My involvement with the Southeastern Theatre Conference Theatre Symposium stretches back in some ways to its beginnings. The first Symposium conference was held in April 1992 with Dr. Philip G. Hill of Furman University as editor. I was a drama major at Furman under Dr. Hill, graduating in May of that year. That first conference was held at The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; the topic was "Commedia dell'Arte Performance." I later attended graduate school at Alabama under Dr. Paul Castagno, a commedia scholar and one of the founders of Theatre Symposium. Among my duties as Paul's harried graduate assistant were transcribing tinny audio recordings of the conference proceedings and implementing final changes for Volume 4 of Theatre Symposium, which Paul edited. My first scholarly presentation was at a Symposium. And, two decades after the first conference, I was named editor for Volume 20. The 2011 conference was held in April at Furman, with Dr. Hill (now a Professor Emeritus and "Phil" to me) serving as de facto host. It would have been difficult to imagine, as I sweated through Phil's theatre history and dramatic literature classes, where I'd be twenty years hence.
The 2011 topic, "Gods and Groundlings: Historical Theatrical Audiences," drew an interesting range of presenters and approaches. Of course, not every paper can be published (for a variety of reasons), but the presented papers not published in this volume deserve some mention. As a longtime fan of the theatre riot (I am fascinated by the Astor Place Riots, which I first learned about under Dr. Hill while at Furman, and was myself in a near-riot sparked by the apparent shredding of [End Page 5] a live goldfish on stage while I was at Alabama), I was most pleased to hear several papers on audience violence: Sebastian Trainor (University of Washington) shattered my romantic notions about the Ubu Riots; Rick Jones (Stephen F. Austin State University) and Peter DuPuis dealt variously with Irish hooliganism in the theatre; and Wes D. Pearce of the University of Regina gave us a marvelous account of a Victorian-era riot involving the ladies of New York and a limited supply of free "Merry Widow" hats to be given away at a matinee. Other papers included a consideration of vaudeville and music hall audiences by former editor Susan Kattwinkel (College of Charleston); a discussion of producing and performing in a traveling Toby Show by Dawn Larson (Francis Marion University); an evaluation of Early Modern and contemporary audiences by Jeremy Fiebig (Fayetteville State University); and presentations by Sivan Grunfeld and Rayya El Zein, both of the CUNY Graduate Center. The papers published in this volume represent a similarly wide range.
This year's keynote speaker was Dr. Susan Bennett (University of Calgary), whose work (including the influential book Theatre Audiences: A Theory of Production and Reception) was cited by numerous presenters. In keeping with the spirit of the conference, Dr. Bennett attended all the sessions and held a conference response and discussion at the end of the event. Her insights were invaluable. Her paper is published in this volume as well.
One of the most valuable aspects of Theatre Symposium is the chance for scholars from all over the country (and often other countries as well) to learn from one another in an intimate setting with a single topic and no overlapping sessions. In addition to hearing everyone's work, we share meals, allowing discussions to continue and grow. Though the conference was organized into topical panels of two or three papers each, no attempt has been made to categorize the papers here. Rather, it is my hope that the value of a conference of scholars coming together to wrestle over a specific topic will be clear in the variety and quality of the papers published.
I must give special thanks to Phil Hill for his inestimable help—as editorial advisor, "leg man" at Furman, and, along with his wife, Margie, magnanimous cocktail-party host. Thanks also go to former editors J. K. Curry and Scott Phillips for all their help and support; Rhett Bryson of Furman University (another significant mentor from my undergraduate days...