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This working group explores the performative dimensions of “playful destinations,” spaces in which actor/spectators embody specific roles as they engage in (re)creational performances. Examples might include theme parks, museums, rodeos, sporting events, vacation spots, and other interactive locations to which people physically travel; as well as artifacts that develop an imagined world to be played in and through, such as board games, role playing games, or multiplayer computer games, or personal play with dolls, stuffed animals, or other toys.

More specifically, we ask: how do playing or observing play as audience members or “spect-actors” represent transfers of the conscious self to characters and/or constructed worlds, and how do such transfers relate to various cultural narratives, both reproductive and resistant? How do specific destinations shape our playful performances?

Conveners: Drew Chappell and Matt Omasta, Arizona State University

Papers may explore:

  • The roles established for players within particular sites (e.g. “guests” at “the Happiest Place on Earth”), and how these roles define the players’ experiences
  • The role of seduction – sensual (vacation resorts), competitive (games, sports), or otherwise – in engaging players in performance
  • The presence of the historical archive in playful experiences (historical reenactments) and how the archive manifests through various voices/primary sources
  • Ways in which play might represent a possible site of intervention where people (young and old) critically engage with the historical trajectories behind common scenarios
  • The dividing line(s) between event and parallel event(s) (tailgate parties, Olympics protests, etc.)
  • Transformation of self into hero/ic self (dude ranches, live action role play)


We will utilize a seminar format in which all participants circulate their papers in advance of the November conference. Participants will engage in e-mail discussion of the papers in the week leading up to the conference. The session chairs will pair participants whose work addresses similar or dialogically engaged material, and these partners will provide the primary responses to each others’ papers. (All participants will, however, read all selected papers.)

During the 2-hour time allocated, each pair will have ten minutes to respond to each other’s papers (5 minutes per paper). After this, there will be time for a general discussion around the topic as a whole based on questions that the conveners generate in response to the holistic themes arising from the submitted studies.

Proposal Submissions: If interested, please submit a 200 word abstract for the paper you will present and a brief biography by May 15, 2009. Please submit proposals to BOTH Matt Omasta at AND Drew Chappell at You may also address questions to these contacts. Selections will be made in June. All selected participants must become members of ASTR.

We strongly suggest looking at the ASTR link that outlines best practices for working sessions:

CFP – Working Session: Playful Destinations