TCG Announces Speaker Lineup for St. Louis Conference

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye and data analyst Jer Thorp will be the plenary speakers at the TCG National Conference this month.

ST. LOUIS: Theatre Communications Group has announced the lineup of plenary speakers for the upcoming TCG National Conference in St. Louis, June 14-16. Speakers will include Naomi Shihab Nye and Jer Thorp, and the convening will also include a town hall about #MeToo and performances by St. Louis theatre companies.

“Naomi Shihab Nye and Jer Thorp remind us that artists often become thought leaders through their groundbreaking work and civic visions,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG, in a statement. “The inspiration and insight provided by these speakers, paired with the professional development and networking during the rest of the National Conference, will have a transformative impact on our attendees and the communities they serve.”

Naomi Shihab Nye.

Nye is an award-winning Palestinian-American poet, writer, anthologist, and educator. She was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas. She is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” and numerous honors for her children’s literature.

Jer Thorp.

Thorp is a data artist and serves as the innovator-in-residence at the Library of Congress. He has also been a National Geographic Fellow, the data artist-in residence at The New York Times, and artist-in-residence at the Museum of Modern Art. From 2013 to 2017, Thorp operated the Office for Creative Research, where he and his team implemented ingenious projects, including the cross-country “Map Room” series, a project with COCA in St. Louis, which invites people to draw maps of their cities that reflect community history not seen on regular maps. His work as a data artist explores how human stories can be shown through information, trends, movements, and economics through vibrant graphics and public art.

Maria Manuela Goyanes, incoming artistic director of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Stephanie Ybarra, director of special artistic projects at the Public Theater, will co-lead the town hall about #MeToo and the American theatre. The open discussion will mark the first time the theatre field has come together to address our shared challenges around sexual abuse and misconduct on a national level.

The  opening plenary will feature a choreopoem performed by youth poets from UrbArts. The final plenary session will feature excerpts from work by three local, companies and collectives including Blow, Winds, Shakespeare Festival St Louis; The Gringo, developed at COCA by Colin Healy of Fly North Music; and Luchadora!, Mustard Seed Theatre with Theatre Nuevo. The performances will be followed by a conversation with the creative teams, led by Seth Gordon, associate artistic director of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

“TCG got it right when they picked St. Louis as the host city for their 2018 national Conference,” said Chris Hansen, executive director of Kranzberg Arts Foundation, in a statement. “St. Louis has a thriving theatre industry, which is home to over 50 professional theatre companies and dozens of  venues of different scale that foster and feature hundreds of unique productions a year. The Kranzberg Arts Foundation is proud to serve the St. Louis theatre community by providing essential infrastructure for them to grow their productions, organizations and audiences. St. Louis is poised to be the next Big Theatre city in the country and our local practitioners are leading the way.”