“Celebrity Worship: Ritual, Iconography, and Performance”

The Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s 2017 conference
Las Vegas, 3-6 August, 2017

What does it take to be a celebrity worshipper? Traditional ideas about worship revolve around concepts like ritual practice, traditional texts, physical dedication, iconographic tropes, and sanctity. What do we really mean then when we say that someone (perhaps even ourselves) “worships” a celebrity? How do we perform this worship and why do certain spectacular people evoke these very visible, physical, and emotional responses? By using the term, are we elevating these celebrities to gods? Or are we elevating the worshipper’s actions and intentions to something beyond the mundane—even suggesting that they are sacred and transformative? How do communities define what is appropriate or inappropriate when it comes to such practices? For example, while certain worshipful activities that were valued in earlier historical periods—such as public self-flagellation or holy anorexia—might now be diagnosed as symptoms of mental illness, is it significant that psychologists have identified “celebrity worship syndrome” (CWS)? Do we, then, become anxious about celebrity worship when it seems too extreme? Finally, how do live performances and other media forms encourage or enhance these practices? And how has the performance of celebrity worship changed given a 24-hour, media saturated world with celebrities created and discarded almost daily due to the internet, reality TV, and other performance platforms?

Well…Las Vegas seems like the ideal place to consider these questions and to explore how theatre and performance studies can illuminate this thing we refer to as “celebrity worship.”

This panel seeks papers that examine one or more of the questions above. Please submit a one-page abstract, as well as a brief three-line bio that includes your email address. Papers that explore non-Western, pre-contemporary subjects are particularly welcome. In addition, the organizer especially invites work that furthers scholarship by or with under-represented communities, including communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and communities with disabilities. The organizer is happy to accept work by graduate students, contingent faculty, artist-scholars, as well as affiliated and unaffiliated scholars.

Please submit your abstract and biographical information either as a Word doc (preferred) and/or a PDF to Jill Stevenson at jillstevenson@gmail.com no later than October 14th. Please feel free to email Jill with any questions about the panel. General information about ATHE’s conference can be found at http://www.athe.org/?page=17_Conference.