ASTR meets annually in November in cities across North America with an interesting theatrical history. Recent conference locations include Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Diego, Philadelphia, and New York. Graduate students and working scholars alike find the informal atmosphere an ideal environment for the exchange of ideas and for the chance to learn about the wide variety of programs in theatre and performance studies in the U.S. and other countries. 300 to 400 members typically attend each conference, which is co-sponsored by the Theatre Library Association.
The conference usually begins on Thursday and ends on Sunday during the weekend or two before Thanksgiving and consists of plenary panels, working sessions, career sessions (formerly "brown-bag lunches"), an awards luncheon, a book exhibition, and various sponsored receptions.
Plenary papers represent the best research in the field on topics related to the conference theme. The papers reflect the great range of work being in theatre studies by scholars at every phase of their careers, from graduate students to senior scholars. Plenary sessions are non-concurrent; all conference attendees are able to join to hear and discuss a group of related papers.
"Working Sessions" is the catch-all title for all sessions at the annual ASTR conference that are not plenary paper sessions. This category includes seminars, research groups, reading groups, forums, working groups, and workshops, as well as formats that have yet to be imagined or proposed. Guidelines for the working sessions are currently under development. Career Sessions are informal professional development sessions held during a lunch break on one of the conference days. Established scholars lead discussions on a variety of subjects for the benefit of those just starting out.
Open calls for plenary papers and working sessions are generally circulated and posted to the website in winter, with proposals due in the spring for that year's conference. Calls for participants in working sessions are are usually circulated in April, with proposals due in late May or June. Conference registration typically begins after Labor Day and coincides with dues renewal.