Corporate Tools: Commercial Performance in Theory and Practice (ASTR Working Group)

full name / name of organization: 
David Calder and Eero Laine / American Society for Theatre Research

Corporate Tools: Commercial Performance in Theory and Practice

American Society for Theatre Research Conference 2013

The 2013 ASTR/TLA Conference, "Post-Thematic Conference," will be held in November 7 - 10, 2013 at the Fairmont Dallas Hotel.

Conveners: David Calder, Northwestern University ( and Eero Laine, The Graduate Center, CUNY (

In The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore tout the marketing of experiences as key to corporate success. "This new economy," they write, "also demands new models for work. At every level in any company, workers need to understand that in the Experience Economy every business is a stage, and therefore work is theatre." This working session will analyze the work of theatre and performance in the service of the corporate world. Our intentionally provocative title "Corporate Tools" encompasses both performance practices—Broadway musicals crafted as brand enhancers, MFA designers hired to stage flagship stores, the absorption of avant-gardes by the advertising industry—and performance theories—corporate personhood as a redefinition of the performing subject, audience interaction as advanced consumerism, and what Jon McKenzie has identified as the imperative to "Perform or Else." Such practices and theories act on and within a shifting landscape of multinational production chains, global flows of capital, and increasingly privatized public spaces. Particularly in our host city of Dallas, where Big Oil subsidizes an impressive art scene, it behooves us to explore the various reconfigurations of production and consumption as inherently theatrical. The working group will address issues related, but not limited to:

Corporate sponsorship of the arts

Theatre games in the workplace

Corporate "art" and the avant-garde

Consumers as spectators and/or performers

Spectators as consumers and/or producers

Disneyfication and financialization

Mega-musicals, entertainment districts, and the privatization of public space

Corporate personhood and the production of subjectivity

Global capitalism and theatricality

The session will utilize some particularly effective corporate tools—Google Docs, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook—to stimulate discussion and sharing of material prior to the conference. Prior to the conference, participants will share three to five short (250 to 500 word) essays that review, critique, or describe different examples of theatrical, corporate tools and corporate theories of theatricalization. In addition to the short essays, participants will circulate papers of seven to ten pages to the entire group in the weeks before the conference. The session leaders will identify groups of three or four participants whose methods, methodologies, and theoretical approaches coincide. At the conference session, participants will focus their responses on those papers written by members of their subgroup. After subgroups present a summary and analysis of the pre-conference conversations, the session will transition to a general group discussion that involves the audience.

Interested participants should forward a brief statement of interest and a paper abstract (250 words each) to both conveners ( and by June 3, 2013.