The annual conference for NAST (National Association of Schools of Theatre) resided in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Hyatt Regency on March 15 – 18, 2023. This is the accreditation organization with which Vanguard’s Theatre Department possesses full membership and has acquired accreditation since 2010. I was in the midst of directing my current comedy, Play On!, when I had to allow my students to rehearse for three nights without me, prior to Spring break, so I could attend this important conference. With that stress ball hanging over my head, it kick-started this conference onto a rocky road from there!
This particular annual meeting was the first well-attended, in-person conference since the Covid lockdown. I was so excited to meet with colleagues and to share ideas and glean knowledge! The conference was well attended and I had an opportunity to attend a session that imparted some interesting knowledge shared by panelists from different schools and conservatories across the nation. The session was entitled Keynote Discussion: The Changing Nature of the Theatre Industry and its Impact on the Post-secondary Education and Training of Theatre Students.
I also attended two sessions that I found to be quite useful: Arts and Wellness: The Theatre Unit as Catalyst, AND The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Enhancing the Theatre Experience. The post-discussions were the best aspect of all the sessions I attended. I loved hearing the different voices and perspectives on where each institution is with technology and with funding. I was able to share my ideas about a new play adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, written by my student with my help in comedy dialogue. We will produce this script in the Spring of 2025 since we need two years to fine-tune the writing; to acquire the technology that we will utilize for this hybrid film/live stage experience; and to build the miniatures necessary to tell this epic story. I was able to receive a business card from someone who may be able to help us to bring all these multi-media ideas together. That session, alone, was worth the entire trip!
I was also able to meet up with a colleague who heads up the scenic design area at the University of Montana and his costume designer sister, who teaches at a university in Seattle. We discussed the current theatre climate at our respective schools, and it was great to hear the different perspectives coming from three different regions in the nation. It was also good to converse with other Theatre Department Chairs to gauge where Vanguard is in the mix of technology and student participation.
All in all, I am glad that I attended the conference, and I hope to gain more insight when we receive our request for accreditation renewal, which should arrive sometime in April.