CFP – MTC Theatre History Symposium


Theatre History Symposium

Mid-America Theatre Conference (

Chicago, March 1-4, 2012

Work: Mythology, Ideology and Practice 

For MATC’s 2012 meeting in Chicago, the Theatre History Symposium invites proposals for papers on or around the theme of Work: Mythology, Ideology and Practice.  In what ways does the idea of work—or workers—complicate, resist, or redefine the categories that historians frequently apply to the telling of history? As Henry Bial and Scott Magelsson remind the scholar in Theatre Historiography: Critical Interventions, methodological concerns often cannot be separated from political agendas, and “theatre history, in remembering a cultural past, stakes a claim on that culture’s present and future” (4). The condition of workers—imagined, mythologized, politicized, or simply in the midst of the daily grind—plays a vital role in the theatre that becomes that moment’s cultural artifact.  How do mythology, ideology, and practice connect the work of the theatre across time and space? 

Possible topics might address these questions, or explore one or more of the following:

—Perceptions of work, and expectations regarding the workers who perform that work, shape, influence, or dictate their historical identities.

— Challenges of writing about the manifestations of labor in regards to theatre praxis, especially to issues of evidence, corroboration, or documentation (or lack thereof).  How might existing methodologies reinscribe the very histories that we strive to challenge?  What new historiographical approaches could prove revealing in our own work?

—Representations or case studies exploring the range and limits of representing “work” or workers theatrically. This may include explorations of “special skills”—illicit, extraordinary, or otherwise—cultivated or required in theatre or popular entertainment.

—How workers “wear” class on their bodies (calluses, clothing, scars, etc.)—the collision of work and the body constitutes performative and historical palimpsests.

—The ways in which theatre—popular, legitimate, or otherwise—rewards those who “dream big” and fail.

—Discussions of conflicts between workers, artists, patrons or institutions.  In what ways have artists found themselves in conflict with potential audiences, those they hope to represent, or those who pay the bills?  How have artists survived, thrived, or failed when confronted with these competing tensions?

Ways the work of art, the “product” of labor, or the intangible, inspired “stuff” of art-making factors into mythology, ideology or practice.


Please direct proposals and queries to the Theatre History Symposium co-chairs:

Dr. Beth Osborne, Florida State University,

Dr. Chris Woodworth, University of North Carolina at Greensboro,

Please submit proposals via email in Word or Rich Text Format to both co-chairs, including the following:

—Your nametitle (student, faculty, independent scholar), academic affiliation, and a brief biography.

—Your contact information (particularly email).

—The title and abstract for your paper.  Please limit abstracts to 250 words.

—Any audiovisual elements you request for you presentation. We cannot always guarantee audiovisual support, but will endeavor to take requests into account. Late requests may not be honored.

—We also welcome proposals for full panels.  Contact the co-chairs for more information.

All proposals must be received by October 15, 2011


Robert A. Schanke Award

The Robert A. Schanke Research Award is given annually to an untenured faculty presenter of the Theatre History Symposium and carries a cash award of $500 as well as subsequent publication of the paper in Theatre History Studies, the journal of the Mid-America Theatre Conference.  To be eligible for the Schanke Award, candidates must submit full, conference-length versions of their paper to the co-chairs at the addresses above by February 15, 2012.


About Sarah Bay-Cheng

Professor of Theater at Bowdoin College. Co-host for the On TAP (Theatre and Performance Studies) podcast at Editor for the book series Avant-Gardes in Performance (Palgrave). Sporadically blogging about theatre, performance, and digital culture. twitter: @performaddict
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