Pro[se] & Con[ference]

Sheldon Comics ; Theatre-Con

That’s actually not all that far from describing academic theatre conferences, although the cosplay is far less creative and the panel presentations frequently more obtuse. I greatly enjoyed ATHE 2013 though (no link right now, as their page was recently hacked), milking it for all I could; I presented in five sessions, plus a couple other roundtable sharing things, met with the Routledge rep again about the Physical Dramturgy we have in the works, caught up with my fellow members of ATME (which has a brand spanking new website that was launced at ATHE), met my Focal Press acquisitions editor and marketing rep, and I’m getting to the point now where there are enough familiar faces at these things it becomes a great social event as well. My panel presentations included Best Practices in teaching Beginning Acting (Theatre as a Liberal Art pre-conference), Jeu-fu: Putting a sense of Play in Stage Combat, The Double-edged Sword of Sports Metaphor in Portrayal of Battle, an open working group meeting around the Physical Dramaturgy book project (of which I am a co-editor), and an ATME panel on Using Games in Actor Training; the overall conference theme was Pay to Play this year, thus the predominance of game, sport, and play topics. The paid workshops will Bill Irwin and Tectonic Theatre were sold out by the time I registered, and the lines (informal) to talk to Bill Irwin and David Henry Hwang (for example) were generally more than three people deep, I’ll have you know. So maybe Comic-Con it isn’t… but I’m hoping to be signing books at ATHE next year nonetheless. Granted, I’m also hoping I’ll have an employer who will help send me there, so we’ll see. Financially the conference scene can be quite a racket, making it difficult for adjuncts, grad students, and others there on their own dime. There’s another ATME pre-conference next year though (they’re bi-annual) and that group has really proven to be my academic home, as much as I also enjoyed the Theatre as a Liberal Art and the joint Acting & Directing focus group pre-conferences this year (it was just a happy scheduling accident that I was able to attend half of the Acting & Directing one despite being registered for and presenting at the TLA). I really hope I can find a way to make it work.


A few faces at ATHE I’d seen just recently in DC. Arena Stage had a nice blog post about the movement workshop I helped with there, which was recently but feels like a year ago by now. I’ll definitely be holding Arena up as a model now for theatres to aspire to, with their level of collaboration, facilitation, and artistic ensemble spirit. Thanks to David Leong for calling together a dream-team of movement grads to work with Arena’s own talent.

The working group, with Kathleen Turner in center (she joined us for a day and a half).

The working group, with Kathleen Turner in center (she joined us for a day and a half).

I’m now gearing up for Fall Semester as best I can. I’ll be teaching three acting sections at William & Mary, one acting course at Christopher Newport, and stage combat classes at local theatres; an adult SAFD Certificate Unarmed course with VA Rep and Cadence Theatre beginning in November and both middle school and high school stage combat classes with Richmond Shakespeare/Henley Street beginning in October (not online yet). That should keep me solidly booked as an absentee parent Monday – Thursday most of the Fall, but I’m hoping I can make it up on the long weekends. It’s always a challenging juggling act for working parents who can’t just clock in and clock out during typical hours, even when you do have a supportive spouse.

I’m also now in the home stretch of getting my book ready, which right now primarily means working on masses of illustrations and diagrams. On the way to ATHE I was doodling some storyboards on my tablet, planning shots for a photography play-date I set up with the William & Mary stage combat club in their theatre, and I actually really liked the bare, universal nature of the storyboard style.

Staging Storyboard 2Staging Storyboard 1

I remembered a Kickstarter pitch a while back for a new better artist’s model. I emailed the company, Digital Double/A9 armatures, since their website currently lists a three month backorder, and the owner was kind enough to send me a few used prototypes to use in my book.


I really wish I’d had these back in 1997/1998; My undergraduate thesis for my psychology BA involved emotive body language, and I had people posing an artist’s mannequin in what they thought represented the primary emotions. One of many issues that came up in the process was that the old-school articulated wooden artist models are really only semi-articulated; they don’t bend as much or in the right ways as people, and don’t hold the positions always when released. These A9 Armatures are much better in that sense, allowing for almost every movement I wanted to do with them – not quite, but almost. Ankles were a bit limited, for example, and the hips don’t turn out as much as we like them to do in some martial arts… but it works. I even like the rough texture of the raw 3D printing – it ends up looking a bit like a topo map made real. My only real issue is that a few joints on one, being already older and heavily used (at least one small stress fracture in an arm joint) don’t hold position well anymore. As reference, I could just loop some electrical tape around it and it would probably still work fine, or you may be able to order replacement parts eventually, but as an unadulterated photography model that seemed less than ideal. I did end up hitting them up with a bit of grey primer to even out the colors (the joints were red on the prototypes) and making little fake guns for them out of FIMO clay.

Final images will be/are in black & white, cleaned up a bit in photoshop, and with multiple angles to show how we cheat the lines when staging a shot. Just to whet your appetite a bit though, here’s a raw preview:


I do think these could well be of interest not just for artists sketching, but a variety of other applications; armatures for stop-motion animation, quick storyboarding aids for the artistically (pen or pencil anyway) challenged, even teaching aids for people involved in posture, movement, and anatomy. They make versions that are children, cats, dogs, horses – plenty of options, and the growing ubiquity of tablets means you can easily snap a photo of one in a pose, sketch the outlines right over the photo, then remove the photo layer and have a great reference sketch to begin drawing from.

I also spent some of my advance on my book on a new camera lens, a used Tokina 11-16mm aspherical wide angle. It’s already proven handy for shooting rifles and shotguns that are crammed in my photo tent (another ebay purchase for the book stuff), as it can shoot to opposite corners even while in the tent itself. I expect this will also prove a useful lens for shooting video, especially indoors action stuff… some day when I have more free time! The rest of the advance will likely go towards acquiring rights to images and quotes, with anything left over going towards living expenses – adjunct is not a lucrative gig. The search for full time employment continues, but I think everything I’ve been keeping busy with this Summer (workshops, classes, publishing, conferences, gigs, lining up more teaching) is helping bring that goal closer!


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