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PWR in the Community: Kathleen Tarr's 8th Annual "Getting Played Symposium," a Conference on the Far-Reaching Impact of Inclusion

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On April 23, 2022, audiences were fortunate to participate in the 8th Annual Getting Played Symposium on Equity in the Entertainment Industry and Awards, moderated by Symposium founder and PWR Lecturer Kathleen Antonia Tarr.  Tarr, a popular instructor, who is also actress, singer, athlete, human and civil rights attorney, has a keen interest in how society's inequities manifest themselves in the entertainment media which shapes so much of our identities and understanding of the world. 

This year’s keynote Tommy Soulati Shepherd and panelists Rotimi Agbabiaka, Maria Giese, Cidney Hue, Naomi McDougall Jones, and Sean San José discussed how creators shape their work, which not only entertains us but also enjoys a lasting social impact. 

After the event, I spoke with Tarr on behalf of the Newsletter for a few minutes about this important work. Here are her thoughts on the symposium, now in its 8th interation, including its broader mission as well as logistics and access:

Your introduction related so much of your own experience in law, sports, and entertainment, it seems your conference has developed over the years to have a much wider reach. Tell us what thoughts shaped this year's event.

I really wanted to do better this year at bringing in talent from entertainment outside of film and television, which was always the vision for the Symposium. Getting Played is meant to be a conversation between disciplines – lawyers, educators, social scientists, and of course artists – but musicians, visual artists, sports professionals have been consistently absent. Luckily, I was able to bring in Tommy Soulati Shepherd as keynote this year, and I purposely spoke to being an athlete. Since this year's focus was on Point Of View, there was this great opportunity to highlight the connections between my personal experiences and how entertainment contributes to real-life harms.

The Keynote from Tommy Soulati Shepherd presented an equally multifaceted performance that addressed teaching the young. How do you see his work contributing to your own as an educator?

Tommy is amazing. I think everyone should watch his keynote, and I will certainly be sharing the video with students as food for thought, hoping it broadens their perspectives about effective communication and the role of stereotypes in what rhetorics our society (de)values.

It was great that you had professional ASL interpreters. Can you tell us about your views on accessibility?

It's really important to me that events be accessible and that they be so without people having to ask. Accessibility should be baked into the cake. It's why my Getting Played websites have Text Only pages and accessible fonts, and it's why I really need to do better at slowing down, especially with names! I owe a huge apology to ASL translator Annie Dieckman who was trying to keep up with my speeding through the list of speakers. I had thought to put names on my virtual background to make it easier, but I think I need to start signing names myself at future Symposia to maintain reasonable pacing for translation. Spelling every letter of a name is always going to take longer than saying that name aloud. Hosting a virtual event is also part of my effort to maintain accessibility. If back in person next year, I still need to figure out how to stream the Symposium. Plus, doing so opens it up to more of the world.

What do you hope audiences gain from attending?

I really hope audiences who attend Getting Played Symposia become proactive about their choices of entertainment, whether they are audiences or creators. I hope they begin to understand the connections between what their dollars support and what thrives and replicates as consequence, including social norms. I dream that these insights will expand to see we humans better treating the Earth and its myriad species.

Anything else you'd like to tell us?

It really means a lot that people attend talks like this, local film festivals, low-budget theater, open studios, women's sporting events. One must be proactive to shift the status quo. Otherwise, all of these dynamics we want to change are simply not going to.

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