performance cultures in the long nineteenth century at a time when different art forms sought not only to replicate the natural and material world, but also to borrow and copy from each other. We want to investigate the manifold ways in which repetition took place within and between performance and visual cultures through, for example, adaptation, realizations (frozen moments staged as tableaux based on popular pictures and illustrations), and remediation. We ask how ‘remediation’ can take us beyond repetition, providing a further way of thinking about temporality, progress and change. We are interested not only in the impact of the visual arts on performance, but also in questioning the ways in which tableaux, dioramas, panoramas, spectacle, scenic design often constitute discourses of repetition within performance and in considering the notion of ‘copy culture’ in reference to the authorised and unauthorised copying of stage set designs (between theatres) and of famous art works. Realizations of art works on stage remediated them as kinetic, temporal and immersive environments, relocating familiar 2D images in a more convincing, immersive medium rather than scaling them up as static backdrops. Although our primary focus is historical, we are interested in how the process of adaptation and repetition also extends into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as witnessed by the transformation of The Octoroon into An Octoroon with its re-emphasis on what constitutes spectacle over time. Overall, we are looking for papers that offer innovative approaches to the exploration of the relationship between visual culture and performance in the nineteenth century, especially in relation to repetition, realization, remediation, adaptation, stage realism, disruption and slippage at a time of social, economic and political upheaval created by new technologies and the onset of modernity. 

This Working Session aims to elicit papers of 2,000-5,000 words to be circulated among participants at least 3 weeks in advance of the Conference. We will group papers thematically as far as possible and appoint a respondent for each individual paper (or themed group) according to numbers. Within the three- or two-hour session, we would allocate time in each grouping for short statements by the respondents, responses by the authors of individual papers and more general discussion. The convenors of this Session (Professor Jim Davis, Professor Kate Newey, Dr Patricia Smyth and Dr Kate Holmes) are the recipients of a large UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Grant funding a three- year project on the relationship between Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century. We would hope the Working Session would enable us to explore this topic in greater depth, extend our network of contacts internationally and enable ongoing debate beyond the conference. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at jim.davis[at]warwick.ac.uk, k.m.newey[at]exeter.ac.uk, p.m.smyth[at]warwick.ac.uk, or k.j.holmes[at]exeter.ac.uk.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Revenance—The Monster Always Returns

Michael Chemers, UC Santa Cruz
Analola Santana, Dartmouth University

 This year, in New Orleans (famous home of the vampire and other monsters), the working session invites scholars to consider the element of repetition in performative monsters. In 1996 in Monster Theory, JJ. Cohen writes “the Monster Always Escapes,” and that same year, Joseph Roach recognized the need for repetition in dramatic surrogation in his book on New Orleans performance Cities of the Dead. Modern interrogations of monsters in performance rely on these texts for theoretical framing, and so we of the Monsters Working Group experience particular enthusiasm studying repetition in the Big Easy. We define “monstrosity” broadly, to describe the cultural processes by which certain identities or bodies are configured to be threateningly deviant, whether by race, gender, sexuality, nationality, immigration status, or physical or psychological extraordinariness. We define “performance” in similarly copious terms, allowing a variety of forms of representation to move within our field of inquiry. Following Cohen and Roach who both identify the importance of monsters in the playing out of social anxieties, it is in these increasingly hostile times perhaps more critical than ever to study their behavior, particularly at social and geographic borders. The monster’s propensity for revenance is part of its attraction, as well as a reflection that a performance, even a well-made one, is not really a substitute for real social change when it comes to allaying anxieties. We are also inclined to look at the recurrence of monsters over time to understand their dynamism, rather than to isolate our inquiry in a single historical moment that denies inter-discourses. 

These papers will examine ways in which playwrights, theatre and performance artists, and activists have engaged the revenance of a monster (or monsters) to reflect the ongoing fears that burble in the milieu that generate them. Our panel will be as critically engaged with the creators of the works as with the monsters they represent. We ask: How does performance engage, productively or destructively, in this open discursive milieu? May they be utopian as well as dystopian in this regard? What explains the revenance of a particular the monster and in what ways does it change with each incarnation? 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 assemblage that results between monster, author, and audience? 

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. Those who wish to share short performance pieces or images will be able to do so on the online discussion forum. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at chemers[at]ucsc.edu or analola.santana[at]dartmouth.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Ritual Reversals: Unraveling Temporalities through Performance 

Solimar Otero, Indiana University 
Eric Mayer-García, Indiana University

In 2012, the Havana-based artist collective, Los Carpinteros, performed the piece “La Conga Irreversible” on El Paseo del Prado for the Biennial Art Festival. Dressed in black and silver, they performed a classic comparsa, a carnival procession in reverse. They danced, sang, and played musical instruments backwards in what they describe as an “anti-conga.” The performance demonstrated the intimate connection between historicity and futurity through temporal unraveling. This working session takes “La Conga Irreversible” as an inspiration to invite explorations of performance’s capacity to play with time and undo the linear arrangement of past, present and future. Our conversation will extend from performance theory pushing against the temporal limits of repetition, like recent contributions by Joshua Chambers-Letson and Shane Vogel. In order to think through strategies that unravel repetition, we seek to interrogate performances as ritual reversals. We define ritual reversals as codified behavior that is retooled to reveal the ways culturally-embedded social hierarchies manifest through the repetition of cultural practices. In doing so, enactments like the “anti-conga” suggest an ontology that aligns becoming with the deconstruction of race, gender, sexuality, ability and their corresponding stratified power structures. New Orleans, a city whose praxis is dense with ritual and its reversal, provides an apt venue for extending this conversation to a variety of intersecting cultural perspectives.

We encourage submissions from a wide range of subjects that deal with public, private, and virtual performances that disrupt temporalities to various ends. Topics can include but are not limited to: state-sponsored control, resistance movements, cosplay, courtroom performance, virtual world-making, fitness culture, tourism, spiritual displays, carnival processions, queer night life, archival assembly, and curatorial practices. Research that investigates the role that embodiment plays in these disruptions is especially welcome.

Participants will submit a 250-word abstract through the ASTR website by June 1. The organizers will notify selected participants of their acceptance to the working session by the end of June. Selected scholars will write a 10-15-page paper that will be shared with the entire working group by September 28. After the papers are submitted, the co-conveners will organize participants into subgroups focused on similar or complementary topics. Subgroups will exchange feedback on each other’s papers by October 16. By October 30, individual participants will submit to the entire working session, a response commenting on points of connection and tension concerning the central ideas of their subgroup’s exchange. We will utilize the two-hour session at the annual meeting as follows: The conveners will introduce the panelists, placing their papers in conversation with one another. Then we will separate into new groups, where each group continues to probe a unique overarching issue brought to light by the papers. Finally, we will come together to share from those conversations and merge into a larger discussion culminating our working session.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at emayerg[at]iu.edu) or solioter[at]iu.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Spectatorial Interruption: Audience Research as Revision

Kelsey Jacobson, Queen’s University
Scott Mealey, University of Toronto Scarborough
Kelsey Blair, McGill University
Jenny Salisbury, University of Toronto

There is a delimiting effect to the oft-repeated refrain that audience research is persistently understudied in the fields of theatre and performance studies (Reinelt 2014; Freshwater 2009; Park- Fuller 2003). Matthew Reason and Kirsty Sedgman articulate in 2015 a “partial disciplinary myopia, a failure to look across the boundaries of subjects or methodologies” (117) and Wilmar Sauter (2019) cautions that, “Today there is a risk that these [audience research] methods will be or are being invented again and again without reference to earlier results” (48). Despite this chronology of false starts and unnecessary repeats, there is reason to believe that theatre audience research currently finds itself in a moment of kairos. Evidenced by partnerships such as the International Network for Audience Research in the Performing Arts and the formation of the Centre for Spectatorship and Audience Research, twenty-first century performance scholars are poised to more permanently weave a spectator-centric timeline into the broader tapestry of theatre scholarship.

This working group aims to bolster the potentiality of this kairotic moment by deliberately considering the role of audience research as interventionist within the broader field of theatre and performance studies. We aim to both firmly position audience research as central and integral to the discipline, and in turn invigorate the discipline with new approaches, understandings, and methods. How might, for instance, audience research renew, renege, or otherwise intervene in ongoing theatrical conversations around liveness, change, participation, archive, or affect? If the audience studies field has been “determinedly studying how people from different subject positions and social locations actively make sense of things by drawing on varying ‘cultural reference points, political beliefs, sexual preferences, personal histories, and immediate preoccupations,’” (Freshwater, p. 6 qtd in Sedgman 2019) how can a turn toward audiences infuse notions of multiplicity, diversity, and disruption into familiar debates?

Focused on empirical findings, this working group will invite audience and spectatorship scholars to articulate how recurring conversations and ideas in theatre and performance theory may be reworked and renegotiated - repeated without repetition - based on increasing awareness of the spectatorial perspective. How is 21st-century audience research interacting not only with previous conversations in the field but also the wider world of theatre scholarship? How, for instance, is it altering our understanding of liveness? Of change? Of participation? Of affect? Of archiving? 

We welcome scholars employing any qualitative or quantitative methods of audience research including but not limited to: interviews, focus groups, surveys, ethnography, criticism, social media, etc. In advance of the meeting, participants will be asked to write a 2000-3000 word paper and two annotated bibliographic entries. They will then be paired to exchange and discuss each other’s contribution, culminating in a summative provocation to share at the session. During the ASTR session, the group will engage in related discussion based on these provocations, and a full annotated bibliography will be distributed electronically. Our desire is to foster awareness of audience research networks, and to create a repository/resource that will serve the field moving forward. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at kelsey.jacobson[at]queensu.ca, scott.mealey[at]mail.utoronto.ca, thekelseyblair[at]gmail.com, or jenny.salisbury[at]mail.utoronto.ca.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Sublimation, Again

Julia Jarcho, Brown University
Shonni Enelow, Fordham University
Martin Harries, UC Irvine

Much discourse about theater stakes it as a medium of directness: direct action, direct encounter, direct impact. This working group instead is devoted to its potential as a medium of indirection. One name for productive indirection, drawn from psychoanalysis, is sublimation: the channeling of asocial forces for social ends or, in the words of Freud’s Three Essays, the “diversion of sexual instinctual forces from sexual aims and their direction to new ones.” According to this theory, theater--like any other cultural practice-- is fundamentally something that becomes possible through the transformation of desire. And given that both desire and pleasure, for Freud, are fundamentally realized as crude, often brutal forms of exact repetition, sublimation can be understood precisely as the way in which basic repetition transcends itself to become repetition with--and towards-- difference. This formula--repetition towards difference--seems to us particularly relevant to, indeed possibly constitutive of, the practice of staging dramatic theater. 

This working group will build on the work of our seminar “Performance Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” held at the 2018 meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association. Like that seminar, this session seeks to extend conversations that put psychoanalysis in dialogue with theories of theater and performance--in large part because a heightened and unusually complex awareness of repetition is so central to both fields. Whereas our 2018 meeting focused on Freud’s concept of the death drive (or repetition compulsion) and its affordances for grappling with theoretical questions of drama and performance, our turn to the subject of sublimation gives us the chance to consider possibilities of theater as both a deviation from and a practice of maintaining the repetitive structures that normally rule our lives. 

For our ASTR working group, we will ask participants to do the following: 1. READ two shared texts, for building a shared vocabulary on the topic--for example, Leo Bersani’s “Erotic Assumptions: Narcissism and Sublimation in Freud”; Adrienne Kennedy’s play A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White; 2. WRITE AND CIRCULATE a short paper (approx. 1000 words) in response to the prompt: “what/how/why/when/where does theater sublimate? OR: what does theater do to sublimation?” with encouragement to bring at least one object (text, performance, other work) into consideration; 3. READ all the papers, and then sign up to 4. offer a brief ORAL RESPONSE to one or two of them; these responses will include questions provoked by the papers. At ASTR, these responses will make up the first part of the session. We will list the questions that arise over the course of this first section (on a whiteboard, posterboard, etc.). In the second section, we’ll break into smaller groups to address these questions. Finally, we’ll reconvene and share our thoughts; this will also be a time to bring up questions about the readings we’ve done together. Our aim will be to leave the session with each participant having identified a new question to bring home to their own ongoing research.     

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at julia_jarcho[at]brown.edu, senelow[at]fordham.edu, or martin.harries[at]uci.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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The Recurring Arts Events: National Economy and Gaps Between Fantasies

Li-Min Lin, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Luo Huihui, Peking University

As a temporary organization, arts events now are meant for more than the joy of celebration but more often being tasked with the mission of “national economy” in terms of creative industries development maneuvered by government agencies. As many governments are currently obsessed with this globalized format of “art exhibition,” it is argued that the present arts event has the need to repeat itself as a theatre that allows the staging of arguments, conflicts, and connections that almost abide the Neo-liberal mode of reason and scheme of valuation. Therefore, event repetition comes to serve as a hub that shows the anxiety to connect and subsequently changed how people interact with environment if not physically then metaphorically. However, between the government advocate and local ambience, such practice discloses a space of as-ifs and fantasies that disrupt the “representational singularity of a given economy” and “a farce that we all have a common relationship to it” (Rae and Drury, 1993) where the government agencies strive to play a part in the staging that now defines a new imagined community. Following what begins at 2018 ASTR, this working group continues to examine the intersection of performance and creative industries and this year this panel focuses on how (national) economy is imagined and (re-)produced through recurring events that set situations and act socially with people and trigger encounters and events in place.

As a researcher or a theatre practitioner—or simply a person lives in the current age, most of us are no strangers to various kinds of arts events. Therefore, instead of having our discussion centered merely on traditional academic papers, this year’s session will experiment with the format by asking participants to collaborate on theoretical and practice-based proposals/mission statements and creating temporary micro-models of arts events.

For the initial submission, potential participants should submit a brief proposal (300 words) that address (though are not limited to) the following issues:

  • Temporalities in arts event
  • South-to-North, new-colonialism and soft power
  • Cultural policy and “sustainability”
  • Capital of culture/cultural capital
  • Local institutionalization of art events
  • Revisiting the “imagined community”
  • Repetition as “standardization” and “homogenization”
  • Techniques of marketing employed within advanced capitalism

In advance of the conference, accepted participants will be put into subgroups to expand the initial proposals to a longer version as a possible event planning. When we meet in person, each subgroup will have 20 minutes to show their works and is particularly encouraged to stage the miniature arts events during the session to facilitate discussion or lead an embodied workshop. For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners.

For any specific questions, please contact one of the working group conveners at violaliminl[at]gmail.com.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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The Repeated Self: Autobiography, Performance, Pedagogy

Ariel Watson, St. Mary’s University
Nikki Cesare Schotzko, University of Toronto
Ryan Claycomb, Colorado State University

Fred Moten posits “writing as that which occurs where performance and recording converge at the site of a bodily inscription” (278). What if we consider not only writing and performance, but also teaching and learning, as knotted sites and acts of such bodily inscription, a means of re-emphasizing scholarship and teaching as predicated on autopoiesis and reflexivity?

Pedagogy is an inherently repetitive methodology and process, yet it is also iterative: a process that must necessarily renew itself, building on immediately and distantly past experiences, even as we cite, revisit, and repeat our own practices; pedagogies of theatre and performance further call attention to and complicate these relationships. Building on last year’s Working Session on “Private Lives in Public Spaces,” we invite participants to consider the relationship between life- writing and -performance, autopoiesis, and pedagogy under the auspices of repetition, revision, and renewal.

Participants may approach these topics through some of the following lenses:

  • Teaching as a performance of self or selves
  • Repetition as in/authentic self-presentation in the classroom
  • Improvisation and/as pedagogy; pedagogy and/as improvisation
  • Autoperformance as public pedagogy
  • Process-repetition and iteration-inscription in theatre and performance scholarship 
  • Pedagogy as a practice of performance: repeated, reflexive and vetriloquized
  • How reflexivity yields renewed pedagogical strategies
  • Social media and new technologies as pedagogical performance, or obstacles to pedagogy
  • Teaching autobiographical performance and/or theatre artists’ lives
  • Scholarship as sustained performances of self and pedagogy
  • Biographical research as scholarly autopoiesis
  • Archives of theatrical lives as performed repertoire/practice.

Proposals that engage experimental pedagogies, or blur lines between performance, creative writing, and scholarship are always welcome.

Moten, Fred. 2004. “The phonographic mise-en-scène.” Cambridge Opera Journal 16, 3: 269- 81.

The conveners will assemble a working group that addresses a broad range of these concerns. Drafts of 10-15 pages will be circulated in small groups via Google Docs by July 31, with feedback to be provided by September 7. Participants will then be asked to append a 1-3 page autobiographical dramatic prologue/monologue 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.

The three-hour session itself will consist of several segments:

  • Introductions and overview: points of departure/central questions
  • Voluntary readings/performances of autobiographical prologues
  • Small group break-out discussions: what principles of pedagogical repetition/renewal have emerged?
  • Reports from the small groups and whole group discussions
  • Open Q&A

The session’s goals are as follows:

  • To animate possibilities of performance pedagogies predicated on reflexivity. We hope by the close of the session to pose the question: what can our scholarship on selves in rehearsed and improvised performance tell us about our pedagogical selves and the pedagogy of performance?
  • To develop new modes for thinking about theatre history and critical practice from vantage points of performative autopoiesis.
  • To focus on the personal stakes of pedagogy as labor in politically and economically precarious times.

For any specific questions, please contact working group conveners at ariel.watson[at]smu.ca, cesare.schotzko[at]utoronto.ca, or ryan.claycomb[at]colostate.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Theatre and Revolution 

Logan Connors, University of Miami
Lillian Manzor, University of Miami
Emily Sahakian, University of Georgia

This working group will explore the relationship between theatre and revolution, in and across historical, cultural, and performance contexts. Papers may address: 1) theatre and performance in times of revolution or political upheaval, or 2) theatre or performance as a site for remembering, transmitting, and repurposing histories and legacies of revolution. Insofar as revolution is commonly conceived as a rupture, upending, or overthrow, it provides an interesting lens for exploring the ways in which performance interrupts (or not) repetition. Moreover, it invites us to consider modes of temporality and relationships between past, present, and future that are not necessarily implicated in theories of performance as repetition, for example: nostalgia for a revolution that has passed (without delivering in full its utopian values), corrosion/corruption of revolutionary ideals over time, or anticipation of a future revolution to come. More broadly, theatre and performance in times of and surrounding revolution offer productive case studies for studying the relationship between performance and historical events. These “revolutions” may have profoundly marked collective memory and/or been selectively forgotten; may have been perceived as “revolutionary” as they unfolded and/or dismissed or overlooked (despite the political changes they brought about). 

Questions to consider include (among others): 

  • What are the particular relationships between theatre and revolution in your specific case studies? 
  • How do revolutions inspire alternative types of theatre making? 
  • What is the archive of theatre in times of and surrounding revolution? Do revolutions create new archives? 
  • How do theatre and performance in times of and surrounding revolution enact repetition and/or rupture? Do we find repetitions across movements that are often pitched as cataclysmic breaks?
  • Do theatre’s material realities interrupt the repetition or re-enactment of revolution’s utopian ideals and promises? 
  • How does theatre and performance transmit, forget, and repurpose memories and legacies of revolutions? 

This working session will be coordinated in tandem with groups examining similar questions in Lyon, France and Lausanne, Switzerland. These multiple sessions grow out of our symposium, “Performance Archives in Times of Revolution,” at the Collegium/Institute of Advanced Studies in Lyon, France in June 2020. 

Participants at all locations will write 10-12-page papers addressing our call. In advance of the conference, they will be assigned to small groups, which will include members from multiple sessions, based on shared thematic and geographic/cultural considerations. In their small groups, they will pre-circulate their papers (Oct. 15), and they will offer comments and editing of each other’s papers and discuss general trends across papers (Nov. 1). All papers will be made available to all participants via a shared folder on Google drive. 

For the conference, participants will be assigned to new breakout groups and may review those papers in advance of our meeting. Our working session time will be split in two parts: 1) discussion in breakout groups, 2) shared discussion with all participants via Zoom teleconference. Following the conference, conveners of the working groups will come together to discuss plans for an edited volume. 

For any specific questions, please contact working group conveners at logan.connors[at]miami.edu, lmanzor[at]miami.edu, or sahakian[at]uga.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Time and Again: The Politics of Theatrical Temporality 

Alex Ferrone, Duke University
Derek Gingrich, York University

In his book Theatre, Time and Temporality: Melting Clocks and Snapped Elastics (Intellect, 2016), David Ian Rabey identifies the critical slipperiness we sometimes encounter when grappling with questions of time in/and the theatre – and, importantly, he indexes the multivalent possibilities that attend any engagement with either theatricality or temporality:

“The significantly mercurial qualities of time and theatre make them difficult to discuss, either separately or in combination. Any attempt to establish a single authoritative perspective on, or arising from, either time or theatre will rightly be suspect. Both time and theatre provide forms of definition, which are also indefinite; time and theatre both intrinsically indicate alternatives and adjacencies, even as we perceive moments of highest precision.”

Time, a quasi-arbitrary system of measurement, nonetheless exerts its regulatory power: it structures everyday life, disciplines both labor and leisure, and, in our elusive experience of change and repetition, injects our understanding of the world with a pervasive teleological bias. After all, entropy leaves time’s arrow irreversible. But the theatre, a space with ontologies all its own, offers a site in which performance time might chafe productively against real time – and with potentially radical consequences.

“Time and Again: The Politics of Theatrical Temporality” will collect short papers on theatrical and dramatic interventions in (and/or disruptions of) time as we know it, experience it, and describe it. Particular focus will be paid to moments when this temporal destabilization articulates a salient political critique of the play’s cultural conditions. A play’s condensation of past and present (or future), for instance, might suggest the extent to which contemporary life is ghosted by the legacies of the past, an argument taken up by a number of plays that dramatize the construction of race – i.e., the persistence of a cultural discourse that traps black bodies in an economy of representation inherited from the history of enslavement. Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview, for instance, deploys a stylized and disturbing repetition in its second act to this precise end, pointing to the hypervisibility of black bodies and the overwriting of black identities by a dominant white culture that wields control over systems of representation. Similarly, plays might rely on repetition (or repetition with a difference) to signify confinement in any number of other cultural arenas, from rehearsals of gender and sex to the interpellation of consumerist subjects under capitalism. For instance, in Play with Repeats, Martin Crimp juxtaposes the pain of surviving the neoliberal regulation of time with the threat of a teleological escape that leverages masculinist assumptions about the way the future “should be.” In short, formal experimentations with temporality – chronological disruptions, anachronisms, speeding up, slowing down, flashbacks, flashforwards, jumps, cuts, repetitions, and so on – often do more than simply challenge our understanding of time; they, too, critique the cultural institutions that (like time) mediate our daily lives.

Applicants to the working session will be expected to submit a short paper of 10–12 pages in length, for an ideal group size of sixteen participants. Based on the topics of their papers, participants will be divided into four subgroups, wherein the consonances among papers will be emphasized. In advance of the in-person meeting of the session of November, participants will read the papers in their respective subgroups and post preliminary responses on the working group’s website (either WordPress or Google Sites). At the conference, the subgroups will meet and discuss their papers with the goal of isolating common strands of inquiry. Then, all participants will convene for a session-wide discussion that links the conclusions of each subgroup to the working group’s governing questions: How might dramatic temporality serve as an arena for political critique? What are the implications of time’s irreversibility for both social life and theatrical production? If historic recurrence is indeed inevitable, what intervention might theatre perform, and why does it matter?

For any specific questions, please contact working group conveners at alexmferrone[at]gmail.com or gingrich.d[at]gmail.com.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Touching History: Reenactment & the Embodiment of the Archive

Erin Stoneking, University of Alabama
Caitlin Kane, Cornell University

Often dismissed as a form of bastardized or imprecise historiography for the terminally uncool or the avowedly racist, historical reenactment occupies a marginal place among U.S. American leisure activities. Yet reenactors themselves are fiercely devoted to the practice, finding within it community, identity, and the reported ability to “time-travel,” or affectively and physically experience the past. These embodied experiences of the past, according to reenactors, thus make accessible a deeper understanding of history that exceeds the written archive and may, in their view, supplement it. As Rebecca Schneider notes in Performing Remains, “in affective engagement, many [reenactors] find reenactment to be, if not the thing itself (the past), somehow also not not the thing (the past), as it passes across their bodies in again-time.” Historical reenactment, in other words, shares with traditional theatre a vested interest in notions of embodiment, affect, liveness, and the liminal space produced by playing a role. What is made possible or knowable about archival materials and history via embodied performance? How do the practices of reenactment converge and diverge with the practice Scott Magelssen has described as “simming” - engaging in immersive historical performances in order to rehearse and potentially enact social change?

In conversation with the conference theme, this working group takes “reenactment,” broadly construed, as a point of departure for investigating performance’s disruptions, elaborations, or complicities in relation to the material archive. How does/can live performance counter the absences or failures of the archive? What is at stake in reanimating history? What are the ethical and political stakes of embodying history? How do forms such as reenactment, documentary theatre, or historical drama depend on, maintain, expand and/or resist the archive? How do these forms facilitate the deconstruction and/or reconstruction of social identities?

  • Some of the topics papers may address (but are not limited to) include:
  • Alternative historiographical methods premised on the body
  • Queer temporalities of archival research and reenactment
  • Political and ethical limitations of reenactment
  • Reenactment as/and revisionist historiography
  • Reenactment and protest 

Conveners will circulate 2-3 readings to selected participants by August 15th. While working session members are not required to incorporate these readings into their session papers, these texts will serve as a shared set of references and vocabulary to facilitate large group discussion. By August, session members will also be divided into smaller groups of no more than four based on thematic, topical, or theoretical interests. Participants will circulate their short papers (10-12 pages) to their small group by October 1st. Session members will read and arrive at the conference session ready to provide thoughtful feedback on all papers circulated within the small group. During the conference session, we will reserve approximately half of our time together for small-group feedback and discussion. During the remainder of the session, participants will reconvene to share their papers or small-group proceedings with the full working group, as well
as engage in broader discussion around the pre-circulated readings, participant papers, and session topic.

We have structured this session to stimulate generative and rigorous discussion and to provide members with thorough feedback on their work. To that end, our working group will remain small (we plan to accept 14 participants at the maximum), and feedback and targeted discussion will occur in breakout groups. We foresee that the pre-circulation of session-wide readings and small-group member papers will lay the foundation for meaningful responses and engagement in the context of both the full working session and the breakout groups, without placing undue burden on members to complete work prior to the conference session.

For any specific questions, please contact working group conveners at erstoneking[at]ua.edu or cak269[at]cornell.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Tourism as Repetition: Entanglements of Placemaking, Performance, and Cultural Economies

Weston Twardowski, Northwestern University
Bryan Schmidt, St. Olaf College

Tourism is a performance-based concept predicated on temporal and experiential repetition. The tourist encounter—an embodied and tactile experience that might be considered immersive— always operates at the interface of the real and the imagined. From the reenactment of the past as “heritage”, to the replication of packaged events that reconfigure real places as alluring “destinations,” tourism encompasses actors and audiences, dispositions and gazes, stages and industries. Whether a leisure pursuit for the geopolitically privileged, an economic lifeline for host communities searching for means of preserving culture, or a mode of civic/regional/national branding, tourism theatrically and systematically aestheticizes difference (racial, geographic, cultural, temporal). 

As a city where tourism accounts for 15% of jobs, New Orleans is an ideal site for contemplating how, as Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett points out, tourism relies on a political economy of showing in order to generate a sense of “hereness.” With its complex history of interdisciplinary artistic culture (Carnival, festivals, walking tours, Jazz Funerals, Second Lines, Blues, food culture, and museums) the city provides an exciting locus for examining how tourism is generated by repeating and surrogating histories of imperialism, resistance, and hybridity, in connection with projects of racialization, settler colonialism, and nationalism. 
How do the power dynamics of tourism reveal how the past gets mobilized to fit the ends of global capitalism? How can we approach the heritage industry not simply as a pulverizing force, but also (as John and Jean Comaroff point out in Ethnicity Inc.) a troubled site where marginalized communities produce and feel identity under conditions of neoliberalism? And how do the tools of theatre and performance—especially their attentiveness to choreographies, setting, and corporeality—provide unique ways of analyzing the tourist encounter? 

To investigate these dynamics first-hand, we will use our time in New Orleans to conduct a site visit to the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum—a site that not only engages with the fraught and racialized (re)construction of New Orleans over time, but also reflexively calls attention to the ethics of tourism production and participation. This will provide us an opportunity to collaboratively question how scholarship can engage with communities that assert control over the narratives of their living environments, especially when this lived experience is disjoined from outside narratives about the community. We seek to continue conversations from 2017 and 2019 iterations of this working group that examine the frame of the tourist encounter as a form of immersion, while focusing on the identitarian and economic exigencies that compel participation. 

Possible themes include: 

  • Temporality and repetition (seasonal/nostalgic/tourist time, repeated events) 
  • Geography and tourism; the politics of transnational or domestic travel 
  • Tourism and ethics (thanotourism/dark tourism, voluntourism, labor/economics of tourism) 
  • Myth and/or Fantasy within Tourism Performance 
  • Processes and politics of preservation 
  • Forms of staging place (theatre, tourism campaigns, tours, museums) 

We ask potential participants for a 250 word abstract on a project which directly engages the themes of tourism and repetition. Full papers will be shared on September 15th, and will receive one round of small-group feedback in advance of the conference. Revised papers will be shared to the entire group by October 15. 

For any specific questions, please contact working group conveners at jwt[at]u.northwestern.edu or schmid18[at]stolaf.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Transformational Repetitions: Analysis, Criticism, and Archiving Transfeminist Performance

Kara Raphaeli, UC San Diego
Rye Gentleman, University of Minnesota
Amy Meyer, Tufts University
Bess Rowen, Villanova University
Janet Werther, The Graduate Center, CUNY 

2020 will mark the fifth year that the Transfeminisms Working Session has been convening at ASTR. This yearly repetition of our collaboration has allowed us to solidify a scholarly community at the interdisciplinary crossroads of trans studies and theatre and performance studies. Our repeated sessions have strengthened our individual research as well as allowed us to develop resources for all scholars interested in transfeminist performance. This year we consider the theme of repetition in relation to transfeminist theatre and performance. 

Questions of repetition and tempo are central to many topics which trans studies and trans performance explore; Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity relies on repetition; films and plays which cater to cisnormative audiences repeat tired tropes of trans illegitimacy, undesirability, and tragedy; the rapid tempo of growing trans community leads to constant new iterations of transfeminist appropriate terminology. Building on Jose Esteban Munoz’s, Jack Halberstam’s and Elizabeth Freeman’s conceptualizations of queer time, explorations of trans temporality ask how are trans lives lived, seen, performed and regulated out of sync with the normative world. 

Writing about the impact and influence of the deaths of trans women of color, C. Riley Snorton and Jin Haritaworn note that they “have examined this circulation, which adds value through nominal and numeric repetition, as paradoxically giving birth to both conditions that allow more recognizable trans subjects to mobilize and ascend into life, and to the forces that immobilize subaltern trans lives.” (The Transgender Studies Reader, “Trans Necropolitics: A Transnational Reflection on Violence, Death, and the Trans of Color Afterlife,” 74.) Repetition can therefore be a tool for change or an impediment to it. Instead of asking how repetition helps us understand temporality, transfeminism asks how transness temporalizes theatre and performance as something existing outside of the binary of past and present. 

Over the past two years the Transfeminisms Working Session has utilized the ASTR conference to develop a bibliography of key theoretical and historical texts for use in transfeminist theatre and performance studies. This “Transfeminist Theatre and Performance Studies Pedagogy Resource,” which includes an annotated bibliography, a best practices document, a database of plays with trans themes and characters, is currently being developed as a digital collection. The availability of this resource will help map the available scholarship, preventing the needless repetition of dispersed, disconnected sources which either keeps scholars from engaging with trans performance or undercuts trans performance scholars who are forced to reinvent the wheel over and over again.

Continuing our collaborative dynamic, this year we are turning our attention to the creation of a collection of essays analyzing both historical and contemporary transfeminist performance. Papers may focus on specific productions, scripts, performance groups, protests, or performances of identity which may be broadly understood as trans and/or gender non-conforming. The conveners hope to eventually edit an anthology with these and other transfeminist writing. 

Paper exchange and discussion will begin two months before our session convenes. Participants will be divided into thematic subgroups, and will circulate initial drafts of 10-15 pages in September, in order to receive feedback and revise.

For any specific questions, please contact the lead working group convener at kraphaeli105[at]gmail.com.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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Transpacific Performance Working Group: Pacific Time

Diana Looser, Stanford University
Shannon Steen, UC Berkeley
Jenna Gerdsen, University of Maryland

The Pacific is having a moment. US policy makers have cast the Pacific world as the future, declaring the twenty-first century as “The Pacific Century.” New choreographies of K-Pop shape digital memes and amateur dance groups worldwide. Climate-change scenarios figure the imperiled islands of the Pacific as harbingers for the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Indigenous cultural revitalization projects undertaken in the wake of or in the face of colonialism insist on a vital continuity between past and present that goes beyond conventional notions of repetition or reenactment. In simple terms, the promise of the Pacific world cannot be fully accounted for in terms of repetition, encouraging us to think about the innovations and new critical paradigms emerging from this vast, energetic region. 

Accordingly, our Transpacific Performance working group considers how alternative temporal frames of performance that go beyond repetition might further our understanding of the technological, artistic, intellectual, and/or environmental developments occurring in the Pacific. Building on last year’s inaugural working group, we retain the focus on connections across this huge and complex geographic area, bringing into conversation the discrete subfields and regions that have prevented more holistic, comparative, or relational views of the Pacific; we likewise continue to expand and challenge ideas of the transpacific in relation to theatre and performance studies. 

“Pacific Time” invokes performance temporalities as well as the timeliness of the Pacific world as a space of academic inquiry for our field. We encourage participants to consider, among other topics, diverse ways in which transpacific performances can 

  • reconfigure the imperatives of military time and industrial time 
  • interrupt and/or resist the repeating structures of empire 
  • center Indigenous temporalities 
  • explore diverse cultural histories-in-relation across the region 
  • trace the rhythms and hauntings of transpacific memory 
  • examine differentiated forms of modernity.

We envisage a group of approximately 15 participants. Each participant will write a 10-15-page paper due October 1. 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). The 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. This format allows us to give feedback to individual contributors and also to work together as a group to develop common research questions, threads, topics, and conceptual frameworks. 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at dlooser[at]stanford.edu, steen21[at]berkeley.edu, or jgerdsen[at]umd.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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“We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program”: The Politics and Aesthetics of Interruption

Victoria Scrimer, University of Maryland
Rebecca Struch, UC Berkeley

Repetition repeats itself—until it doesn’t. A break in the linear flow of dramatic action, interruption offers an alternate, equally influential, spatio-temporal arrangement by which to organize (or dis-organize) performance. It is frequently used, on the stage or in the streets, by those seeking social or political change. Bertolt Brecht famously used projections, song, abrupt shifts in lighting and other interruptive strategies in his development of the epic theatre as a means to shake audiences free from theatre’s illusions and naturalized bourgeois ideology. Participatory performance methods, such as Theatre of the Oppressed, have extended this invitation for performatic critique beyond the fourth wall, and recent protests like the feminist strikes across Latin America, the highway obstructions of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the transportation strikes in Paris, and the climate change blockades in DC illustrate just some of the ways activists have developed distinct aesthetics of interruption to counter the logic of repetition in everyday life. 

But interruption is not simply stasis or stalled action; it can result in plenitude, overabundance, even inundation. In Brecht’s work, Walter Benjamin saw that “...interruption is one of the fundamental methods of all form-giving...The more often we interrupt someone in process of action, the more gestures we obtain” (Understanding Brecht, 19). Despite Benjamin’s and Brecht’s emphasis on its progressive qualities, interruption is an anarchic force. As such, it can be used to create confusion, to grab power, to dominate, to silence. For example, Donald Trump’s debate style in 2016 highlighted the white, patriarchal currents of interruption, while pop-up advertisements and telemarketing continue to leverage interruption as a corporate tactic for increased profits. Given the contradictions arising from the interruptive mode, this working group seeks projects that explore the radical potential and possible pitfalls of interruption in performances both on and off the stage. 

This group will employ a non-traditional structure that embraces spontaneity and interrupts the linearity of conference activity. Participants will be asked to submit projects by October 15. Members will then review all submissions and engage in dialogue on a group platform prior to the conference. During the conference, members will use a group chat to convene extemporaneous, guerilla-style breakouts at a time and place of their choosing. These impromptu sessions seek to interrupt pre-planned actions of the day, to encourage meeting when inspiration strikes, and to invigorate a sense of surprise and creativity. Participants should plan to instigate or attend at least two breakouts. On the last day, members will report on discussions and experiences during a more formal, 2-hour session. 

Contributors might consider: How does interruption reveal or recontextualize rather than represent or repeat? How is interruption used in classrooms or rehearsals? Is interruption an effective mode of socio-political intervention given contemporary fragmentations? We welcome an array of projects, including: academic papers, annotated lesson plans, activist training exercises, or original performance footage. Text-based submissions should not exceed 10 pages, nor video submissions 20 minutes. Applicants should submit an abstract (500 words maximum) and brief bio (250 words maximum). 

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners at rstruch[at]berkeley.edu or vscrimer[at]umd.edu.

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at  astr2020@astr.org if you have any questions about the process.

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