An advocate for the field of theatre and performance in higher education, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) serves as an intellectual and artistic center for producing new knowledge about theatre and performance-related disciplines, cultivating vital alliances with other scholarly and creative disciplines, linking with professional and community-based theatres, and promoting access and equity.

 

A message from ATHE

Dear ATHE members,

I recently returned from our Governing Council and FGR midyear meeting where we made our plans for the coming year, including our continued advocacy for theatre in higher education at a time when many of us fear large-scale defunding of the arts. Others were concerned about the end of the ACA, which has given many artists and contingent laborers in our field health care because their current employers do not provide it. There was talk about DACA and its potential demise. And, there were, of course, many members concerned with how the racism, sexism, islamophobia and homophobia (and many other forms of antagonism based on identity) we are seeing in the public sphere might affect our students, colleagues and ourselves.

We had frank conversations about how we might serve our students and colleagues at this time. This meant asking very broad and searching questions about the theatre, including many about how might we rethink our theatres as important public forums, sites for gathering, and places to think and imagine otherwise. Can theatre be the place where we follow Obama’s frustrated exhortation that, ”If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try to talk with one in real life?”

Ironically, you are likely reading this through social media. Perhaps more ironically, I just aligned theatre with real life. Breaking with years of anti-theatricality discourse that aligns theatre with falseness, I offer theatre as a place to talk truth and to become a public. Here, of course, I allude to a return to a historical moment in which theaters were the public forums for engagement. I hold no romantic ideas about this, but I also know enough global history to understand how art can make a difference at difficult time; how it can be a site to say what is not being said (or what is not allowed to be said elsewhere), and how it can be a call to action. As one member reminded us at this meeting, university theatres are often a low or no cost option, which opens up the possibility for greater inclusion in these spaces in which we do important public work.

In the coming years, I am hopeful that ATHE can help out with this important public work in a number of ways:

  1. Theatre can help us learn how to "talk to people in real life." Numerous methodologies from theatre and performance studies and practice can help us generate dialogue and action with each other and with others we have just met. Conference 2017 will be a chance for us to engage with viewpoints different from our own in relationship to the themes of the conference and the role of theatre in higher education at this time. More details will come about a town hall meeting before the business meeting Las Vegas, and other opportunities at conference 2017 in the coming months.
  2. We can advocate for the importance of arts education generally and theatre education specifically, making the case for its institutional support at a time when that support is being implicitly or explicitly questioned. This includes advocacy for the role of the NEA and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, as described in a statement we signed last fall addressed to the transition teams for both presidential candidates. A draft of that memo, “Advancing the Arts to Support National Policy Priorities,” is available upon request. We will be also developing ATHE specific material for this purpose in the coming year. Stay tuned. You may be asked to help.
  3. We can share resources to advocate for members of our society who feel most threatened at this difficult time by sharing anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic/transphobic, anti-sexist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamophobic resources for teaching in our classrooms. There will be options for many of these resources through our advocacy committee throughout the year and at the conference. And they will be globally minded.
  4. We can continue to argue for fairness for contingent laborers in our field, in every way that we can. The Governing Council has proposed a new category of membership for adjunct professors. This requires a by-laws change, which requires a vote of the membership. You will receive notice about this by the end of the month. Please take the time to vote. And, by the next conference, we hope to have a best practices document you can use to advocate for yourself and others in contingent positions.
  5. We can continue to be responsive to your needs, because ATHE is you. Email me: president@athe.org

Thank you for reading to the end of this message. If I do not see you, speak to you or email you before the conference, I look forward speaking with you then. We will have a forum on the themes of this missive at the conference before the business meeting. I hope you will be there.

Best,

Patricia Ybarra
ATHE President

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