What a conference! It occurs to me that (since I’ve missed out on only one TCG National Conference since my tenure here began in, gulp, 1982) only a select few of you reading this will have been to as many of these confabs as I have. So take it from a certified conference junkie: It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or your 15th, there’ll always be a slap-your-forehead, ditch-your-preconceptions moment when you say to yourself, “What a conference! Why didn’t I know that? And now that I do, what am I going to do about it?”
A sampler of my personal why-and-what-to-do moments from Boston 2012: Why, in all these years of dutiful interaction, haven’t I ever listened to the captivating Abigail Adams of People’s Light & Theatre Company wax eloquent about her Pennsylvania troupe’s adventuresome programming and collaborative bent? Why haven’t I found time to chat with savvy Rick Dildine of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis about the rich artistic assets in his community? Why haven’t I trooped off in the company of the amiable guys of L.A.’s 24th Street Theatre (the company that copped this year’s Peter Zeisler Award, see page 36) for a midnight performance of Gilbert and Sullivan, for goodness’ sake? Equally urgent question: Why has it taken me this long to catch a show by the high-octane Hypocrites of Chicago? (The show, for the record, was director Sean Graney’s visiting production of The Pirates of Penzance, performed with infectious exuberance in American Repertory Theater’s new interactive space, the Oberon, just off Harvard Square.)
These random extracurricular insights were lagniappe—bonuses that enriched my own experience of three days of carefully targeted programming (catalogued plenary-by-plenary in Eliza Bent’s conference report). Such incidental revelations, multiplied exponentially as conferencegoers interact, are particularly valuable to the field, executive director Teresa Eyring suggested in a post-Boston e-mail briefing: “There is no greater spur to innovation,” she posited, “than bumping up against surprising new ideas on a regular basis.” Eyring wants to keep the bumps coming, not just in yearly doses but in a steady stream year-round, online at TCG’s Conference 2.0 site. “If knowledge is power,” she reasoned, “then innovation comes from plugging into each other.”
American Theatre, not unlike the National Conference, exists in no small part to make these game changing plug-ins possible. Consider the multifarious coverage in the issue you hold in your hands. In addition to news of the conference, there’s the complete text of a smashing new American play with an international flavor. An enterprising artistic director, an innovative set designer, an empathetic playwright and even a visionary stage manager—who hail, respectively, from Cleveland, New York City, Seattle and San Diego—share attention in articles and interviews. The issue capitalizes on the diversity of the field—in terms of disciplines, geography and organizational and artistic variety—in order to reflect back its most inclusive and expansive self-image. The possibility of connection is implicit on every page.
If you took part in the Boston convening, it’s a sure bet that you’ve been sharing your what-a-conference moments with friends and colleagues. Delve into this issue with the same spirit of discovery.
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