Statement on Florida Location for the 2023 Theatre Education ConferencePublished February 2023
Throughout the country, legislators are enacting measures that threaten teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn. EdTA opposes the weaponization of the education system for political agendas, as well as discriminatory legislation that harms people by denying their identity or restricting their rights to equity, inclusion, and ultimately, belonging. (See our Freedom of Expression statement.)
As such, the EdTA board and staff recognize the harmful impact of recent laws and actions in Florida. Measures such as the Parental Rights in Education Act (“Don’t Say Gay”), the Individual Freedom Act (“Stop Woke”), book bans, and the governor rejecting a new AP African-American studies course as “woke” curriculum — all have a chilling effect on teachers and students.
Why, then, is EdTA hosting the 2023 Theatre Education Conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida? Isn’t this contrary to what EdTA stands for as the professional association for theatre teachers?
The decision where to hold EdTA events involves many factors, and venues are booked years in advance of the actual event. In the case of St. Pete Beach, the resort was contracted for the 2020 conference back in 2017, following a highly rated EdTA Conference at the same location in 2015.
Due to the pandemic, the Florida event did not happen in 2020 as originally planned. By this time, EdTA had begun to have concerns about the climate in Florida — but this did not absolve EdTA of its contractual obligations. Because political reasons are not grounds to nullify a contract, walking away would have required paying out the full value of the contract. That would mean redirecting hundreds of thousands of member dollars from programs and financially damaging the organization. After much negotiation and legal consultation, the best solution we could do was to defer the event to 2023.
By hosting the Theatre Education Conference in Florida, EdTA is not ignoring the troubling environment there. In fact, it is EdTA’s goal to use our event as an opportunity to support the rights, safety, and well-being of all theatre teachers and students in the state — along with the rest of our membership.
That’s why we’ve chosen The Power of YOU as our conference theme. Through our programming and conference activities, this event will encourage EdTA members to be agents of change in the face of the frightening situations in Florida and elsewhere.
We are centering the experience, safety, and well-being of our LBGTQ+ and BIPOC communities in our planning. Boycotting an event location can ultimately hurt the very people we wish to help, including BIPOC and LBGTQ+ hospitality workers and the local theatre education community. While we cannot control the government’s actions in Florida, EdTA can – and will – make this event a brave space in an unsafe place.
We hope you will join us in Florida to support all teachers and students, and use The Power of YOU to fight for inclusion and social justice in our classrooms – and beyond.
Dr. Jennifer Katona
EdTA Board President
Krista Carson Elhai
EdTA Vice President
On behalf of the entire EdTA board and staff
Published September 2023
Activism at the 2023 Theatre Education Conference
EdTA stands with the education community in Florida. Here’s how we’re using the Theatre Education Conference as a platform to support the rights, safety, and well-being of all theatre teachers and students in the state — along with the rest of our membership.
The workshop lineup includes a variety of sessions designed to meet the challenges theatre educators currently face, such as:
- Supporting LGBTQ Young Performers
- The Courage to Produce: Finding Innovative Ways to Present Work on Your Campus
- From Ally to Abolitionist: Nurturing Culturally Responsive Teaching through Habits of Mind
- Good Art; Bad Artist: Navigating Ethical Choices in Consuming Art
Attendees who purchased an “Educate With Inclusion” T-shirt are encouraged to wear them Friday, September 29, to set the tone for the event.
An “advocacy and action” area in the exhibit hall will be a hub of activism. Attendees can pick up literature from Equality Florida to learn what this organization is doing to protect LGBTQ rights in schools and how they can help, as well as write letters to LBGTQ+ youth, letting them know they are loved and valued.
The mobile app recommends Black- and LGBTQ-owned businesses in the local area for attendees to patronize.
One conference may not change the tide of legislation or culture wars, but the ripple effects of TEC’s programs and activism will be felt in theatre classrooms and on school stages across the country. We invite educators, administrators, and community members to join us – walk-in registrations are welcome.