ATHE’s Music Theatre/Dance Focus Group: The Bruce Kirle Memorial Debut Panel in Music Theatre/Dance

deadline for submissions: 
February 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Association for Theatre in Higher Education
contact email: 

The Music Theatre/Dance (MT/D) Focus Group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) announces its call for papers for the Bruce Kirle Memorial Debut Panel in Music Theatre/Dance at the 2020 ATHE conference in Detroit, Michigan from July 29-August 2, 2020. Accepted papers will be published in Studies in Musical Theatre, and panelists will receive a complimentary copy of Bruce Kirle’s Unfinished Show Business: Broadway Musicals as Works-in-Process

This annual panel is held in memory of Dr. Bruce Kirle, scholar of musical theatre and longtime member of the Music Theatre/Dance Focus Group. Dr. Kelly Kessler, Associate Professor of Media and Cinema Studies at DePaul University, will serve as this year’s respondent. (Please see below for more on Drs. Kirle and Kessler.) 

Paper submissions may concern any area within the purview of the MT/D Focus Group, which encompasses opera, operetta, musical theatre, dance theatre, performance art with music or dance elements, and pedagogy of music theatre and dance. Paper submissions are especially encouraged to address intersections of ability, class, race, gender, nationality, and sexuality with global musical theatre/dance, broadly construed. 

Submissions are open to emerging scholars (including graduate students) who have not yet presented at a national conference on a topic related to music theatre or dance, as well as established scholars who have not previously presented or published in the areas of music theatre or dance. Scholars must not be scheduled to present on music theatre or dance topics at any other national conference prior to the submission date, and papers may not be cross-submitted to another ATHE panel for the 2020 conference. Scholars may, however, present or serve on other panels at this conference. 

For consideration, please e-mail your paper, 10 to 12 pages in length, as a Microsoft Word attachment to by February 15, 2020. Please include a cover page with your name, paper title, institutional affiliation, and contact information, but remove your name from the body of the essay. 

Three papers will be selected by a blind-review committee for inclusion on this competitive panel. The selected authors will be expected to attend and present their papers at the conference in Detroit. Each panelist will receive a copy of Bruce Kirle’s Unfinished Show Business: Broadway Musicals as Works-in-Process, generously donated by the Kirle family. In addition, panelists will also receive a yearlong subscription to Studies in Musical Theatre (Intellect Books), and their essays will be prepared for publication in that journal. 

Please direct any and all questions to the current MT/D Focus Group Graduate Student Representatives, Stephanie Lim and Adrienne Oehlers, at

For more information on the ATHE 2020 conference, visit


Bruce Kirle was a professor of music theatre studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and a former associate professor of theatre at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Kirle trained as a concert pianist and began his career writing musicals with Tom Eyen at La MaMa, the renowned off-off Broadway theatre club. He was a professional musical director in the U.S. and Canada. His credits include the nightclub act in which Chita Rivera introduced Kander and Ebb's songs “All That Jazz” and “How Lucky Can You Get.” Kirle studied English at Columbia University and received his doctorate in theatre from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He was awarded the Monette-Horwitz Dissertation Prize by the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies for an outstanding dissertation dealing with gender and identity issues. His groundbreaking work, Unfinished Show Business: Broadway Musicals as Works-in-Process, emphasized the centrality of the political and social environments in which musicals are created and performed. Kirle was well known as an extraordinarily dedicated and professional teacher, and he is remembered particularly for his encouragement of young scholars and actors. 

Kelly Kessler is an Associate Professor of Media and Cinema Studies at DePaul University. Her work largely engages with issues of gender and genre in American television and film, with a primary focus on the musical. Her book Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity, and Mayhem (2010, Palgrave) explores the gendered ramifications of the genre's shift in the latter part of the 20th century. Her forthcoming history of the musical on US TV, Broadway in the Box: Television’s Lasting Love Affair with the Musical, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2020. Her scholarship can also be found in such publications as Studies in Musical TheatreCinema JournalTelevision and New MediaJournal of e-Media StudiesJournal of Popular Music StudiesThe Routledge Companion to the Contemporary American Stage MusicalFeminism at the Movies, and Movies, Moves, and Music: The Sonic World of the Dance Film.