Update, Feb. 22: A seemingly well-sourced story by Boris Kachka in “Vulture” discusses the background of Charles Isherwood’s firing.
Feb. 7: Charles Isherwood has left the New York Times, where he had been No. 2 theater critic since 2004. This wouldn’t normally be a headline on the ATCA site, except for this good news: the Times intends to replace him, rather than falling back on freelancers, and their job description is a strong statement of the value of theater criticism and their commitment to it.
ATCA has just announced the seven finalists for the 2016 Francesca Primus Prize, given annually to an emerging woman playwright. Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, it carries an award of $10,000. The winner will be announced later this year.
The seven finalists are Mia Chung for “You for Me for You,” Cheryl Davis for “Maid’s Door,” Laura Jacqmin for “Look, we are breathing,” Martyna Majok for “Ironbound,” Melissa Ross for “Nice Girl,” Stephanie Walker for “The Art of Disappearing” and Lauren Yee for “in a word.”
The finalists were selected from 26 applicants by a nationwide committee of critics, chaired by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City, UT). For descriptions of the plays, names of the theaters where they premiered and the members of the award committee, click here. For a fuller description of the award, with information about applying and a list of previous winners, click here.
The Columbia Journalism Review has a thought provoking piece by Boston’s Jeb Gottlieb, former music and theater writer for the Boston Herald, under the apocalypitic title, “Curtains fall on arts critics at newspapers.” Under the subsection on “the end of the age of the critic,” he provides statistics on the decline of full time paid positions. He then discusses the ramifications not just for the displaced critics but for society at large, under “what is lost.” We link to it on our Criticism in Controversy page (under the Commentary tab, above), but the full feature can be read here.
ATCA’s Russell Warne (managing editor, Utah Theatre Bloggers Assn.) files a very interesting report on the YCS he recently attended in Poland, commenting
especially on the similarities and differences between the concerns and issues addressed there and in the U.S. (To read, cick link here or below.) Such seminars are sponsored irregularly by the International Association of Theatre Critics, of which ATCA is the American affiliate. Expenses (including housing and some food) are generally paid by the hosts, and ATCA or its Foundation can often help with travel. Watch the ATCA eBlasts for info on future seminars, or keep an eye on the IATC website.
Members may view the fourth featured ATCA/NY video here (login required):
“Qu’est-ce que c’est Cabaret?” — Top cabaret artists discuss what exactly makes this art form so special. Panelists are Klea Blackhurst (most recently, Hazel, at Chicago’s the Drury Lane), Jeff Harnar, Laurie Krauz, and Kim David Smith. Moderator: Gerry Geddes, director/writer.
Members may view the third featured ATCA/NY video here (login required):
During ATCA’s conference in New York in October, Matt Windman, author of The Critics Say … 57 Theater Reviewers in New York and Beyond Discuss Their Craft and Its Future, moderated a discussion between panelists Peter Filichia, Elysa Gardner, Jeremy Gerard, Jesse Green, Linda Winer, each a well known and respected member of our profession. The video of that session has now been posted in the Members Only area for those who either couldn’t attend the event or want to listen again to the views expressed.
Members may view the second featured ATCA/NY video here (login required):
See projection designers Wendall Harrington (“All the Way,” Head of Projection Design, Yale School of Drama) and Peter Nigrini (“Dear Evan Hansen”) and sound designers Jill BC Du Boff (“Hand to God”) and John Gromada (“The Elephant Man”) discuss their crafts during ATCA’s conference in New York in October.
A passionate, lively personality, Alice served ATCA as its hard-working secretary, c.2000-04, then as President of Foundation ATCA for several years thereafter, and she was instrumental in the publication of ATCA’s Under the Copper Beech: Conversations with American Theater Critics, ed. Jeffrey Jenkins (2004). She died Nov. 26, age 69, following a stroke. ATCA members may want to write her husband, Rod Carter, at 119 Hawthorne Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15209. Click here for her obituary.
Members may view this week’s featured ATCA/NY video here (login required):
Panel #1 — “From Page to Stage: The Journey of a New Musical.” We will follow the journey of Dear Evan Hansen (opens on Broadway, Dec. 4) from the time it was simply an idea to its current production. Panelists include the musical’s writers (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, music & lyrics; Steven Levenson, book), along with lead producer Stacey Mindich. Moderator: Peter Marks (Washington Post).
WHAT A SWELL PARTY IT WAS! Last weekend’s ATCA/NY conference (Oct. 28-30) was chock-full ofenlightening, lively panel discussions, a tour of The Players, and other special events. (Scroll down our home page to find the dauntingly full schedule.)
Organizer Supreme Sherry Eaker writes to thank all who attended (probably all still recovering from all the running around, in addition to going to the theatre every night, but who said a theater critic’s life was easy? — OK, we exaggerate), with “a special thank you to those who’ve written me such lovely and appreciative notes.”
The most festive event, as always, since the N.Y. meeting’s inception c.1980, was ATCA’s traditional Brunch (now Luncheon) with the Stars, Saturday noon at Sardi’s. Here are some pictures, evidence that the special attraction this year was a number of women directors, a far cry from the years not so long ago when a Susan Schulman, Susan Stroman or even Kathleen Marshall would feel like a solo act.
(All pictures are courtesy of Evan Seplow/StageBuddy.com.)
Soon we hope to have links here to videos of the panels as well as to columns and articles by ATCA members. You can also check the ATCA FB page.
The Theater Hall of Fame has mailed out this year’s ballot to ATCA members — check your mailbox. There are 44 theater artists listed, including actors, directors, choreographers, librettists, lyricists, composers, designers, playwrights, producers and others, including some with predominantly regional theater credits.
NEW THIS YEAR: In a cover letter to ATCA members, Hall producer Terry Hodge Taylor explains that next year’s ballots will go only to those who vote this year. So, if you want to stay on the voting rolls, mail your ballot to reach his office by Sept. 9.
ATCA provides the majority of the Hall electorate. It’s a privilege to vote, and you can also suggest nominees for next year’s ballot. So read the credits, do some research if necessary, and vote, or you’ll lose the franchise.
Conference Chair Sherry Eaker invites all ATCA members who have paid their 2016-2017 dues to our annual New York weekend meeting. Take advantage of our Early Bird discount good through Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 at 11 pm EDT.
Attractions include the traditional Celebrity Luncheon at Sardi’s, the Players Club, a conversation with N.Y. theater critics, and panels on design, new musicals and cabaret.
For full conference info and schedule, plus how to register, click the logo above or the button below. See you in Manhattan!
Go to the N.Y. Times obit to sign the guestbook.
Scroll to the bottom of the extension of Bill Hirschman’s testimonial to find the separate “How Ira Bilowit Saved the Drama Desk from Oblivion!” by Glenn Loney.
ATCA chair Bill Hirschman writes:
Ira J. Bilowit, the esteemed arts journalist of New York City and good friend to most of ATCA and many more, passed away July 22 at age 90.
An ATCA member since 1976, Ira was instantly recognizable at any gathering with a broad welcoming smile, bright eyes, feisty attitude, silver goatee and a willingness to share his encyclopedic knowledge with anyone who asked. He could be counted on to hold court in the hospitality suite until younger members faded away.
His indefatigable service to ATCA included working with Sherry Eaker to create the wonderful New York conferences, especially lining up luminaries for the Sardi’s luncheon. He had volunteered in Philadelphia last spring to help with the upcoming New York meeting. His career and many services to ATCA were honored in April 2014 when he was given an emeritus membership.
The much-sought annual award goes to the big New Jersey company that is best known for its musicals. As it has been since it was started in 1976, the award is “based on a recommendation by the American Thetare Critics Association,” as noted in the announcement by the Tony Awards® Administration Committee. The award will be presented with the other Tonys on June 12.
For more substantive stuff, ATCA members should watch their email. Here, we hope to post some links. But in the meantime, below are Alan Smason (chair of last year’s conference in N’Orleans), Bill Hirschman (just reelected excom chair) and Howie Shapiro, sporting the peripatetic Conference Hat, which he has to store until he passes it on next year in San Francisco.