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President's Message

Leslie Kane surveys the society and offers her vision of the future.


    As I reread my inaugural message in last year’s DMR, I am chagrined that I cannot this year report a realization of the hopes expressed then for the Society. I can, however, report that they are still alive, despite the vicissitudes that seemed to permeate last year on so many levels. I can also attest to our members’ contribution to a realization of the larger hope voiced by the editors in that Fall 2001 newsletter: that “the arts will help restore the nation’s spirit.”

    Manifesting this restoration was our goal for the session at MLA in New Orleans. Despite the inevitably reduced attendance at the 2001 convention and an undesirable noon time slot, the double room at the Sheraton was standing room only for “Acting and Performance in the Films of David Mamet.” Organized by our Vice-President and Treasurer, Karen Blansfield, the panel included presentations by Frank Donoghue, Gregory Kable, and Jeff Mclntire-Strasburg. So provocative were their arguments that my task as respondent was effortless, if not superfluous, the audience responding with enthusiasm and at length. Only the obligation to clear the room brought the discussion to a close.

    This invigorating success underscores the incomprehensibility of MLA’s rejection of the Society’s application for allied organization status based on a reluctance to “provide a permanent spot on the Program for a contemporary author, since there are so many authors who would qualify for similar treatment.” Believing that Mamet’s broad range distinguishes him from those others and that our sessions’ repeated successes distinguish the Society from others, we had resolved to submit yet another application, citing past and future benefits to MLA. This resolve has, regrettably, weakened in the face of yet another incomprehensible move: the rejection of the 2002 proposal for a incisive humor in light of the Program Committee’s urging that the Society “continue to use that (Special Session) process” to assure discussion of Mamet’s work.

    Agonizing rather than laughing at this point, I ask that you all devote a moment to considering our other options. At an American Theatre and Drama Society symposium preceding this summer’s ATHE conference in San Diego, the ATDS Board, on which I serve, discussed forthrightly ATDS’s affiliate position within larger organizations and, conversely, the possibility of smaller organizations, such as DNIS, becoming affiliates. There was absolute concurrence with my insistence that the terms of the relationship must be specified clearly to assure mutual benefit. Very sympathetic about our MLA saga and determined to expand ATDS’s own sphere, the Board has prioritized this issue and seeks further input as to our needs. I am completely confident, given the leadership of ATDS that we would be in no danger of being subsumed by ATDS. Another option, however, is affiliation with the American Literature Association, which hosts an annual conference in May.

If you plan to attend MLA, please do let us know. New York is a fitting site for the Society to reaffirm our mission and enhance our coherence. To plot a viable course and finalize the means to pursue it requires optimum attendance at our upcoming business meeting. Usually held on the day of our session at NILA, the meeting this year will assume, in protest, a virtual session on Saturday, December 28th, and meet in my room at the Hilton around 5:30 p.m. Check our website at for updated information. As further enticement to attend, the agenda will include a far sexier topic: the Mamet conference in London being organized by Leslie Kane and Steve Price. The national/international social and fiscal climate having made postponement until June 2004 advisable, the added year will allow for increased anticipation. For those of us who attended the “Mamet At 50 Celebration,” chaired by Leslie Kane and Chris Hudgins in Las Vegas in 1997, the prospect of a repeat performance offers anticipation with certainty—a forgotten sage’s definition of happiness.