UPDATE: Diversity on the American Stage (6/12/06; 6/24/06)

full name / name of organization: 
john dawson
contact email: 

Deadline extended to 06/12/2006 submit to: jtdawson_at_andrew.cmu.edu

The English Department at Carnegie Mellon University and Unseam'd
Shakespeare Company (Pittsburgh, Pa) with the participation of the August
Wilson Center for African American Culture invite academics, artists and
graduate students to participate in a day-long symposium:

Bridges or Fences: Diversity on the American Stage
(Re-engaging the Wilson-Brustein Debates)

June 24, 2006
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa

It has been a decade since playwright August Wilson's address during the
Theatre Communications Group conference sparked a debate with Robert
Brustein, founding director of Yale and American Repertory Theatres.
Engaged from a podium at Princeton, the debate raged in the pages of
American Theatre, and finally was staged at New York's Town Hall (moderated
by actress/activist Anna Deveare Smith). This debate placed in stark relief
the politics of representation that play out on stages across America, and
posed challenging questions about diversity, democracy and the
possibilities of American theatre to support either.

On June 24, 2006 a day-long symposium will be convened to address the
central question of the Wilson-Brustein debate:

What does/can/should diversity look like on the stage?

Presented in conjunction with the Unseam'd Shakespeare Company's production
of Othello: Noir, the symposium asks participants to re-engage the
Wilson-Brustein debate or its concerns, welcomes them to engage in a
discussion with artists, artistic directors, and academics from
Pittsburgh's arts community, and invites them to attend a production that
engages these concerns in performance. The day will include presentations
by academics and artists, live performances, a community picnic, and
conclude with a community conversation among symposium attendees and the
directors from Pittsburgh's professional, nonprofessional, small and large
theatre companies.

In addition to re-engaging the Wilson-Brustein debates, the symposium takes
up a conversation convened in 2004 by the August Wilson Center for African
American Culture in Pittsburgh, Pa. This conversation--"Diversity
Revisited," convened during the National Performing Arts Presenters
Conference-- included many arts organizations from Pittsburgh in a
conversation with a decidedly national focus on the question of diversity
in the performing arts generally. During the symposium on June 24, those
involved in the "Diversity Revisited" conversation have been invited to
continue their conversation. Thus, the symposium presents the opportunity
to continue the work started in 2004 while at the same time advancing and
expanding the conversation. The symposium will involve more local
stakeholders and provide them the opportunity to engage the symposium
participants in conversation with a focus on the specific issues related to
diversity initiatives in theatre and dance performance.

Please submit an abstract (250 words) or paper addressing the following (or
related questions):
>If American theatre changed in response to the Wilson-Brustein debates,
did it do so in response to or rejection of the positions of Wilson and
>What do performance theory, cultural studies, and theatre scholarship have
to say about the possibilities for diversity on the American stage?
>What is at stake in practices of "color-blind" casting
>What is the difference between colorblind and multicultural casting?
>How do ideas about audiences and "what they want" shape our decisions
about casting?
>What authority does the text have when it comes to casting?
>Are their other spaces of representation outside multicultural or
colorblind casting?
>If theatre provides a "liminal" space of possibility, what does the
Wilson-Brustein debate suggest about the boundaries of this liminal space?
>How do the above questions change when we are discussing the casting of
theatrical classics from the European tradition?
. . . When we are discussing commercial vs. non-profit, big or small
. . . When we are discussing theatre training?

The Symposium:
8:30 Welcome Reception
9:30-10:45: Session 1
11:00-12:15: Diversity in Practice (artists speak on how notions of
diversity influence or affect their practice)
1:15-2:15: Session 2
2:30-4:30: Community Conversation involving symposium participants, and
directors from Pittsburgh's small and large performance companies (theatre
and dance)
6:30: Reception at Open Stage Theatre
8:00: Performance: Othello: Noir

For information on the debates between August Wilson and Robert Brustein
please go to: http://www.princetoninfo.com/wilson.html

To read "The Ground on Which I Stand" please go to:

For information about Unseam'd Shakespeare please go to:

Submissions and queries by June 12, 2006
Tim Dawson: jtdawson_at_andrew.cmu.edu
Salita Seibert: sseibert_at_andrew.cmu.edu

all the best,
Tim Dawson
Ph.D. student--Rhetoric
Carnegie Mellon University
Department of English
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pa 15213
Fax: 412-268-7989

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Received on Wed Jun 07 2006 - 10:15:27 EDT