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ATHE 2020 Annual Conference - Detroit
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2020 Annual Conference

July 29 - August 2, 2020
Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center


Combustion ⇔ Energy ⇔ Resilience ⇔ Drive ⇔
Resilience ⇔ Energy ⇔ Combustion

Motor City: for over 100 years, “Detroit” has been synonymous with the car industry: The industry and the city have had a reciprocal relationship, an exchange of energy. But this power dynamic has been woefully unequal. The 2009 bailout of “Detroit” awarded federal emergency relief to a handful of corporations that have more of a presence outside of the city than within it. Conversely, when the city itself faced the largest municipal bankruptcy in history just four years later, it was pensions, schools, and cultural institutions on the negotiating table. There was no bailout for the people of Detroit.

Our conference theme invites you to explore and interrogate the cycles of reciprocity that take place in our scholarship, teaching, and creative work. In classrooms and studios, on stages and screens, images and language of creation and destruction—building, running, striking—guide our generative practices. We invite you to consider how various technologies—theatrical, automotive, political— work to keep our work going, keep our field driving (somewhere). Keeping in mind that the same technologies that can aid generative work can also destroy, we also invite you to consider how technologies impede progress, foreclose the possibility of sustainable practices, even endanger our ecological health.

What if we take the very elements that drive the fields of theatre and performance and blow them up, explore their greatest consequences and their greatest (as of yet unrealized) potentialities? Therefore, we propose that concepts of combustion, energy, and resilience inspire your contribution to ATHE 2020, perhaps in one or more of the following ways:

Combustion: Explode

  • What are the tools and technologies of theatre, dance and performance that are seen as essential? That give us the most freedom?
  • What consequences do these technologies unwittingly exercise on us and others?

Energy: Excavate

What is left after an explosion? Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but materials may be transformed, rearranged in space or otherwise modified. Relationships seen as fundamental are dissociated, deconstructed. Choreographic phrases or motifs are placed in retrograde, reversed. We see the same pattern backwards or out of sequence. We wipe away the romanticized patina to reveal the surfaces just beneath. We unearth buried histories.

Resilience: Gather/Sustain

  • What alternatives have existed from the beginning of our collective histories that have been overlooked or misunderstood?
  • What came before the mirror, the metonym?
  • The sites or places of our work exist in layers, a multiplicity of hosts and ghosts. Who inhabits our contemporary stages? Who was here before “we” were “us”? Who is (still) missing? How does their/our resilience shape the legacies?


  • How might theatre and performance help us to understand the competing landscapes of “Detroit” and Detroit?
  •  What are the combustible properties of theatre that make it urgent today?
  • In this era of challenging politics, what tools of resilience do our students need that we can provide through understanding performance?


2020 Conference Committee

Mary Anderson, Wayne State University
Megan Geigner, Northwestern University
Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas
Jeanmarie Higgins, Penn State
Jake Hooker, A Host of People Company, University of Michigan and Oakland University
Baron Kelly, University of Louisville
Alicia Tafoya, University of Central Oklahoma
Annette Thornton, Central Michigan University
Beliza Torres Narvaez, Augsberg University
Sebastian Trainor, Penn State
Ann Haugo, Illinois State University, Vice President for Conference 2021
Chris Berry, La Guardia Community College (Black Theatre Network partner)
Josh Abrams, ATHE President (ex-officio)

Vice President for Conference 2020
CarlosAlexis Cruz

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