The following report was delivered by ATAP co-chair Eric Colleary to the membership of the American Society for Theatre Research at its annual meeting in Minneapolis on November 5, 2016:
The American Theatre Archive Project is a collaboration of archivists, librarians, scholars, dramaturgs, and theatre enthusiasts dedicated to helping theatre artists develop and sustain their own archives. The Project is organized by a six-member steering committee who support the efforts of regional teams who work with theatre companies in their local areas. Since its founding in 2009 ATAP has assisted dozens of companies including Atlantic Theater Company (NYC), the Baltimore Theatre Project, New York Theatre Workshop, the Rude Mechs (Austin), and Seattle Shakespeare Company.
2016 has been a busy year for ATAP. We designed and launched a new website, now available at AmericanTheatreArchiveProject.org, which is allowing us to share more news and resources of value to theatre artists and our supporters. These resources include free archivist consultations for companies and artists and our archiving manual, Preserving Theatrical Legacy. This free manual is written to empower artists and companies who find themselves surrounded by boxes but perhaps don’t know where to begin with making and maintaining an archive. It has become an enormously popular document, used around the world, and in the coming year we look forward to developing a web video series on archival best practices.
This past Thursday ATAP co-hosted a half-day workshop with the University of Minnesota Libraries, titled What’s Past is Prologue: Theatre Archives Now. More than 30 artists, archivists, scholars and students attended from across the country for a lively discussion about building and sustaining theatre archives and how we can better collaborate to provide artists with the information and support they need.
This year, ATAP has been able to continue to offer its popular archival Initiation Program. The ATAP Initiation Program is a planned curriculum for a series of activities that a theatre company can undertake in partnership with a professional ATAP archivist that will help them take a thoughtful approach to starting an archives program for their company. Thanks to the support of the ASTR membership, we have been able to offer one grant-in-kind each year since 2014 to a theatre company responding to our call. This grant allows the company to participate in an initiation free of cost, and to receive a small stipend for archival supplies. This year, we opened the opportunity nationally, and received several high quality applications. We plan to announce the chosen recipient of this year’s award by early December.
ATAP is run entirely by volunteers with operational support from ASTR and its members. This year, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) joined ASTR in offering financial support to sustain the administration of the Project, for which we are extremely grateful. If ATAP’s efforts interest you, or you think they might interest your students or colleagues, come talk with me or visit our website for more information. We are always looking for volunteers willing to serve on our steering committee or to start or get involved with local teams.
In 2017 and beyond, we are hoping to be in a position to continue to offer the ATAP Initiation Program Grant to more theatre companies, which we can do by continuing to raise funds. ASTR handles donations to ATAP through its website—donors can simply mark a donation as “For ATAP” by putting a note in the comments field of the ASTR donation form. The members of the Steering Committee remain deeply grateful for this continued support and encouragement as we plan to grow our network of artists, practitioners, and scholars dedicated to preserving the records of contemporary theatre-makers for the benefit of future performance and scholarship.