Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When a Conference Comes To Town... At the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas Conference, Boston 2014, Part II

Note to the Reader: The following account of the June 26-29, 2014 Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas conference in Boston was originally written for The Arts Fuse, to which I am a senior contributor but for various reasons, was not used.


The last time I had attended a major national theater conference was in June of 2012, when Theatre Communications Group (TCG) came to Boston. I had noted at the time, that TCG had repeatedly demonstrated contempt for local volunteers and showed little interest in the local theater community. TCG's behavior was sufficient for me to create an #OccupyTCG hashtag to use on twitter.

Because of the low bar set by TCG, I was obligated, as embarrassing as it might seem, to inquire and observe how LMDA, as an organization, conducted itself as a guest in Boston. Happily, perhaps, in large part because much of the conference was organized by Magda Romanska (both professor of theatre and dramaturgy at Emerson College, and dramaturg at Boston Lyric Opera) I can report that whereas TCG as an organization, demonstrated arrogance and callousness, LMDA, by contrast, demonstrated decency and graciousness.

Where TCG volunteers were informed that they were not to participate in any discussion session except as silent observers, LMDA volunteers were full participants (some were even presenters.) Where TCG volunteers were not permitted to approach the buffet tables, and bartenders were instructed not to serve them drinks at any of the evening events, LMDA volunteers were invited to both the opening night party, and the closing night banquet. Where TCG only issued a thank-you email after they became aware that both volunteers and members of the host community were upset by their behavior, LMDA volunteers were thanked by name at the banquet and applauded by the diners present.

Meanwhile, where TCG's only recognition of Boston's theater community was a fashion show featuring costumes from recent productions, LMDA featured local artists as presenters in several sessions, and even set aside an evening where conference attendees were encouraged to see local productions.

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