Recently in the town that bills itself as “Festival City” for a conference, I thought it would be useful this month to generate a list of theatre conferences that include performances as part of the experience. As a Shakespearean, I am coming from a background in the particular phenomenon of the Shakespeare festival industry and what some call “museum” theatre, but I would be very interested if there were those out their with recommendations outside this field. Keep in mind that these are typically in the summer (June through early August) to align with their repertory and often outdoor seasons.
- Wooden O Symposium: In association with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, this conference is closely tied to current season but also includes a general theme to which you may write on plays not being performed. This year they closed their outdated Adams Shakespearean Theatre, and will open a brand new playhouse based on current scholarship on period architecture and original practices next summer. The conference solicits papers for a published Conference Proceedings sometime in late August. Benefits include a free performance and multiple scheduled talk-backs with the actors. panels are held next-door to the theatres on the Southern Utah University campus.
- Blackfriars’ Conference: This bi-annual conference at the American Shakespeare Center is perhaps the most lavish of the festival conferences in terms of setting, resources, and quality of speakers. With a quick glance at the schedule for this fall and you’ll some pretty big names in race studies, performance studies, and leading practitioners in the field. As a year-round working repertory theatre and Shakespeare-specific MA program at Mary Baldwin College, this conference provides unique access to the dynamic on-going research in the field.
- Grand Valley Shakespeare Conference: This Michigan festival conference is smaller, tending to prioritize scholars and graduate students working in the midwest. Drawing keynotes from their practitioners and scholars-in-residence, the conference stresses papers focused on pedagogy and performance over other investments. Participants are provided tickets to see two productions in their season.
- Shakespearean Theatre Conference: Held at the University of Waterloo campus in association with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, this conference prioritizes papers that bring together scholars and practitioners. It’s schedule also includes several talk-backs with actors currently participating in their season, and discounts to see several of those plays while in town. Recent conferences have brought in major keynote scholars from the US, UK, and Canada.
Hope to cross paths at one of these conferences soon!