Maggie Anderson’s Reflections from the American Alliance of Theatre and Education Conference

by Maggie Anderson, Arts in Education Director

  At the beginning of August, I had the opportunity to attend “Activate AATE: Exploring Theatre Educators’ Role and Responsibility”, the 32nd annual American Alliance for Theatre and Education Conference in New York City from August 1-5,2019.

In a city known for its culture and art, conference attendees explored how artists, educators, and scholars can be more responsive and effective in the current socio-political climate. Over 500 students, educators, and people working in the field of theatre spent four days together using theater education as the foundation for solutions to hard problems. The conference offered sessions such as: “I Got Your Back – Trauma Informed Theater Practice in Alternative Education” and “Confronting Classroom Clashes: Utilizing Process Drama to Foster Community.” Each day of the conference began with a land acknowledgement and a student performance. On the first day we saw an original adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” by Drama Club NYC and on the second day we saw an excerpt of “She Kills Monsters” by the students of Brooklyn High School of the Arts.

I had the privilege to work with Dr. Lizzy Cooper Davis and Kayhan Irani who delivered the Opening Keynote. The two women spoke about the need for “radical inclusion” in theatre and theatre education. They spoke about “access” and “welcoming spaces” not being enough, and that the performing arts need to work on “radically transformative changes [both] onstage and backstage.” In place of networking, they encouraged the conference attendees to build “nets – that work”. It was an inspiring talk and I was honored to co-facilitate a discussion group of attendees after the speech.

The best part of attending a four-day theatre conference was the amazing energy, passion, and fun brought to each day by my fellow attendees. In addition to the important work being done addressing hard topics, we found time to learn the official choreography to Disney’s Frozen on Broadway from a teaching artist at the Disney Theatrical Group, catch a couple of Broadway productions, and reconnect with the amazing Alexis Truitt, managing director at AATE (who promises to visit the theatre organizations here in Rhode Island again soon).

Learn more about AATE’s commitment to Theatre and Education here.

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