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On Saturday, June 17, Northeastern University welcomed more than 200 performing artists, writers, directors, producers, and arts administrators to the 2017 StageSource Theatre Conference, organized around the theme of arts activism.

Speakers included Tory Bullock, a performer, writer, and arts activist who has taken up numerous social causes with the mantra: “love people, make art;” Matt Wilson, Executive Director of MassCreative, a non-profit organization that works with artists, leaders, supporters, and partners of the arts, cultural, and creative community to advocate for the resources and support necessary for the sector to thrive; and Chair of the Theatre Department and Professor of the Practice, Scott Edmiston.

Edmiston delivered the welcome address, asking “Does the theatre artist as citizen have the responsibility – or the capacity – to repair this world?” and exploring themes of the power and responsibility of the arts in times of crisis and conflict. He concluded with a call to action that set the tone for the remainder of the day: “Bertolt Brecht said: ‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.’ Friends, it’s time to open our tool boxes and get out our hammers. The great work begins.”

The work began in earnest during dozens of afternoon sessions on topics such as: Arts & Politics, Access & Equity, Arts & The Environment, LGBTQ Theatre & Social Justice, The Shadow of White Supremacy, Gender Parity, and more. Notes and action steps from these sessions are being collected and will be worked into a Statement of Purpose for the theatre community.

StageSource, the organizer of the conference, provides leadership and services to advance the art of theatre in the Greater Boston and New England region. They are dedicated to increasing cultural participation through advocacy, communication, and education; providing information, initiatives, and resources to established and emerging theater artists and organizations in the areas of employment, professional development, and institutional growth; and fostering access and non-discrimination in the belief that theater should shape, as well as be shaped by, the diversity of the community it represents.

Photo: Tory Bullock standing outside the Strand Theater in Dorchester. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)