THEATRE TOPICS 31.2 CFP: Special Issue on Essentials

The editors of Theatre Topics announce a revised topic for the spring 2021 special issue: Essentials. In this time of pandemic, recession, and uncertainty, what are you embracing, preserving, or discovering as essential about theatre? What ideas, practices, or values seem especially true or necessary to you as theatre artists, teachers, and/or scholars? Although as always we welcome original articles, for this issue, we especially solicit briefer “Notes from the Field” submissions of no longer than 4,000 words. The deadline for PRINT submissions is October 15, 2020. The deadline for ONLINE submissions is 15 December 2020. Early submissions are encouraged.

Amid the cacophony of directives, news stories, and advice, one steady theme is the emphasis on essentials.  Previously optional tasks become essential life disciplines: frequent handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Stores advertise essential products. Essential businesses struggle to stay open even as those whom they employ endure substandard wages and conditions. People winnow their immediate social circles to the most vital contacts. Politically and culturally, deep disagreements emerge about which values, institutions, or lives qualify as indispensable. We debate the essence of essentials.

Such debates usually deposit theatre solidly in the “optional” category. Most of the elements we might consider essential to teaching, producing, and experiencing theatre—live co-presence, breathing the same air, large assemblies—prove inadvisable. Yet, we might insist, performance remains an integral part of human life. We do our best to realize productions, lesson plans, and rigorous scholarship about theatre even as so much about our profession becomes impossible. 

For this issue, then, we ask you to share your reflections about what in your professional and artistic life as a theatre person becomes or remains essential. We open three non-exclusive avenues of consideration:

Constants: What about theatre remains unchanged? What aspects of teaching, studying, and doing theatre can you cling to as rocks that anchor you? What elements serve as pole stars that orient you toward life and hope? Conversely, what about our profession or institutions needs changing but stays the same even now? What outmoded systems or attitudes persist, hindering us from meeting the challenges of the moment?

Discoveries: How have your ideas about the essentials of theatre practice, study, and pedagogy changed in light of this situation? Where, how, and why have you revised your ideas of indispensability in theatre? What have you done away with? What adaptations to teaching and doing performance have you adopted that you now consider integral to your work?

Hopes and Fears: What might theatre practice, pedagogy, and scholarship learn through (or despite) this experience? What essentials are you afraid we might lose touch with? What deleterious elements do you fear will install themselves as essentials to theatre because of this event? What essentials do you hope we take with us as teachers, critics, and artists into the post-COVID future? 

For information about submission, visit our website:

Feel free to contact the editors with any questions or inquiries:

John Fletcher, Co-Editor, Theatre Topics at

Margherita Laera, Online Editor, Theatre Topics, at  

Theatre Topics is an official publication of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE).