The Long-Awaited ATHE Recap

Now that I’ve recovered from what was an insane week of travel, here’s a recap of this year’s ATHE conference, my 7th and the 30th to occur, overall.

Day 1 – Thursday

Caught the 10:30 AM bus down to Chicago, and once there, waded through the heat to the Palmer House. Within minutes of stepping into the hotel, I saw Iris and her daughter, Angela, who had just flown from Taiwan and were trying to caffeinate. I checked in, rode up to the 14th floor, put my stuff wherever I could find a spot, and changed outfits for the Dramaturgy Business meeting. So many regulars were there, and a few new faces. Bryan and Carrie led the meeting, and I sat between Natalie and Martine. After, I went upstairs to change clothes again for the keynote and opening reception. Lydia Diamond, the playwright, spoke very well, and they had FREE WINE AND PIZZA at the opening reception, where I got so many hugs from so many folks I hadn’t seen in forever, and of course Iris and I got our conference selfie with red wine, which we’ve been doing since before the word selfie was invented. Also at the reception, I finally met my roommates for the weekend, Kate, Carrie, and Rebecca. I made it an early-ish night to get some writing done, along with Rebecca, while Kate and Carrie went out to a social.

Day 2 – Friday

Early rise for 8 AM panels. We managed to get ready for the day without getting in each other’s way, and I started off what would become the motif of this conference, choosing the wrong panel to go to. I started off at a panel on theatre of the Middle East, which ended up being not so interesting, so I stole out for an Asian theatre panel and just missed Jasmine’s paper. At least I got to say hello to her and meet her new baby. Then, I saw Jill Dolan in the hall, and she asked if I was going to the panel on Pulse, but I decided to go to a directing panel on Brecht instead.

Note to future self: always listen to Jill Dolan.

I got lunch on my own over at Freshii, and then headed to the All-Conference Plenary. I could only stay about half the time though because I needed a break. I ended up skipping the next round of sessions, which in hindsight was a good thing because the one I was planning on going to ended up getting cancelled. So, at 4 PM, I went to the Debs Panel (where I was actually on time for once, go me!) and saw three wonderful dramaturgy presentations. Cindy and co. really do a great job at picking quality panelists – after all, they chose me 7 years ago 😉 Next, I went to a panel on food and performance led by 3 alums of my department, Niccole, Kristen, and Megan, and had a great time there. It ended up being another pack-it-in night. I can’t remember where I had dinner (or if I even had it).

Day 3 – Saturday

Panels started at 8:15, but I was fully attentive at Natalie’s panel, “Babies R Us: Laboring Bodies in Academia,” in which female professors and grad students talked about being a mother and academic at the same time. It was a really warm atmosphere in the room, and it was great to hear personal stories that you wouldn’t normally hear on the day-to-day. After the panel, Natalie was officially finished with her duties at the conference, so we escaped the premises and took a walk to the Chicago Cultural Center, where we saw some really cool art exhibits, and then had lunch at Peach and Green. It was so nice to be able to catch up with her; we talk online all the time, but I hadn’t really gotten to sit down with her since probably Orlando, which was 3 years ago. We got back in time for the 30th anniversary celebration, and I sat with Bryan, Carrie, Cindy, and Rachel as we toasted ATHE with champagne and a delicious layer cake. The rest of the panels that day were a blur – dramaturgy follow up meeting, a panel on theatre and TV, and then a quick lie-down before one of the best parts of every ATHE, DNO (Dramaturg’s Night Out). It was huge this year, and we practically took over Berghoff. The food was really good, and our waiter was hilarious. Thanks to our table pic, I now know who all was there: me, LaRonika, Annalisa, Cindy, Jim, Bryan, Karen Jean, Martine, Brad, two faces I can’t quite make out, and newcomers Jessica, Rachel, and Alex. I sat between Annalisa and Alex and got to know them better over salmon and spaetzle.

Most importantly, that night I sat down and resolved to finish my prelim writing. At 1 AM, in a corner of the 4th floor of the hotel, I passed the 20 page mark, and hit save on my final draft at 1:30 AM. I didn’t carve my name anywhere, but I did take a picture of the spot, which is why there is a random photo of a table on my phone.

So that’s done now.

Day 4 – Sunday

I woke up refreshed, knowing that my prelims were done, and as a reward, skipped the first session of the day for a nice breakfast. We checked out of our room, and then I headed to some acting panels, just for fun. At the first one, we played some games I already knew, plus a few I didn’t (Hi-5 or Death and Move Me). The second acting panel was a little less interactive than the first, but it was led by Margie who is just this electric ball of energy. I capped off my conference with lunch at Le Pain Quotidien with Iris and Angela – a nice bookend to the trip.

There were so many people who were there that I didn’t get to say hi to, but there’s always next year in Vegas.

Just when I was retrieving my bag from the hotel and contemplating whether it had been a successful ATHE or not, THE Holly Hughes (!) appeared out of nowhere and we had a big hug before I stepped out of the Palmer House.

So I think that pretty much cemented the weekend as a successful ATHE.

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