2018 National Conference - Guide to the Agenda

This year in St. Louis, we're trying a few new things, and continuing to work toward fulfilling the diversity of interests, professional positions, and personal identities represented at the National Conference. If this is your first Conference or your 21st, please see below for some helpful info to prepare you for your time with us.

The TCG National Conference is a full and rich experience, with programming, theatre, and social opportunities throughout our three days together. Especially if you are a first-time attendee, we encourage you to read up on opportunities ahead of time, so that you’re prepared to take full advantage of what’s in store. Read on for a glossary of Conference agenda terms and programming descriptions.


These are all-attendee sessions featuring exciting artists and speakers from a variety of professional backgrounds, as well as award presentations and other programming. Read more about our lineup of plenary speakers, including Naomi Shihab Nye and Jer Thorp.


These three-hour tightly-focused skills-building journeys are carefully designed for practitioners of different experience levels, budget sizes, and aesthetic interest. Please plan to attend BOTH parts 1 & 2 of the same workshop!


These are 90-minute small group sessions that can manifest in a range of formats, from panels, to roundtables, to interactive performances. There are four rounds of Breakout sessions this year, on Friday and Saturday (see Agenda). Breakout sessions on Friday are concurrent with Skills-Building workshops, in the morning and afternoon. Please decide in advance if you will be attending Breakouts or a Workshop on Friday. As we said above, workshop attendees are asked to attend BOTH parts of the same workshop!


At the Intersections (ATI) is a movement-building arc of conference programming focused on advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion through affinity and allyship sessions around intersectional areas of identity. ATI will feature sessions focused on disability, gender, race & ethnicity, sexual orientation, and more. The arc begins with How We Show Up, a session for all conference attendees to develop a shared analysis of this approach; and ends with How We Move Forward, a gathering of all affinity and allyship sessions to share findings, build solidarity, and identify opportunities for collective action. As the ATI arc continues to evolve, we are attempting to merge the “personal” and “professional” in each of our unique identities, which means removing divisions between our ED&I work and our professional development work at the Conference. We can’t effectively experience one without the other, and this dynamic will play a role in many other areas of our Conference programming. Sessions identified as "At The Intersections" will be marked as such in our final online and print agenda.

This arc relies on the following three principles (and the sessions and session types indicated below) to work towards its goals:

1) We need to come together before we work apart: Our all-attendee session on Thursday, called “How We Show Up,” will not only lay the groundwork for the At the Intersections sessions, but share best practices for all Conference attendees for making the most of our time together.

Our first-timer orientation on Thursday, will also serve as an introduction to TCG’s ED&I Values. TCG's strategic plan includes a multi-year, six-point Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative to transform the national theatre field into a more equitable, inclusive and diverse community. Our Conferences are representative of this commitment, and much of our programming is dedicated to moving the needle in our field on these issues.

Anti-Racist Resources for White People, which occurs on Thursday, will offer multiple entry points for white people working against racism in their personal and professional lives. Stemming from the energy and size of our past white affinity spaces, we’re creating a space early in the Conference for continued learning, analysis development, and movement-building, led by white-identified facilitators whose anti-racist values are closely tied to their leadership style and decision-making. This session will be geared towards those who racially identify as white, but is open to anyone who would like to participate.

The Intergenerational Leaders of Color meeting, also on Thursday, will gather theatres of color for candid conversations about issues and challenges specific to this part of our field. In more recent years, the conversations have evolved and expanded to include a larger intergenerational group of leaders of color. This session will invite ongoing group discussion about pertinent questions, issues, and solutions for transferring information, experience, expertise, and successful models between the generations. This session is intended for Conference attendees who identify as people of color.

2) Lead with our whole selves: While it can be very effective to have conversations around specific areas of identity, we must always do so with the wholeness of our experiences in mind. That’s why we’re calling these sessions “At the Intersections”: we’re not just meeting each other at the crossroads of our identities, but acknowledging the complex identities within ourselves. At the Intersections will culminate with a town hall (“How We Move Forward”) on Saturday that empowers all of us to share what we’ve experienced across these interwoven areas of identity.

3) Every group is different: From figuring out content to deciding on structure to agreeing on the presence of allies in the room, there will be no one-size-fits-all for our Identity Affinity Groups, which are a fundamental part of the At the Intersections arc. For the 2018 Conference, we will work with attendees to build consensus around deeply-personalized sessions that meet the unique needs of each group. Affinity spaces are for people who self-identify as part of a particular group to discuss their collective experiences. Because members of oppressed groups are often asked to educate and protect the comfort of those with privilege, affinity groups are necessary in equity-based work to provide space for the conversations that cannot occur in the presence of those power dynamics. TCG typically creates space for both affinity and ally-Inclusive sessions based on how attendees self-identify in five areas of identity: gender, disability, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, national identity.


As in past years, we are also providing an opportunity for theatre people to meet based on their professional role in theatre. Each group is facilitated by one of your colleagues from the field, who will help guide a conversation around the most pressing issues faced by those who share your professional identity. The Professional Affinity Groups will meet once on Friday, in the early evening in case you want to take your group from the Conference space into a happy hour before all of the exciting Friday evening programming!

These sessions feature expert speakers from various companies formally affiliated with TCG, and are each designed to address specific business needs of TCG’s membership. Past Trend Workshops have included included My Audience, Your Audience (TRG Arts), Digital Marketing for the Arts: How to Reach and Engage More Patrons at Every Stage of the Funnel (MOGOArts), and Flex Your Subscription Muscles (TheatreMania/OvationTix).

A small selection of sessions, occurring for 3 hours on Thursday morning and open to anyone in the Conference community, designed for group strategising, collective mobilisation, and movement building around a particular field challenge or set of issues. These sessions don't seek to provide definitive answers to field wide issues so much as to bring people to the table to discuss the questions themselves.

For those who feel lunch is a meal best enjoyed over even more programming, check out our Agenda for a diverse set 60-minute lunch sessions on Saturday.


Carefully curated by our St. Louis Host Committee, these are intimate dining excursions on Friday evening, hosted by area artists and arts leaders at some of the most popular culinary destinations in town. Are you a foodie? Flying solo at the Conference? Sign up for a Dine-Around and meet your group after Friday programming ends to travel to the restaurant together.


A few other things to help make your Conference experience unforgettable...

We will be using a new digital platform (and Conference App) this year, and we ask that you pay special attention to the agenda you create for yourself via that platform. Some of our Skills-Building workshops will have capacity limits, and will indicate as such in their descriptions – please note this and only sign up for the workshops that you truly plan to attend! For workshops with caps, your opt-in will be taken as a formal sign-up, and may be sending another attendee to the workshop’s wait list.


Friday’s Skills-Building workshops have been designed for the same group to participate in both the first and second part of the same workshop. This is to offer attendees a truly deep dive into one area of interest and to build more meaningful collaborative relationships with your fellow Skills-Builders. For these reasons, and for the sake of your session leaders, please try to stick to the plan!


TCG runs a family-friendly Conference! Attendees are welcome to bring children between the ages of 11 to 18 to all plenary sessions free of charge and to TCG-curated performances. Please sign them up at Registration for plenary sessions, and accompany them into the ballroom. This is limited to the plenary sessions and TCG-hosted performances only, and respectful audience behavior is mandatory.


Parents who are nursing may also inquire at Registration about the privacy space that TCG has set aside for this purpose. For more information on family resources and things to do with kids, please check back to our Conference web pages in the coming weeks.


In past years, our Conference has fallen during the annual celebration of Ramadan, and as such, we've provided a prayer space within the hotel for those who are observing the holiday. This year Ramadan closes on our first Conference day, but we are preserving this space for prayer as well as for silent reflection, professing, and simply removing yourself from the hustle of the Conference. Check in with Registration to get access to this space while in St. Louis.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in St. Louis! If you have further questions, please feel free to direct them to conference@tcg.org.

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