Let the Sun Shine In: American Theatre, Protest and Censorship
An international conference co-sponsored by the American Theatre & Drama Society
and the Eccles Centre for American Studies
October 26-27, 2018
British Library, London (UK)
Prof. Ramón Espejo Romero, Universidad de Sevilla (Spain)
Dr. Marlis Schweitzer, York University (Canada)
In 1968, the American musical Hair opened on Broadway, in London’s West End, and in Munich, West Germany. Hailed by many for capturing the zeitgeist of the late 1960s, Hair also reflected changes in the writing and production of American theatre. Produced Off-Broadway at the Public Theater, it emerged from experimental theatre practice to achieve commercial success on Broadway and internationally. Staging contemporary protest and dissent, the musical was censored on tour in Boston but became the first production to open after the Theatres Act ended both censorship in British theatre and the power of the Lord Chamberlain. This conference investigates American theatre, protest, and censorship in 1968, but it also looks backwards and forward to consider how protest and censorship have shaped American theatre, while challenging—and inspiring—its practitioners and audiences.
Scholars across the humanities and beyond are reflecting on the social unrest and demands for change expressed in 1968, recognizing the year as a catalyst for both positive and negative developments in culture and society. We intend to situate 1968 in a larger discussion of American theatre’s long-term and ongoing relationship with protest and censorship. Scholars working on all aspects of American theatre and drama are invited to propose papers considering but not limited to questions such as:
- How has American theatre been limited, censored, banned, or otherwise challenged (in the United States and/or abroad)?
- How has American theatre responded to and facilitated protest?
- Why have American theatre’s stagings of protest and responses to social movements proven so appealing to practitioners and audiences in other countries?
- What are American theatre’s legacies of 1968?
- What labor might American theatre still accomplish today, in facilitating protest, or challenging censorship?
The conference will include a show-and-tell from the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays collection at the British Library, and scholars engaged with American sources in this archive are encouraged to submit proposals. Practitioners and scholars with an interest in American theatre pedagogy are also encouraged to submit proposals.
Please submit a 250 word abstract and brief biography via the event’s Google form, no later than May 18, 2018: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSesuNXlgYVhd2c3HKCc2bBdczXeM0l6IATXFbLJi76CD9hY6w/viewform?usp=sf_link
Presenters will be notified by June 15th. Please contact the organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
Theatre in the Age of Trump
As part of this event, ATDS will sponsor the panel “Theatre in the Age of Trump.” The three selected panellists will receive funding to help defray the cost of attending the conference as well as free registration. Interested scholars may indicate their interest in being considered for this session when submitting a proposal via the Google form.
How have the intellectual chaos, dishonesty, and distortions of the Trump presidency impacted our work as theatre scholars, educators and practitioners? This panel will investigate theatre and performance examinations of Donald Trump and his presidency and consider how these clarify the work we might do in our theatres and universities. The Trump presidency is adding a further dimension to this work, and this dimension may go beyond the immediate present into the historic past, a past that precedes 1968. Proposals may wish to consider:
- How does politics enter into historiography?
- To what degree do we query the political views embedded in earlier (pre-2016, pre-Trump era) plays?
- How, in understanding these dramas and their stage histories, do we contextualize and explain them?
- How are our questions framed? Are these questions best ignored by historians? Are they so minor as to be inconsequential?
Key events and debates since Trump’s election, including but not limited to: his inauguration, the Women’s Marches, the National Parks Service rogue social media activity, protests around monuments to the Confederacy in public spaces, Saturday Night Live‘s and Stephen Colbert’s ongoing caricatures of Donald and Melania Trump, the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and the activism of its theatre students.
Artists’ and audiences’ recent uses of theatre and performance in opposition to Trump and the U.S. Federal government, for example through productions of the stage adaptation of the 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel It Can’t Happen Here.