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From the ATHE President, Henry Bial
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From the President, Henry Bial

The New Normal

In which ATHE takes a snapshot of the academic job market in theatre, and compares it to a similar study from an earlier year.

As ATHE moves to expand its data-gathering and analysis efforts, we are frequently asked about the state of the job market for faculty positions in theatre in higher education. The last time that ATHE collected such data in a systematic way was in the 1995-1996 hiring cycle, when Nina Lenoir conducted a survey of faculty vacancies using the job advertisements posted in a year’s worth of ArtSEARCH. This study was published in the September 1997 issue of ATHENews.

This year, we have conducted a similar survey, again using the job postings published via ArtSEARCH as our data set. ATHE member and doctoral student Lynn Deboeck (University of Kansas) read and analyzed each job posting that appeared in the education section of that publication, and compiled data following a methodology based on the earlier survey. Some of the findings of this year’s study are laid out below, with the 1995-1996 survey data presented for comparison.

While we hope this data will provoke conversation in the field, particularly in graduate programs that consider placement of their graduates in faculty positions a part of their mission, we caution readers against drawing any firm conclusions from these comparisons. As Lenoir wrote in 1997, “Reading employment ads is a subjective experience. Ambiguous wording describing both the requirements for the position and the position itself requires personal judgment in determining categorization.” Moreover, with only two data points (1996 and 2013), it is impossible to tell whether differences between one survey and the next represent trends or just random fluctuation. Our hope is that this type of survey will become an ongoing part of ATHE’s regular operations. We have already begun data entry on the 2013-2014 job ads, and as we build up more data, the analytic value of such surveys will increase.

What the data seem to show is that the market for faculty positions in theatre in higher education has remained reasonably consistent between 1996 and the present. Unfortunately, given the distribution of full-time tenure-eligible positions versus temporary or non-tenurable positions, this consistency is by no means an indication that everything is just fine. Rather, it suggests that the current state of affairs has been in place for at least 15 years, and that we need to move away from thinking of a temporary “job crisis” and toward a recognition that this is “the new normal.”

During the 2012-2013 hiring cycle, ArtSEARCH ran ads for 360 unique positions with Fall 2013 start dates, plus six (6) positions with start dates in Spring 2013, and twelve (12) with start dates in Summer 2013. Of these 378 postings, 330 were for full-time faculty positions; 11 were for part-time faculty; 16 were for administrators (e.g. deans); and 21 were for staff positions (e.g. technical directors). By comparison, during the 1995-1996 cycle, there were 348 full-time faculty positions posted.

Looking just at the full-time positions in the two studies, we see a generally consistent pattern wherein the majority of hiring is at the Assistant Professor level. A certain amount of the variation is due to the fact that the more recent survey tracked two position types (chair and postdoc) that had been included with “other” in the previous survey. (See Graph 1.)

Looked at another way, in both years, about 60% of the positions posted are tenured or tenure-track; the variation between the two surveys is within the margin of error (that is, the difference between the two surveys for any one category is less than the number of positions in which the job posting did not specify tenure eligibility). (See Graph 2.)

Graph 1

Graph 2

If we break out the positions in terms of the primary specialty specified in the ad, the picture is also remarkably similar from 1996 to 2013. As with the other comparisons, variations from one survey to the other are generally small and may be due to random fluctuation. (See Graphs 3 and 4.)

We also tracked what type of advanced degrees were specified as requirements for each position. There seems to be a slight increase in the acceptance of the MFA as a credential since the last survey, but again, we won’t know how significant this is until we amass additional years of data. In addition to the degree requirements, nearly 65% of this year’s postings indicated that prior teaching experience was required (compared to just under 70% in the earlier survey), while just 46% required professional theatre experience (down from nearly 65% in 1995-1996). Additionally, though the earlier survey did not track it, just under 9% of the 2012-2013 ads indicated that job candidates would be expected to provide evidence of research and/or publication. (See Graphs 5 and 6.)

Graphs 3 and 4

Graphs 5 and 6

It is tempting (and potentially useful) to speculate about the reasons that some job specialties or credentials appear to be in more demand than others, but it is far too early to draw definitive conclusions. There remains much more work to be done to give us a complete picture of the state of theatre in higher education. Job ads are only one piece of the puzzle, as are the degrees-granted statistics I outlined in my last ATHENews article (“Baby Steps” - see below). Since that article was published, several members have contacted us offering to volunteer their assistance in ATHE's data-gathering efforts, and we are working on the best way to harness that energy as we move forward. As always, if you'd like to be a part of the effort, I encourage you to contact me at

About Henry

Henry Bial is Associate Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Department of American Studies at the University of Kansas. His books include Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen, The Performance Studies Reader, Theater Historiography: Critical Interventions (with Scott Magelssen) and Brecht Sourcebook (with Carol Martin). He serves on the editorial boards of Theatre Topics, Theatre Survey, Ecumenica, and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism.

In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Henry has worked in a variety of capacities — director, performer, designer, playwright, dramaturg, and lighting operator — in university and professional theatres in New York, Kansas City, Boston, Minneapolis, and Albuquerque. A proud member of the Buran Theatre Company, he last appeared as a singing vampire in Nightmares.

Henry has been an ATHE member since 1996. His prior service includes terms as Vice-President for Advocacy, Focus Group Representative (PSFG), Conference Planner (PSFG), and at-large board member (PSFG, ATDS).

Henry Bial, President

Watch President Bial's Inaugural Speech


Previous From the President Articles by Henry Bial (2013-2015)

Baby Steps

At this year’s conference in Orlando, I laid out a vision for ATHE that included serving the field by moving more decisively into the realm of data collection and analysis. If we are to fulfill our mission of supporting and advancing the study and practice of theatre and performance in higher education, we need to gain a greater understanding of the full shape and texture of our profession. How can we set goals, plan actions, and even know if we’re advancing our mission if we don’t know where we are as a field? If we don’t know the full measure of the challenges we’re facing?

Toward that end, the Governing Council has dedicated resources toward increasing ATHE’s capacity for data collection and analysis. It is the first, very preliminary results of that effort that I want to share with you in this article.

When I was elected President of ATHE, it struck me that I couldn’t even answer the most basic questions about the scope of theatre in higher education. How many degree-granting theatre programs are there? How many theatre degrees are granted in a year? How many faculty members are employed in theatre in higher education? Through analysis of the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we’re beginning to sketch the rough outlines. We’ve learned, for example, that in 2011-2012 (the last year for which full graduation data is available), 14,874 theatre degrees were granted by a total of 910 U.S. institutions. (Eventually, of course, we hope to track similar statistics for schools outside the US. Baby steps.)

IPEDS uses a variety of 6-digit “Classification of Instructional Programs” (CIP) Codes to identify theatre degrees. A breakdown of these codes with degrees awarded for 2011-2012 looks like this:

While there is a certain amount of specialization involved, it is clear that the majority of programs are classified as “generalist” programs. It may be easier to see this way:

The IPEDS data can also be broken out demographically. For example, here is the gender breakdown in degrees awarded:

The gender imbalance (61% female) seems striking, though it is not as large as one might think; during the same period women earned 58.1% of all post-secondary degrees, so while theatre and performance studies tilts slightly further in this direction, we are not that far off the national average.

This is the simplest, most basic kind of analysis. As we continue to mine existing data like this, we are also looking to supplement the government’s information with data we collect ourselves. For example, as a test project, I asked graduate assistant Zach Sudbury, a PhD student in theatre, to research the 910 schools that granted theatre degrees in 2011-2012 to determine which of these schools has a stand alone theatre or drama department, which has some form of “theatre and” program (e.g. theatre and dance, theatre and film, speech and theatre), and so on. Here’s what we discovered:

These, of course, are baby steps. The numbers we’ve been able to assemble are just that: numbers. We need to assemble a lot more of them and compare them over time before we can say with any authority what they mean. We expect to spend the next year (at least) building an infrastructure for how to collect and organize this kind of data. Meanwhile, we’ll be sharing these baby steps with you through ATHENews in the hopes that they might be of interest. Perhaps they might even get you thinking about the field in a way that you haven’t before.

And if not, then think about this: What data, if we could get it, would help us better accomplish our mission to support and advance the study and practice of theatre and performance in higher education? If you have some ideas about this, or suggestions on how we can best optimize our efforts at data collection and analysis, please feel free to share them with me at

Welcome, ATHE Members

It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as ATHE’s 15th President. For my first official “Note from the President,” I want to share with you a brief excerpt from the Presidential Address I gave upon taking office on August 3, 2013.

Under our Bylaws, the President-Elect serves a two-year term, so I’ve had a lot of time for people to ask, Why would you want to serve as ATHE president? How do you have the time? Which I understand to mean, why would you do this when you could be out teaching, doing research, making art? Here’s what I tell them:

I have a full bucket of water. I drew it from the well to slake my thirst, to wash my hands, to water my plants. But now my neighbor’s house is on fire. What would you do?

And my friends, the woods are burning.

In 2003, more than 50 million people attended a live theatre event in the US. In 2010, it was 45 million.
The woods are burning.

In 1975, one third of US faculty positions were adjunct or non-tenure-track. Today, it’s closer to two thirds, and those numbers are increasing.
The woods are burning.

In 2008, states supported Higher Education at an average rate of nearly 8500 dollars per student. In 2013 it’s less than 6200.
The woods are burning.

Can ATHE, by itself, reverse these trends? No. But we’ve got a bucket and we intend to use it.

As theatre makers, we have a tried-and-true means of reaching out to our communities. As teachers we have the opportunity to develop and shape the next generation of theatre artists and audiences. As college and university professors, we have a voice and a part to play in the transformation of higher education.

We must continue to serve our members, and we will, but we must also find new ways to help our members serve the field. Scholarly organizations don’t fully address the everyday challenges of producing theatre in an educational context, nor should they. Theatre festivals don’t address the crisis in scholarly publishing, nor should they. Focus groups do what they do, and they do it well, but they don’t speak to the whole field, nor should they.

Only ATHE has the size, the scope, the resources, and the mission to serve the whole field, to support and advance the study and practice of theatre and performance in higher education. Only you can prevent forest fires.

As your President, I’m committed to finding ways that ATHE can become a resource for the entire field, not just the percentage that attends our conference. In particular, I see us moving more decisively into the realm of data collection and analysis, into gaining a greater understanding of the full shape and texture of theatre in higher education. How can we set goals, plan actions, and even know if we’re advancing our mission if we don’t know where we are as a field? If we don’t know the full measure of the challenges we’re facing?

Now this isn’t to suggest that the future of our field is all some kind of numerical, balance sheet exercise. As Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” But we must recognize that in the next decade or more, supporting and advancing the study and practice of theatre in higher education is going to require not just passionate advocacy, but passionate evidence-based advocacy. And who else but ATHE can help provide that evidence?

Toward that end, the Governing Council has dedicated resources toward increasing ATHE’s capacity for data collection and analysis. It’s not going to be easy. Few things worth doing are. As our inquiries begin to bear fruit, we’ll be sharing the results with you via this website and other channels of communication.

If you’d like to be directly involved in this effort, I encourage you to contact me directly ( And if a representative of ATHE should come to your door with a clipboard (metaphorically speaking), I hope you’ll answer. I hope you’ll stand up and be counted.

Previous Notes from the President (Bill Doan, 2011-2013)

Dear ATHE Colleagues,

As ATHE Orlando approaches, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as ATHE’s president. It has been a challenging and rewarding experience. I’ve been a member of ATHE since it was possible to be a member of ATHE, but serving as president has been the time I’ve learned the most about our profession, our ideas of theatre and performance, and more importantly, about the differences in our membership that are so vital to ATHE’s future.

We are a complex and wonderful organization. Twenty-three Focus Groups including new members, long-time members, graduate students, artists, practitioners, scholars, fully employed, partly employed, unemployed, retired, in it, with it, over it, past it, sick of it, been there, done that, let’s do it again, loving it, or just catching a breath … and each and every perspective is important to understanding just how necessary ATHE is to our profession and our future in higher education. Bell Hooks writes, “I want there to be a place in the world where people can engage in one another’s differences in a way that is redemptive, full of hope and possibility.” I believe ATHE is such a place and that we can show others in the academy how to be that place. However, we must continue to take a greater role in mapping our future and ensuring that we create those possibilities. I believe Henry Bial and Patricia Ybarra will usher us toward that future with expert ability.

I am a compulsive collaborator. I can’t even work on a solo piece without recruiting almost everyone I know into the process! Serving as president has been a most fulfilling collaboration. My deepest thanks and appreciation to the Governing Council members of the past two years, the Focus Group Representatives, and the amazing ATHE staff, led by our incomparable Executive Director Nancy Erickson.

And to the membership… Believe it or not, I’ve thought of you, all of you, almost daily since taking this office. Who are you? What do you need? What can we do for you? I hope you have felt “thought of” and have witnessed evidence of the effort and commitment ATHE’s leadership gives in your service.

For those coming to Orlando, see you there! For those unable to attend, please keep checking the website for webinars, videos, job postings, and other resources. We are a year-round association dedicated to serving our membership.


Dear ATHE Colleagues,

We’re excited about the upcoming 27th Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, August 1-4. We hope you are planning for that event and looking at the local vacation opportunities as well.

At the mid-year Governing Council and Focus Group Representatives meetings, the issue regarding the UNITEHERE Global Boycott of Hyatt Hotels was discussed. While I have previously communicated with the Governing Council and Focus Group Representatives, I thought it might be helpful to clarify our position as we approach the conference dates.

The Association contracts with hotels at least two years prior to the conference date in order to take advantage of hotel space and contract conditions that will best suit ATHE’s needs. Therefore, it’s likely that labor conditions at one point in time can change by the time the conference happens.

In the specific case of the Hyatt Grand Cypress Resort, site of our 2013 Conference, a Hyatt representative has assured us that there are no current contract issues or other labor disputes involving this hotel. Unfortunately, at this point, the UNITEHERE website includes the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress on its boycott list. We are very aware that a number of our members are also union members, and so we believe it's important to note that the dispute between UNITEHERE and Hyatt appears to have little direct relation to the Hyatt Grand Cypress Resort.

ATHE strives to provide the best value for its members in hotel locations and pricing. Those efforts resulted in a two-year package of contracts with the Hyatt Hotel chain (DC and Orlando). (You can find hotel rates and locations for 2013 - 2016 at this link.) We contracted with the hotel over two years ago, and rescinding our contract now would leave ATHE liable for up to $150,000,an amount that would be crippling to our overall financial position.

ATHE looks forward to holding a successful conference in Orlando. If you have any questions regarding the hotel, we will strive to answer them as quickly as possible. You can contact Nancy Erickson, Executive Director at, Bill Doan, ATHE President, at, or Shaun Franklin-Sewell, ATHE Communications Manager, at

Governance, Citizenship, Engagement, Savings: The April/May ATHE Connection

There are several critical dates in the months of April and May associated with governance, citizenship, engagement, and cost savings. Don’t miss these important dates – for your sake and for the organization’s sake. You have already received emails about each of these, and friendly reminders will soon hit your mailbox, so please be on the lookout. If you have not received emails for any of the important actions below, please contact Shaun Franklin-Sewell at

4/15: Membership Survey closes. Please be sure and fill out the member survey. Your responses are critical for understanding what’s going on with our membership and for considering that information during planning, budgeting, and conference planning. Effective governance relies heavily on knowing as much about our members as possible. Make your voice count!

4/22: Election closes. We want you to vote. We need you to vote. We expect you to vote. A strong showing of the membership during the voting process helps ensure ATHE remains a vital organization. Honor your responsibility and vote.

5/31: Early Bird Registration closes. Online registration is now open. Be sure to realize the savings of early registration, as well as getting a seat in one of five incredible workshop opportunities with limited space. (PearlDamour, Tectonic Theatre, Bill Irwin, Migdalia Cruz , and Deb Margolin!)

So, fill out the survey, vote, and register for ATHE!

See you in Orlando.

Dear ATHE Member,

As we look forward to the 2013 annual conference in Orlando, we hope you are already planning your trip details and thinking about bringing family members. With Bill Irwin as a keynote speaker, the 2013 Conference is really taking shape. The Conference Committee is pulling together details to help with your conference plans, which will be posted on the web page by late March.

At the mid-year meeting, the Governing Council approved a modest $30 increase in the conference registration fee, effective for the 2013 conference in Orlando. This is the first increase since 2011 and reflects the rising costs of running conferences on a national scale. In consideration of the trying economic situation and our cost-sensitive members, fees for graduate students and retired members will remain unchanged in the early registration category.

The Governing Council has taken care to apply the increase on a percentage basis so that members in the least expensive registration categories will see the smallest increase in real dollar costs. Additionally, the 2013 Orlando hotel sleeping room rate ($139+12.5% tax+$10 resort fee or $166.38/night) is more than $50 less than the 2012 rate ($189+14.5% tax or $216.41/night).

The graphs below show ATHE conference registration fees for the past five years, as well as a breakdown of the 2012 conference expenses.

Historical Conference Rates

As you can see, the average registration fee ($265.00) paid by attendees of the 2012 Conference in Washington, DC was well below the actual per-person cost ($358.84) of running the event. Thanks to diligent planning, we expect the 2013 cost-per-member of operating the conference to actually decrease by about $35 (to $323.66). Yet this efficiency savings covers only a portion of the shortfall. Thus, even as we step up efforts to attract sponsors, presenting partners, and exhibitors, we find it necessary to implement the modest fee increase outlined above.

For an overview of upcoming conference sites, please go to and review the September 2012 ATHE News article that outlines our efforts to secure conference sites in the best interest of the membership, with dates through 2016.

ATHE’s Governing Council, in an effort to address the changing landscape within the academy, has instituted a new membership category for the 2013-2014 membership year that begins June 1. The new membership category of Individual Part-time employed will pay $100 in dues, one-third less than the Individual Full-time employed rate of $150. The conference registration fee for that category will also be $70 less than the Individual Full-time employed fee. There are no other dues increases for 2013-2014.

We continue to explore ways to reduce the economic burden of conference participation through member registration discounts, graduate student housing at reduced fees when possible, and reduced hotel rates. In a perfect world, such periodic adjustments to the conference registration fees would be unnecessary. In these challenging times, however, it is even more important that ATHE sustain its financial stability and operational viability so we can continue to support and advance the study and practice of theatre in higher education.

Dear ATHE Colleagues,

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently posted an article written by Henry Bial, ATHE President-Elect, Heather Nathans, ASTR President, Patrick Anderson, ASTR Vice President, and myself. The article, titled Sustaining the Doctorate in Theatre, is our public response to the blog post on Eliminating the Doctorate in Theatre. You can read our internal response published on both the ASTR/ATHE websites below.

Many thanks,

Bill Doan, President and
Henry Bial, President-Elect

Response to January 16, 2013 “Advice” column, “Eliminating the Doctorate in Theater”

Submitted by William J. Doan (President, Association for Theatre in Higher Education), Heather S. Nathans (President, American Society for Theatre Research), Patrick Anderson (Vice President, American Society for Theatre Research), and Henry Bial (President-elect, Association for Theatre in Higher Education)

"It is critical that whatever their future course, American university theatre programs must no longer allow themselves to be drawn into the ongoing antagonism between those who study the theatre and those who create it… It was a very easy trap to fall into when American professional theatre moved into the university...” --Marvin Carlson, Theatre Survey, 2011

On January 16, 2013, a pseudonymous author posted a column advocating the elimination of the doctorate in theatre. While space does not permit a full response to the many issues raised in his column, on behalf of the American Society for Theatre Research and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, we would like to address three of its most pressing concerns: placements, data-based self-assessment, and distinctions between the MFA and PhD.

Read or download the full response.

We continue to move forward with new energy and ideas for the ATHE/BTN Alliance following the success of our collaboration on the development of SMASH/HIT by Penn State’s Steve Broadnax. Steve and his creative team were thrilled with the feedback and responses to the staged readings at both BTN in Atlanta and ATHE in D.C. SMASH/HIT is scheduled to receive its world premiere this coming spring at the Black Rep in St. Louis:

BTN and ATHE leaders continue to refine the mission and goals for the Alliance while collaboration on other projects continues, including the recent summit on graduate education in the arts and humanities held at Penn State. There is also a shared panel in the works for ATHE 2013 in Orlando!

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