The ASTR TLA Conference was held November 20 – 23 in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference hotel was situated on the Inner Harbor a few blocks from the historic neighborhood of Fells Point. The conference theme focused on the simple question — What Performs? — encouraging discussion on the stuff of theatre such as props and costumes, and at the same time explored the debates on “new materialism” and “post-humanism.” The conference offered a dynamic program with a mix of plenaries, career sessions, working sessions and the exciting “PerformASTR” events. Non-humans, machines and humans, cyborgs, robotics, virtual presences, environmental actors, puppetry, new media onstage and off — this is just a sampling of what it was all about.
TLA’s Plenary, “The Paradox of the Post-human: Archival Subjects, Systems and Sites,” was held early Saturday morning. Colleen Reilly and Lisbeth Wells-Pratt served as co-chairs. I joined Norah Zuniga Shaw, Ohio State University, and Doug Reside, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, on the panel. Norah discussed the digital, animations and choreography. Doug presented on preserving digital designs. I focused on researching structured and unstructured digital content. We had a great reception to our presentations — more detail on the plenary is forthcoming in a blog post from Lisbeth.
American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) had a strong presence with a training workshop on Thursday morning and a terrific session on Saturday afternoon entitled “What Makes an Archive Perform?”
The TLA sponsored tour of the Hippodrome Theatre and the Everyman Theatre was a fabulous event. Our group met at the Hippodrome where we were greeted by Bob Gist and Karen Eske. Bob took us on a tour through the theatre, brought us onstage, backstage, through the dressing rooms, the green room and the loading dock! All the while, he told us about the history through stories and anecdotes. Designed by the architect Thomas Lamb, this renovated theatre is now known as the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center .We were there just a few days shy of the 100th anniversary of the theatre’s opening. It is one of the majestic American theatres and simply magnificent. Today, the theatre hosts touring shows. No cameras were allowed in the theatre — to get a glimpse — take a look at the website for images, a bit of history and their current programming.
Just a block from the Hippodrome sits the Everyman Theatre. Once the Empire Theatre, this performance space was gutted for a parking garage several decades ago. The facade was salvaged and the interior smartly transformed into an intimate performance space, rehearsal space, and administrative offices. A smaller venue than the Hippodrome with a very different mission, Everyman supports a resident company performing classics and contemporary works. Ian Tresslet, Artistic Director, gave us a warm reception and took us behind the scenes.
It was a great afternoon. Our enthusiastic group of more than 20 people enjoyed learning about the dynamic and thriving theatre community in Baltimore.
There were many highlights to the ASTR TLA Conference –it was a wonderful experience.