I know it\’s been a few weeks since the last WTF Wednesday installment….and there\’s a very good reason for that: I was prepping for and attending SETC\’s (Southeastern Theatre Conference) annual convention! SETC\’s convention is the largest event of it\’s kind and it can definitely be overwhelming–there\’s so much to do and be a part of! This was just the second time I\’ve attended the conference, but in true WTF fashion, I think I maximized the experience! I\’m excited to take you through my SETC adventure!
Tuesday Feb 25: Travel to Louisville, KY
I certainly love a good road trip…especially when the company is good! On my way to Louisville, I picked up my former student ad WTF intern, Jackie Hines, from Greensboro College. Jackie and I passed the time with Kesha, Kacey Musgraves, and The High Women. We arrived at our AirBNB right in the heart of downtown Louisville around 8:30.
Wednesday Feb 26: SETC Day 1
While Jackie went to the Teacher\’s Institute Moment Work masterclass with Tectonic Theater Project, I spent the morning organizing WTF swag bags and marketing materials to pass out during the convention. One of our other interns, Kai, made us a bunch of new buttons to promote WTF! In this \”calm before the storm\” time, I also worked on some WTF grants, finished prepping some of my presentation slides, and set my email away notifications.
When Rowen arrived, I accompanied her to the SETC board meeting (she\’s the chair of the Women+ In Theatre Committee) and helped her finish setting up the Family Room. As part of their sponsorship of the Family Room, PAAL sent a play yard, diapering supplies, snacks, and more!
Then, we were off to the Disney Cocktail Reception where we caught up with old friends who introduced us to new friends. The final event of the evening was the Ready To Direct competition. Since last year we plucked Madison out of the Ready To Direct program, we were asked to formally participate this year! This program is run by Preston Lane, Alan Litsey, and Molly Claassen. Together, they lead the candidates through the program. During this first Ready To Direct event, we were able to have 20 minute long interviews with each candidate. This year, three of the five candidates were women!
We finished out the evening hosting friends back at our AirBNB where we finalized plans for our many co-presentations!
Thursday Feb 27: SETC Day 2
This was the first full day of the conference and it was action-packed! Thank goodness we were only 4 blocks from the convention center!
After a quick check-in with my friends from CaptionPoint at their booth in the expo hall, it was off to my first session: a panel called \”Activism Beyond Gender: A Non-Binary Framework for \’Women\’s Theatre.\’\”
Rowen and I were both on this panel along with representatives from The Girl Project and Looking For Lilith. We talked about the evolution of WTF\’s mission to include the language \”all marginalized genders\” and the intersectional foundations of the current gender parity movement. I personally wish that our panel discussion was just part one and there was a whole second half of the session to break down the questions and concerns that attendees came in with.
Immediately following this panel was the Women+ In Theatre Interest Group Meeting. Rowen did such an incredible job using the quick 50 minute session to help the attendees get to know each other at lightning speed so we could all make plans to connect later in the conference.
Rowen, Molly, Maegan Azar, Brittany Bodley, and I left that session and went to the adjacent room for our panel \”Parent and Working Artist: Solutions for Inclusion.\” I met these amazing women doing this panel last year and we established BONDS. Perhaps one of the best solutions for working parent artists is a system of mutual support? It also made me feel proud to represent PAAL as a Chief Rep this year. It is wild that just a few years ago I felt so unempowered and overwhelmed with parenting and now I get to stand in rooms empowering and supporting other parent artists!!!
After a quick lunch with Molly to discuss our upcoming creative collaboration, The Momversations Project, it was back to the convention center for ANOTHER presentation. My only solo presentation of the conference was \”Sensory-Friendly Theatre: Crafting an Inclusive Experience for All Ages.\” This session was PACKED–over 40 people attended! Last year, I presented an earlier iteration of this session to just about 8 people. I only printed out 30 of my Sensory Friendly Workbooks and my computer wouldn\’t connect to the projector, but I *think* overcame my nerves enough. There were so many impassioned theatre artists and administrators who were FIRED UP to make more accessible theatre!
I know you think this was a full day and it MUST be over, but no, not yet. One more presentation to go! For the final session of the day, Rowen and I gave a presentation on WTF and how we\’ve built up this company for the past 5 years. The session titled \”Beyond Grassroots: Scaling Up Your Arts Organization\” was full of practical advice from our five years of lessons learned. And….we got a cable and a dongle so we got to show those killer slides we made!
We finished the evening over dinner with our local friends Lauren Van Hemert and Tara Nicole Williams followed by another night of hosting back at the AirBNB. It was a super cozy living room!
Friday Feb 28: SETC Day 3
I started Friday by making the rounds in the expo hall. In addition to checking in with Arts People, our CRM provider, and script-buying at the Concord Theatricals booth, this was a time to talk to representatives from various colleges and universities. This was the first big event since we developed our workshop and residency program so we wanted to share that information along with inviting faculty and students to the Festival this summer!
My first session of the day was a roundtable discussion called \”Towards An Intersectional Feminist Directing Practice Part II\” with Molly, Rowen, and Rachel Blackburn, Molly\’s co-worker at Columbus State University. Since we did this session last year, we\’ve all become even more passionate and focued on anti-patriarchal methodologies for directing, which is present in the co-directing model we are using for Freakshow. This was such an incredibly engaging conversation and we all wanted to keep talking! So…we\’re going to! Stay tuned!!!
This session was followed by a panel called \”Scaling Your Theatrical Product.\” Rowen moderated and the panel included Lauren Van Hemert talking about RDU On Stage, Matt Bivins talking about CaptionPoint, and me talking about the Sensory Friendly Workbook….but mostly gushing about my other friends at the table who are so hard-working,
brilliant, and care so deeply about the theatre community. We all pretty much agreed: scaling a theatrical product depends on support and being supportive of your community!
After so much peopling, it was nice to head to the quiet of the Family Room for a restful lunch before…..you guessed it……more sessions! Our next session was run so magnificantly by Rowen. Technically, Molly, Brittany, and I were co-presenters, but we all felt so taken care of by the process Rowen created for \”Practical Mentorship for Women+ In Theatre.\” It was a packed room and Rowen had us all go around the circle to identify something that we want in a mentor and something that we could give a mentee. Next, she had us each take a private moment to explore the how/why/parameters/scope of what need in a mentorship relationship. Finally, speed-dating style, she matched us up in pairs and small groups of folks we had an affinity with. I can\’t wait for a future WTF Wednesday where I give a co-mentorship progress report!
After a little bit more networking in the expo hall, I went to Milkwood, an outrageously delicious Asian-Southern fusion restaurant with with Lindsay, Matt, Alison, and Corinne from CaptionPoint as well as Corinne\’s friend Jeremy Skidmore, Artistic Director of RhinoLeap Productions in Asheboro. And if you thought this was the end of the day, WRONG AGAIN–after dinner it was back to the convention center for the Women+ In Theatre Mixer for more connections and conversation! And then, you guessed it, back to the AirBNB with friends!
Saturday Feb 29: LAST day of SETC 2020!
Are you tired yet reading this? You can bet your biscuits I was suuuuuuuuuuper tired by Saturday morning! Our first session of the day was \”Mapping Gender Parity.\” By the last day of the conference, people start leaving so we only had 2 participants in this session with Rowen and I. In addition to dropping pins on the World Theatre Map of companies that we know who are engaged in gender parity work, we got to have deep dive conversations with those two women about their gender parity project goals!
Then, I got to have lunch with my friend Brett Schrier
who I haven\’t seen in TWELVE years! Brett\’s the director of Broadway Playground, the vocal director for Royal Carribbean, and a musical book writer and composer. In addition to catching up, we launched into a deep discussion on gender parity in contemporary musical theatre and once again…..stay tuned!
Next up was the Distinguished Career Award Keynote: North Carolina Black Reperatory Company delivered by the inspiring Jackie Alexander. I loved learning about the history and legacy of the company and I really can\’t wait to go see a show there!
For the final session of the convention, I attended Matt and Corinne\’s \”Going Rogue: DIY Captioning,\” a reprise of the session that inspired my face off at last summer\’s LEAD Conference. They quickly demystify captioning and make it instantly accessible!
For our final evening in Louisville, Rowen and I had drinks with the incomparable Christine Bruno, actor and disability inclusion consultant, and Rowen\’s friend and collaborator, Tavish Forsythe (best name ever). We capped off the night at the Seelback Hotel Bar with our CaptionPoint crew complete with special reserve bourbon and hot brown tater tots!!!!!!
Sunday March 1: Heading Home
Jackie and I got up and on the road by 8am Sunday morning to make our way back to NC exhausted, but energized to bring so much of what experienced back to WTF!
Next year, the convention is going to be in Memphis! I hope you\’ll join us!