- A Note from the Editor
Welcome to the first issue of 2018. As one of the official journals (along with Theatre Journal) of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Theatre Topics traditionally dedicates a section of the first issue of the year to documenting the previous ATHE conference. 2017 brought the conference to Las Vegas, a location that generated a wide range of responses from attendees. For some, Las Vegas seemed an ideal place for a theatre conference—a place of wondrous spectacle, sexual liberation, and fascinating simulacra. One attendee (who shall not be named) even revealed that graduate-school bills were paid off with some shrewd card-playing skills at the casinos. For others, Las Vegas represented commodification and consumption gone awry (noting, for example, the America! store). Others still were concerned with the objectification of female bodies, the dangers of which were evidenced by flyers in the airport bathroom stalls offering aid to victims of sex trafficking. For some, Las Vegas is simply their home. And for many of us the city has since taken on a whole new connotation as the site of the deadliest mass shooting in US history, with fifty-eight people killed and over 500 injured. While not holistic, the opening section of this issue touches on many of these associations.
We begin with the presidential address of Harvey Young, the newly elected president of ATHE. Complementing his speech is a summation of and response to the conference’s open forum by the recent past president, Patricia Ybarra. Looking at these pieces side by side, I am struck by their shared sense of urgency. As Young points out, theatre as a discipline seems to be under attack, evident by the number of theatre programs that have been gutted or shut down. His fears regrettably appear to be confirmed, for as we go to press the fate of Indiana University’s MA/PhD program in Theatre History, Theory, and Literature hangs in the balance. Ybarra echoes these concerns, but also addresses the personal attacks felt by many theatre educators and/or their students. Both pieces urge engagement and advocacy during these precarious times.
Rounding out the section, the documentation of the conference plenary offers a meditation on the conference’s theme of “Spectacle: Balancing Education, Theory, and Praxis.” Titled “2017 ATHE Conference Plenary: A Spectacular Balancing Act,” the plenary featured circus dramaturg Louis Patrick Leroux; Cirque Mechanics founder and artistic director Chris Lashua; performance artist Xandra Ibarra (aka “La Chica Boom”); and director of the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, Jane Childs. Each artist/scholar provides an insight into their approach toward work, while plenary moderators (CarlosAlexis Cruz, Roy Gomez Cruz, Kareem Khubchandani, and Chase Waites) provide context for the reader.
As I was initially assembling the various essays and notes from the field to follow this section on the ATHE conference, perhaps under the influence of Vegas, the metaphor of the buffet table came to mind. The contributions are surely varied, and in keeping with the mission of Theatre Topics represent a wide range of pedagogical and practical concerns. Hopefully readers will find an essay or note to satisfy their tastes. On closer inspection, however, I realized that each of these pieces explores the human body: the body in peril; the virtuosic body; the body in relation to the machine; the objectified body; the disembodied; the body as site for affective shifts; the estranged body; bodies in combat; bodies in collaboration; differently abled bodies; forgotten bodies; and bodies in relationship to space. Of course, theatre is an art form that many (for example, Grotowski) would argue is essentially comprised of interactions among bodies, so perhaps this meta-theme is not surprising. [End Page ix] Nonetheless, I invite readers to visualize corporeality as you consume these pages and see what associations it evokes. For me, the meta-theme speaks to both the fragility and alienation many of us feel, as well as a tribute to theatre’s ability as a live, intimate art form to foster real human connection.
The first essay, by Lisa Aikman, “Freedom Singer: Modeling Performative Witnessing in Documentary Theatre,” analyzes the latest documentary theatre piece by Toronto...