Manuel Betancourt

THATCamp Performing Arts 2013

June 20, 2013 · in Theater, Uncategorized


Today was the first day of THATCamp Performing Arts 2013. It was also my first day at a THATCamp (un)conference. And I gotta say, it was kind of fantastic. Props to Kimon Keramidas and everyone at the Martin E. Segal Theater Center for what was a great first day. For those of you that don’t know what a THATCamp is, I recommend checking out their About Page but I’ll try and paraphrase how Kimon described it to us this morning.

Basically a THATCamp is an (un)conference; a meeting of like-minded people that attempts to deconstruct the conference which can be quite opaque and non-participatory. THATCamp attempts to reverse that and encourages participation, collaboration and a democratic feeling throughout. Instead of proposing panels and/or papers ahead of time and have them vetted and scheduled before you arrive, you do the scheduling and session proposals the morning of the (un)conference, collaboratively creating the types of conversations you want to have throughout. It was very liberating

There are several rules at THATCamp (if you thought the first one would be “you do not talk about THATCamp,” you haven’t been paying attention, and/or you’re obsessed with Fight Club):

1. Have fun (CAMP mandated!)

2. Be Productive. In more tech-savvy, web-developer-oriented ones, this would mean create something; here in the humanities we believe talking can be just as productive, though Kimon did encourage us to have set goals in mind as we talk and be proactive about them.

3. Be Collegial. One of the things that THATCamp encourages is to break down the hierarchy usually associated with conferences, where status, position, affiliation, etc. come into play in terms of who participates and how. Everyone’s encouraged to participate here.

4. The Law of Two Feet. If a certain panel or session isn’t striking your fancy; move around! No one takes it personally. Don’t feel wedded to wherever room you first decided to stay at.

In the spirit of full participation, I proposed a session. You can check out the panel I suggested and moderated here. It centered on the recently popular model of creating social networking sites to market new theatrical productions. This was spurred on by my interactions with the Facebook page of the current revival of Tennessee Williams’s The Two Character Play. 

Two Character Play Facebook

I highly recommend checking it out; it definitely got me interested in the production — which is, as I thought more about it, an interesting reaction to the type of curated archive of the production that the social networking site is hosting. Of course, the site functions as a marketing tool, but I was interested in having a conversation about what it means to make this type of information readily available to potential (but necessarily not really) audience members. The Notepad on the THATCAmp site outlines the discussion we had, which was quite fruitful and has only increased my curiosity about these “accidental archives” that speak to my scholarly interests but clearly aim for my wallet.

I also attended two very lively discussions: one on digital archives in the performing arts and one on intellectual property ran by Doug Reside. The latter in particular was fantastic, with heated debates surrounding copyright laws and the hurdles we face as academics, archivists and students of the digital humanities.

I look forward to Day Two of THATCamp tomorrow!