Migrations in American Drama and Theater–Call for Papers

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5th International Conference on American Drama and Theater
“Migrations in American Drama and Theater”
Université de Lorraine (Nancy, France)
4 – 6 June 2018

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 Abstracts due 20 October 2017

Co-sponsored by the American Theater and Drama Society (ATDS) and  working in partnership with the Spanish universities of Cádiz,  Sevilla, and Madrid Autónoma, the research group I.D.E.A. (“Théories et pratiques de l’interdisciplinarité dans les études anglophones”) and the Université de Lorraine are announcing a call for papers for the conference “Migrations in American Drama and Theater” to be held in Nancy, France, from 4 to 6 June 2018.

This 5th International Conference on American Drama and Theater will be dedicated to the study of migrations, understood in a broad sense. The four previous conferences were held in Málaga, 2000; Málaga, 2004; Cádiz, 2009; and Sevilla, 2012; topics included violence, plays and players, politics, and the romance of the theater.

Confirmed keynote speakers include:

  • John Patrick Shanley, American playwright, screenwriter, and theater and film director. His play Doubt: A Parable won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play. He won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his film Moonstruck.
  • John Guare, American playwright, best known as the author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, Landscape of the Body, and A Free Man of Color, which was nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. He is the recipient of a Tony Award, as well as several Drama Desk, Obie, and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards.
  • Lee Breuer, American playwright, theater director, academic, educator, film maker, poet and lyricist. Founding co-artistic director of Mabou Mines Theater Company, Breuer directed the celebrated 2011 production of Un tramway nommé Désir (A Streetcar Named Desire), the first foreign play produced at the illustrious Comédie Française in Paris.
  • Maude Mitchell, American actress and producer, who specializes in fresh interpretations of classics and development of new plays, and worked alongside Breuer in Un tramway nommé Désir as dramaturg. Best known for her performance as Nora in Mabou Mines’ critically acclaimed production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, which toured internationally for 8 years and earned her an Obie Award as Best Actress.
  • Dr. Annette Saddik, professor and scholar of American drama and theater, City University of New York. She has published numerous articles and four books on American drama: Tennessee Williams and the Theatre of Excess: The Strange, The Crazed, The Queer (2015); The Traveling Companion and Other Plays (2008); Contemporary American Drama (2007); and The Politics of Reputation: The Critical Reception of Tennessee Williams’ Later Plays (1999). Dr. Saddik lectures regularly at Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, and serves as a judge for the Lucille Lortel Theater Awards in New York.
  • Dr. Sue Abbotson, British born professor and scholar of American drama and theatre. Former President of the Arthur Miller Society, Abbotson currently serves on their board and is Performance Editor for the Arthur Miller Journal. She has authored countless articles and chapters on a wide range of other American playwrights, and has written several books. Among these are Critical Companion to Arthur Miller (2007), Masterpieces of Twentieth Century American Drama (2005), Thematic Guide to Modern Drama (2003), and, most recently, Modern American Drama: Playwriting in the 1950s (Methuen, 2017).

The impulse to cross geographical barriers and transgress boundaries, of whatever kind, traverses the history of mankind. Such processes often turn out traumatic and painful, however ultimately beneficial or rewarding. Motivations may be economic, political, or just sentimental. But fleeing the (literal or figurative) homeland (or, in today’s parlance, one’s comfort zone) in search of safety, a livelihood, happiness, novelty, change, self-realization or prosperity is bound, in most cases, to exert psychological pressure and involve a price. For the scholar, such processes whereby human communities or individuals are confronted by the new and the alien, often by the other in oneself, are fascinating to study and probe. Cross-hybridization between cultures and values has often resulted in new ways of looking at and making sense of reality. The friction and strife such processes bring with them are similarly pertinent areas of scholarly interest and inquiry.

Few countries have been more dependent upon migrations, understood in a broad sense, than the US. Not only is a great part of its population descended from migrants (all of it if we understand migrations in a wider sense, as native peoples have had to migrate not only geographically but culturally from ancient practices to largely alien notions of progress and modernity), but the country has been predicated upon geographical and social mobility, in itself a kind of migration. Debates on the advantages, if any, of migrations, as well as the alleged danger of disenfranchisement for the receiving population, the advisability of “contamination” by foreign values, or competition from abroad, are common. Obviously, there has never been a time in the history of the country where some kind of wall has not been deemed advisable, and not only the kind endorsed by the protagonists of The Fantasticks, a musical which became an icon of American theatrical culture precisely on account of its adamant refusal to the oft-suggested migration to Broadway.

Migration here is understood as a trope that implies change, translation, re-situation or re-location, adaptation, transferral, as well as the embracement of the new. When playwrights explore new themes, new theatrical styles or new dramatic voices, they become migrants, often encountering resistance and feeling unwelcome, which they brave in search of artistic fulfilment, new audiences, or merely profit. Without stylistic migrations, there would have been no evolution in the dramatic art: no Eugene O’Neill, no Susan Glaspell, no Thornton Wilder, no Living Theater, no Sam Shepard, no Broadway musicals. Even migrations across media (from film to stage or stage to film, from novel to play or play to musical) or from one country to another (European influences on American playwrights, the impact of US drama and theater abroad) are areas of research especially encouraged.

Other possible areas for research and reflection include (but are not limited to):

  • Theatrical migrations understood both literally and figuratively. Real migrations and migrations as a trope.
  • Stylistic migrations and cross-hybridization between formats.
  • Transnational studies of American drama.
  • Foreign playwrights in America and hyphenated American playwrights. Multiculturalism as migration.
  • US drama abroad and foreign drama in the US. The migration of cultures on stage.
  • World realities on the US stage. America on the world’s stage.
  • Mainstream playwrights migrating to the fringe. Fringe playwrights reaching the mainstream. Crossings between theatrical milieus.
  • Broadway migrating from Broadway. The emergence of Off and Off-Off Broadway and the regional theater movement.
  • Bodies, trauma, gender, and identity. Migrations from one’s sense of self and the corporeality of migrations.
  • Intertextuality, transmedia, and intercultural exchanges. Migrating texts.

As we embrace a more international model for these conferences, and will hold the first of them outside of Spain, we are ourselves becoming migrants, and our destination, Nancy, is the perfect venue for such a conference. Nancy, with its various World Heritage sites, is at the heart of a historically disputed area in Europe, and has often migrated across countries and cultures. Ever since 1963, the Nancy festival has been not only in the avant-garde of theater festivals in Europe, but has welcomed groups and professionals from all countries to explore new territories, spearheading theatrical migrations, new languages, and all kinds of hybridities.

To submit either a paper, a roundtable discussion, or an already organized panel, please send abstracts of 300 words and a brief CV to Dr. Josefa Fernandez Martin (jfmartin@us.es) by 15 September 2017.

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