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The Conference Committee for Conference 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona will post various items to this blog between now and July.


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Intimate Acts

Posted By Patricia Herrera, University of Richmond, Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dear Friends,


As curators of Intimate Acts, we are writing to extend a personalized invitation to all of you to attend this performance event, which will be held Saturday, July 26, at 8:30pm in the Sonoran Room.  There will be light appetizers and a cash bar.


As you may have read in the conference program, Intimate Acts explores how de facto censorship, including the actions taken by the Tucson Unified School District in 2012, attempts to define and delimit what it is to be an “American.” Through the shared reading of theatrical work defined as occupying the edges of “acceptability,” we hope to create a space to connect, reflect, and speak out.


While the event is grounded in the geographic specificity of the Southwest and highlights Latino/a authored plays that topped the list of banned books in Tucson classrooms, it also recognizes that similar mechanisms of oppression have been used to marginalize African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and other racial minorities. We therefore include plays that are not “legally” banned per se, yet raise issues that have been culturally tabooed and silenced. Our goal is to incite dialogue around oppression and censorship and reflect the diversity of the ATHE membership.


Intimate Acts features readings from Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones’ powerful play The Great Goodness of Life presented by the Phoenix-based company Performance in the Borderlands (producer/curator Mary Stephens), and Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit by UC Berkeley’s Teatro and the Performance Collective. Also, Laura Dougherty will direct a reading of Cherríe Moraga’s Heart of the Earth; and Jason Ramirez will direct a reading of Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga’s Panza Monologues. Among the included participants are local artists, activists, and educators: Micha Espinosa, Marcelino Quiñonez, Rashaad Thomas, Tomas Stanton, Steffan Jones, Logan Phillips, Yovani Flores, and Erica Ocegueda as well as ATHE/LFG members Joshua Inocencio, Eric Mayer-Garcia, Solimar Otero, Jeff Paden, Kimberly Ramirez, and Aaron C. Thomas.


In selecting these diverse works, we seek to promote an expansive discussion that collectively makes meaning of both the plays and the current state of America. We look forward to the possibilities of seeing you at the event and hope you will encourage friends and colleagues to attend as your shared presence will make the evening’s dialogue that much richer.  

All the Best,


Patricia Herrera, Karen Jean Martinson, and Jason Bisping

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Welcome to Arizona! Dream with Us.

Posted By Tamara Underiner, Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Hello everyone,

Just a note to let you know how much we at Arizona State University are looking forward to having our friends and colleagues with us this year for ATHE.

Expect a warm welcome, in every sense of the word!

We who live and work here know that Arizona is more than what appears in the headlines. At the same time, we also know that there is much work to be done. We’re grateful for the chance for smart and creative people to come together to dream with us: How might theatre and performance speak back to the issues crystallized in Arizona’s long and recent histories? And how can we who are working here bring what we’ve learned to bear on the work you are doing when you go back home?

It promises to be a lively conversation.

Please think about taking part in our “Tour of Innovative Programs” on Thursday, July 24. This interactive tour will include multiple stops, with opportunities at each for demonstrations and question/answer sessions with representatives of each program. (For full details, view the .pdf at this link.)

Also take a look at your conference program for details on many panels, performances and events that scratch beneath the surface of the harsh desert, to the life that blooms on nevertheless. 

And be sure to check out our FAQ’s about getting around in the heat here in July -- Visit the page at this link to find out not only about the weather, but also about local logistics and things to do while you’re here.

But we expect the conference itself will keep you plenty busy. We so look forward to the conversations and convergences with you that, we hope, will turn dreams into acts.

Safe travels, and see you soon!

Tamara Underiner
ATHE Member since 1993
Associate Dean for Research
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
Director, Doctoral Program in Theatre and Performance of the Americas
School of Film, Dance and Theatre
Arizona State University

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Your Dreams and Mine: Imagining ATHE’s Many Futures

Posted By Kelly Howe, Friday, June 20, 2014
Among other questions in this year’s call for proposals, the 2014 conference committee asked, “How do we confront the fact that one group’s certain vision for a better world (a better production, a better curriculum, a better theatre, a better society) may loom like a nightmare for others?”

I’m excited to ask and re-ask this question together at the conference.

It’s the question that stood out most provocatively for me as the committee convened in Scottsdale for our January planning session, facilitated by Sonja Kuftinec. It’s also one of the questions fueling our plan to use a portion of the annual ATHE membership meeting for dynamic “table talks,” group discussions on our dreams for the future(s) of our organization and our field.

In some respects, to invite everyone to dream together about the future can almost feel like a cream-puff of a prompt. Yet, as John Fletcher acknowledged in his May post on the conference blog, daily life tends to construct dreaming as luxury, not necessity. After all, we have “real,” “concrete” things to do. Can you grade a dream? Will dreams tenure you or get you the gig? Will a dream pay for your hotel room or even your lunch? Can you (shiver) assess your dreams?

Dreams themselves don’t always trade neatly within logics of measurement and markets of exchange.

Sallie Mae won’t take dreams.

Well. Scratch that.

Dreams are material. Our hypotheticals and subjunctives grow from (and reveal) their roots in our everyday exigencies. For some, it’s a privilege to have time or space to dream. For others, dreaming is synonymous with survival. Put another way, it can be a privilege to have a life sufficiently livable that you don’t have to dream All The Time.

Our dreams, like any other expressions of desire, are political. In theatre and elsewhere, we often don’t (can’t?) act without them.

Like other conference committee members, I’m hoping our table talks will host and illuminate not only shared dreams for ATHE and the field but also our divergent dreams and nightmares. We explicitly welcome complexity and contradiction. Some elements of your desires for ATHE’s future might not match up so easily with mine. Let’s talk about that.

And then let’s keep talking about all the other things that need to happen besides talking.

Maybe greeting these complexities will enable us to confront the assumptions (and in many cases privilege) shaping our own dreams for ATHE and the field.

Maybe our encounters will enhance our personal dreams, giving our own yearnings new shades and dimensions.

Maybe witnessing the longings of our colleagues will help us find more radically sensitive ways to be together in community. To do so can be especially challenging when jobs and resources are scarce and competition feels/is inevitable.

Maybe more time to talk about our dreams and nightmares will help us think/feel through solidarity in theory and practice. I find myself thinking a lot about the question of solidarity as it relates to conference planning. What does it mean to think of ATHE as a space of/for solidarity? What other questions about ally-ship follow for those who consider ATHE responsible for acting in solidarity with those most vulnerable in our field? Or even in solidarity with those most vulnerable in the world at large?

All our choices are political.

While we can speak of trends in our field(s), the common elements of our dreams and nightmares only get us so far. When should solidarity even be a goal? What does it mean to envision (and enact) ATHE as an ally space in many senses of that word? With whom will ATHE align itself as we hurtle towards 30?

Of course, some table talks at our membership meeting likely won’t even get close to covering all of this. The table talks will travel where you take them. The membership meeting will just constitute one of many spaces for these and other exciting conversations.

What’s more, these are just some of my dreams about what we might get to discuss. The rest of the conference committee and I are looking forward to asking you about your dreams.

And, yes, your nightmares, too.

Maybe we’ll even revise our dreams together. Justice sometimes demands that we do.

Dreams can be unruly and difficult to reconcile, within ourselves and with others. As chair of our 30th anniversary gathering in Chicago in 2016, I’ll be hoping to hold and honor the complexity of our perspectives as much as possible as I collaborate with others to facilitate our time together.

Ultimately, at Scottsdale 2014 and all the way through Chicago 2016 and beyond, I’ll be dreaming of spaces where our ability to witness each other is made possible not by a stifling “civility” that shaves off the jagged edges of our dreams, but by a lively, messy, radically careful attention to our shared and separate longings.

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A "Dreaming" Revelation: What Will You Dream at ATHE 2014?

Posted By John Fletcher, Wednesday, May 7, 2014
I had a revelation about dreaming thanks to a search committee meeting.

It’s hiring season in my department. We’re doing four faculty searches along with a college-wide dean search. I’ve logged hours in nitpicking conversations, waded through a metric ton of applications, and posed countless HR-approved questions to candidates over jittery, time-lagged Skype connections.

In such interviews, our final question is typically some variation of “Do you have anything to ask us?” Interviewees train for this, preparing something that combines “I’ve done enough research not to ask something bone-headed” with “I’m perceptive enough to formulate a clever insight.”

A few weeks ago, though, a candidate asked the committee where we see ourselves and our college in five years. A simple enough question, right? We had even heard it before and had laughed off some answer about winning the lottery. But for whatever reason the candidate persisted this time, pressing to find—for real—what we saw for our future.

Silence and blank stares—from me and from my peers gathered around the webcam.

We were stumped.

Finally someone coughed and offered that perhaps our difficulty answering was itself an answer.

I went away from that meeting shaken to realize the degree to which I’d given up on thinking in the long term. It’s been a hectic couple of years. Our department’s endured some generational turnover, my book finally got published, and my tenure case got approved. And throughout, we’ve weathered the aftermath of the 2008 crash—quite admirably, I might add. We’ve taken a licking and kept on ticking.
We’re working harder with fewer resources and still attracting more students. More cuts? The show must go on. Faculty overloads? We’ll get it done. Unfunded mandates to increase enrollment by twenty percent or more? Yessir.

The upshot? I’d become used to running on fumes, bracing for the next cut, not seeing any further than surviving to the next year, the next semester, the next production, or sometimes even the next class. My vision—my capacity to dream—had contracted to no further than the next tentative step.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Even as I mark my weariness, I recognize how relatively lucky I’ve been. Our ATHE community includes grad students struggling with tighter budgets and shorter timelines and higher expectations than I ever remember enduring. I hear from PhDs and MFAs working three or more adjunct gigs while simultaneously applying to jobs, keeping pace with scholarship/productions, and breaking the bank to get to conferences like ATHE. And I have friends in institutions hit much harder than mine, who do brave and praiseworthy work to stay above water and serve their students.

For all of us, the prospect of dreaming or of a conference dedicated to dream acts can seem ludicrously naïve. I don’t have time to dream! I’m too busy doing. And to be sure, no dream act will by itself rejuvenate budgets, swell enrollment, conjure tenure track appointments, or moderate overloads.

But I cannot exist, I find, forever in the desert of the real. I discovered a need for something more hopeful ahead of me. Without it, my present becomes nothing more than a desperate scrabble for brute existence. I need to dream. I’m reminded of William Nicholson’s play Shadowlands about Christian writer C. S. Lewis. There a character asks Lewis, who at this point is caring for his terminally ill wife Joy, why he prays. Does he hope to move God to cure Joy? Lewis says no. “I pray,” he says “because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God— it changes me.”

I’m coming to think of dream acts in a similar way. I need dreaming not because it changes fiscal or political realities but because it changes me. It gives me a sense of perspective. It challenges me to imagine a tomorrow where my students, my field, my research, my colleagues are not only surviving but thriving, pursuing a goal, making manifest a hope.

That’s what I hope to find in Scottsdale in July: a taste of something more, a glimpse of possible futures that can transform me in the immediate present—an oasis of shared visions in the heart of the desert.

John Fletcher is the Interim Chair of the Department of Theatre at Louisiana State University. His book Preaching to Convert: Evangelical Outreach and Performance Activism in a Secular Age came out in November from the University of Michigan Press.

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Dreaming in Multiplicity

Posted By Karen Jean Martinson, Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Like Harvey, I traveled to Scottsdale in January to participate in the 2014 Conference Committee Meeting. Under Vice President Sonja Arsham Kuftinec's leadership, we hammered out the final details of all-conference events including the keynote address, paid workshops, the plenary session, evening performances, and we dealt with general session scheduling concerns. Amid a busy day in which the conference became more and more concrete, Sonja wisely scheduled in ample time for discussion and reflection, moments in which we could "dream" our way through the conference theme. This space for imaginative, personal engagement called attention to the act of dreaming in all its profound possibility and provided a necessary check-in. Not only could we ask ourselves what we searched for in our dreams, but by asking, we could dream what our membership might seek in the annual conference. Through these moments, we could be sure that we were crafting for the diverse ATHE membership a conference that would indeed function a site of refuge, provide opportunities for resistance, and allow each of us to find a sense of renewal.

Because the meeting took place the weekend before the start of the Spring Semester, my dreams were of a decidedly pedagogical bent. What did I hope my trip to the desert might allow me to bring to the classroom? What does conference planning at an Arizona resort have to do with teaching at a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) located on Chicago's South Side? For my students, the DREAM Act and immigration issues are distant and yet the Dream Deferred is intimately known; for my students, borders are not international, though they are just as hotly contested, whether in the space of a few blocks or in the vast divide between North (Side) and South (Side).

What I want to bring back to Chicago State University is the opportunity for my students to dream in multiplicity, so that they can identify and capitalize upon connections across geographical space and cultural specificity. Chicago can be rather small at times, and our issues seem to play out predominantly in black and white. Performance can help us see across these stark contrasts and discover the deeper bonds that unite us. For example, last week we explored Political Theatre in my Intro Class. A group of two African American men, two African American women, and one Latina woman expertly staged El Teatro Campesino’s Los Vendidos, capturing both the quick-paced humor and incisive political critique of the piece while layering in an interesting and unexpected take on the assimilationist urges of Miss JIM-inez. The rest of the class, all African American, immediately felt how the play resonated with their own lives. Their comments revealed that they were shocked by how familiar these stereotypes felt to them, despite the foreignness of the cultural milieu. They were surprised to see how similar histories of exploitation, scapegoating, and tokenism have played out on the South Side and in the Southwest. Theatre in that moment brought recognition, just as it displayed resiliency.

My hope is that ATHE 2014 will foster partnerships that might bring my students into contact and conversation with students on different ends of country, students whose particular circumstances may be different, yet who are involved in the same sort of intellectual and social struggles as are mine. Too often, our dreams remain localized, when in fact a larger field of vision might better serve us. How can we make such radical connections real?

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Arizona in July?: Getting Ready for ATHE '14

Posted By Harvey Young, Sunday, February 9, 2014
A few weeks ago, I flew to Arizona to join the ATHE Conference Committee, led by Vice President Sonja Kuftinec, and to assist in finalizing plans for this year’s conference at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale. In addition to reviewing the conference schedule, the committee explored the venue and tried our best to imagine the needs, wants and expectations of ATHE members.

In the coming months, conference committee members will blog about the 2014 conference. Those entries will reveal the identity of the keynote speaker, the amazing line-up of workshop leaders, and the types of performances that you’ll see in July in Scottsdale. There are lots of thrilling revelations on the horizon.

This first post is dedicated to helping everyone get in the ATHE ’14 and Arizona mindset. A few answers to some burning questions related to the conference’s location:

Arizona in July?

We’re going to sunny Arizona. Yes, it will be hot in the daytime before the temperature drops at night. Of course, conference attendees will spend the bulk of their time in climate-controlled meeting rooms looking out windows at Scottsdale’s remarkably blue skies. If not there, then they will be attending meetings poolside along Fairmont Princess Scottsdale’s five pools and sipping on a cool beverage. After a fairly brutal winter—Polar Vortex, anyone?, we’re all ready for some heat.

Why Arizona? Well, ATHE’s officers listened to you and heard your concerns about the costs of attending the annual conference. They determined that going somewhere where it’s low season would result in BIG savings for ATHE members. When factoring in airfare, hotel costs, and local transportation, ATHE ’14 will be one of the least expensive conferences in recent years.

Also, the conference location changes every year—East, Midwest, West—in an attempt to bring the conference closer to the homes of ATHE members. Last year, we were in Florida. This year, Arizona. Someday, we’ll make it up to Alaska.

Okay, so how nice is the hotel?

I’ll admit that it seems shallow to even raise this question. We are going to the conference to recharge our batteries by being around people who are passionate about theatre in higher education. We are traveling to Scottsdale to learn from dynamic professionals. We are renewing our ATHE memberships to network, share works-in-progress, engage in meaningful conversations about the value of the arts. Who cares about the venue?

The hotel is spectacular. In fact, its opulence can be a bit intimidating. There are amazing onsite restaurants, a Starbucks near the lobby, a kid’s club (for children over 6) that’ll keep the little ones occupied all-day and the list goes on…and on. Thanks to it being low season, the nightly rate is $119/night (or $60, if you split it with someone). It’s actually cheaper to stay at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale than to stay in a no-frills motel in parts of Chicago.

Since ATHE members are flying to Arizona to conduct business and not simply bask in the luxury of the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, the conference committee has arranged a number of events, activities, and performances that will provoke questions and prompt dialogue about not only theatre in higher education but also the experience of being in the Sonoran desert (and, yet, surrounded by so much water) in Arizona.

I’m thinking about going to the Grand Canyon…

What does this have to do with the conference? Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to visit the Grand Canyon. It’s only 4 hours away and is truly spectacular. Rent a car. Stay overnight. Check it out.

As a person who grew up really, really close to Niagara Falls, I can be skeptical about the appeal of natural "wonders.” I found the Grand Canyon to be absolutely amazing…part spiritual experience, part fantastic picnic site, part awesome place to hike. On the hottest days, the rim of the canyon is only in the 70s. Bring lots of water, especially if you decide to hike down into the canyon (where it is much hotter).

When should I make my reservations for ATHE ’14?

Now. Right now. Although registration is not yet open for the conference, you can make your hotel reservations. As always, there are a limited number of rooms set aside for conference attendees. If you want to guarantee that you will have a room awaiting you in sunny Scottsdale for ATHE ‘14, just click on the following link:

Tags:  Conference 2014  Scottsdale 

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