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2016 Annual Conference
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Thursday, August 11, 2016 to Sunday, August 14, 2016

Onsite registration is available from August 11-14. **There will be a $30 administrative fee for all onsite registrations during conference.

A Message from Your 2016 Conference Chair, Kelly Howe

ATHE’s 30th anniversary returns us to vital, beautiful, complicated Chicago. The setting for Lorraine Hansberry’s legendary Raisin in the Sun, birthplace of Second City’s improvisational comedy, current home to an astonishingly diverse array of theatre—our 2016 host city lands us squarely in the midst of multiple, overlapping theatrical histories. But theatre is not the only kind of performance Chicago calls us to examine. Given this industrial hub’s identity as a site of pivotal labor struggles, our 30th anniversary conference committee especially invites you to examine performance as labor and labor as performance.

How does performance help us understand bodies at work, inside and outside theatre? How have theatre and performance historically put bodies to work, for better and for worse? How are bodies disciplined by routines of theatrical labor—or routines of teaching and learning? How can we understand different modes of labor as performances? How do we engage both the pleasure and precarity of bodies at work? How might we choreograph new ways of working?

Given the intense push to assess every aspect of higher education, how do we hold on to an improvisational spirit in our classroom labor? What are ATHE’s responsibilities and opportunities in the context of the academic adjunct labor crisis (or in the context of professional theatre’s increasing reliance on unpaid internship labor)? What does it mean to put bodies on the line in theatre and higher education? Whose bodies end up disproportionately on the line? Whose bodies end up doing disproportionate labor for academic departments, institutional committees, and arts organizations?

Whose bodies tend to be selected for work opportunities in the theatre and whose do not? How might the frame Bodies at Work help us consider the politics of casting and other hiring practices? Taking another local cue from Chicago’s dynamic Bodies of Work, a disability arts and culture network, we also ask: what are the particular labors of disabled bodies onstage and off?

How does the analytic frame of performance help us better understand past and present labor atrocities that have shaped our current national and international economic systems (slavery, human trafficking, exploitation of undocumented workers, etc.)? How have the labor unions of our field(s) shaped our work? How can theatre and performance help us act toward more just labor practices in theatre, higher education, and beyond? How can theatre and performance help us imagine a world in which the centrality of work might be otherwise?

As ATHE and Black Theatre Network (BTN) plan to celebrate the same 30-year milestone in Chicago in 2016, stay tuned for more information on how we’ll work to link the conferences and efforts of both organizations. Through co-sponsored events, panels, roundtables, and performances, we hope to consider future possibilities and responsibilities, particularly in the areas of valuation and distribution of labor across organizations, publications, and platforms. We hope to encourage exchanges that support active involvement in both organizations. As we reflect on bodies of/at work, what do we learn that can help prepare us for the labors to come? How can we meet those challenges or reimagine our future labors in ways that are inclusive and sustainable?

- Kelly Howe, Loyola University Chicago, Vice President for Conference 2016

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