TheaterMania U

Theatre Communications Group Conference Wrap-Up

Mike Daisey, Lynn Nottage, and Les Waters figure into Tiffany Moon’s highlights of the annual TCG conference.

Mike Daisey
(© Stan Barouh)

This past weekend I had the great fortune to attend the annual Theatre Communications Group (TCG) Conference in Boston, MA. For those of you unfamiliar with TCG, I encourage you to get familiar. TCG is a network of nonprofit theaters throughout America with over 700 member theaters and 12,000 individual members. TCG publishes American Theater magazine, has numerous grant opportunities, publishes plays, and provides tons of networking opportunities including the conference I attended. TCG is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Definitely check out their website ( to learn more about this awesome organization.

I came to the conference uncertain of what to expect, and left feeling more inspired than I have in years. I felt included in the greater American theater community in a way I have not experienced before. The weekend was filled with plenary sessions, breakout sessions, affinity groups, and parties, as well as a few performances.

Here are my highlights from the 22nd TCG Conference, Model the Movement:

* A workshop performance of Mike Daisey’s new monologue “The Orient Express (Or, the Value of Failure).” I had never seen Mr. Daisey perform, nor did I hear the infamous “This American Life” episode that launched the scandal, or “kerfuffle,” as Daisey sometimes refers to it, but I had been following the aftermath in the news. This piece, being a workshop, is not open for review so I will have to limit my comments, but needless to say I was extremely thankful to witness this theatrical event. Daisey is a masterful monologuist, and I was entranced for two solid hours of his one man, a desk, and a glass of water type spectacle.

* A lunch time salon where I listened to Robert Moss, founding artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, and Tim Sanford, current artistic director at the theater, speak about the historic company’s modest beginnings in a room at the Y to its move to 42nd Street during Times Square’s darker days.

* A breakout session entitled “Models for Supporting and Engaging Playwrights” where I sat mere feet away from Lynn Nottage, Les Waters, and Tim Sanford and participated in a conversation about how to best support new play production in America.

* Another breakout about community engagement, in which several Boston area theaters presented models that had worked for them. I am particularly intrigued by the concept of “installation dramaturgy,” a term coined by Debra Wise, artistic director of Underground Railway Theater in Boston, during the session. As the phrase suggests, this involves lobby displays that showcase historical or cultural aspects of the plays that may deepen the audience’s experience of the piece.

* A moving speech about theatrical innovation by Howard Shalwitz, artistic director of the always inventive Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

* An amazing performance by DJ Spooky.

* The opportunity to connect with and discuss industry solutions with literary managers, dramaturgs, and playwrights during our Affinity Group Meetings.

There was so much more, and so many sessions that I wanted to attend but was unable to. I left Boston rejuvenated and with tons of ideas for Cal Rep’s season and for my career in general. I can hardly wait until next year’s conference, which will be held in Dallas next June. You can bet I’ll be there! And if you’re in the Dallas area, I would encourage you to get in touch with TCG about volunteering opportunities.