Wednesday, January 7
San Francisco’s glittering skyline is the perfect backdrop to the conference kick-off! Catch up with old friends, meet new ones and network with Shakespeareans from around the globe.
I’m so glad to welcome you all here. We have over 180 delegates representing over 75 theaters from the majority of US states and I think 4 continents (geography was never my thing.)
This is a site specific work, a pop-up Shakespeare convening that will last another three days. But it won’t disappear; I have been coming to STA conferences for the better part of 15 years, and I know that the experiences we share together have lasting impact on ourselves, our organizations, our field, and our communities. That STA is celebrating its 25th anniversary is a testament to the vision of those who founded the association, and to each of us who come together yearly to do this rite.
The theme of the conference is, “Of Imagination All Compact: Innovation, Creativity and Relevance in Shakespeare.” Of course, we all explore innovation, creativity and relevance at every conference, and really every time we enter a rehearsal or classroom. And of course these are all words that one might associate with the beautiful city of San Francisco, home of progressive politics, social movements, and a few technology companies. But I think many of us are sensing a shift in the civic and theatrical landscape that makes this theme worthy of our exploration now.
At its best, our work creates a public social inclusive act of civic engagement. Yet too often Shakespeare, theater, and the arts in general are portrayed as something that is private, exclusive, and passively observational. We in this room know that is not true, and at a time when our whole society is debating issues of equality, justice, access, and fairness, our voices need to be heard.
Most of the time, Shakespeare is a great guy to have in your corner. Yet sometimes, “bardolatry” is seen as part of the problem. Shakespeare is freighted with 400+ years of intervening history. But besides being a great playwright, he wrote at a time when theater was a vital part of the community, and when we tap into that the power of what theater can be comes roaring to life – and we need that power now.