You know, I don’t have a lot of time to think about things during conference week. Especially the first day, Cass, Kim, and I put out a lot of (minor) fires and get into a groove. Then, things ease up a little. But, as I sat down (computer open, head set on to catch emergencies and deal with all the things), in the room where we get to work, and as I listened to some of the top scholars in the field, surrounded by the other 250 people who will be participating as presenters and auditors of this beast that we call the Blackfriars Conference, I took the time to breathe. And see. And hear. And I am so grateful.
Don’t miss our live blogs or our live streaming (even if you catch them late), but know that there is nothing like being in that room, with actors and scholars conversing in the way that I think (or hope) we all wish happened much more often. The merging of pedagogy and practice creates brilliant presentations by thinkers selected only on the merits of their ability to compose a 300 word abstract which goes before a reading committee. We keep the name, institution, and, indeed, position of the author of the abstract a secret from the “blind” committee (as skeptical as some participants are that it it exists — and that it chose them!). Based only on the merit of their ability to express concisely an idea that engages performance and early modern theatre, we offer them one of 66 plenary slots, each of 10-13 minutes, at the conference. They can choose to employ actors in their paper to help show their thesis, and this is when things get really interesting. Watching our acting colleagues (who are contracted for 48 hours a week–not including all of the lines they are memorizing for next season or the additional research and preparation they do) engage with scholars who have questions about process and choices is edifying in the highest degree. And the ASC actors, who engage with the scholars we are honored to have in attendance, even as presenters themselves, make this conference a unique and exceptional experience.
Yesterday was my 10 year anniversary with the American Shakespeare Center. It also marked the beginning of my sixth conference, and the fifth I am honored to manage. It has been a wonderful ride and I am looking forward to the next few days, and, who knows? the next 10 years, too.
ASC Director of Education