ATCA excom chair Jonathan Abarbanel reports: The United States was easily re-elected to the Executive Committee of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) at the recently-concluded 27th IATC World Congress, held in Beijing Oct. 15-19. The American Section—which is us, ATCA—tied with Serbia for the highest vote total—approximately 90% of votes cast—the best-ever showing by the United States. The balloting elected 10 nations to the most diverse ExCom in the IATC’s 58 year history, with Japan, India, China and Nigeria elected along with France, Finland, Great Britain and Poland, Serbia.
Margareta Sorenson of Sweden was elected the first IATC female president, after the Congress bid an emotional farewell to outgoing president Yun-Cheol Kim of South Korea who stepped down after six years. Additionally, ATCA member Jeffrey Eric Jenkins was elected one of the IATC’s three vice-presidents for a two-year term.
Early Bird registration at $165 (members) and $175 (guests), which includes Brunch with the Stars at Sardi’s on Saturday morning, has been extended through Oct. 31, then goes up $20. Brunch alone for member or guest is $65. More here.
At the 37th World Congress of the International Association of Theatre Critics, meeting in Beijing, China, Oct. 15-20, ATCA was represented by three chairs: Jonathan Abarbanel (ATCA excom), Jay Handelman (Foundation ATCA) and Jeffrey Eric Jenkins (ATCA International Committee). For the congress symposium on “A New World: The Profession of Criticism in the Internet Era,” Abarbanel delivered a paper entitled, “Tweet this: We’re not in charge anymore.”
The IATC’s fifth Thalia Prize for critical writing (previous winners: Eric Bentley, Richard Schechner, Jean-Pierre Sarrazac and Kapila Vatsyayan) was presented to Eugenio Barba, an early colleague of Grotowski who founded the Odin Theatret in Denmark. Read more about Barba here.
The eight 2014 inductees into the Theater Hall of Fame include actor F. Murray Abraham (currently in It’s Only A Play), legendary actor Alvin Epstein (original N.Y. cast of Waiting for Godot), Tony-winning actor Blythe Danner (now in The Country House), director Marshall Mason, former N.Y. Times theater critic Frank Rich, chairman of the Shubert Organization Philip J. Smith, Tony-winning director/choreographer Susan Stroman (The Producers) and Tony-winning playwright Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy). The 44th annual induction will take place January 26, 2015, at the Gershwin Theatre, where membership in the Hall is recorded on the walls in raised gold letters. The electorate of over 300 includes members of the Hall and of ATCA. Click here for more on the Hall and previous inductees.
Playwright Jennifer Haley has been awarded the 2014 Francesca Primus Prize for her play The Nether. Haley will receive the $10,000 award check immediately and be officially celebrated at an upcoming ATCA conference. Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman playwright.
[For a history of the Primus Prize, click here.]
The Nether is set in a futuristic world where virtual reality has become more seductive and engrossing than daily life. An admitted pedophile, Sims, has set up a Victorian site called the Hideaway … .
The ATCA executive committee has joined the protest over the cancelation of a scheduled production of Spamalot at the South Williamsport Junior/Senior High School in Williamsport, Pa., because of, according to principal, Jesse Smith, its “homosexual themes.”
In a Sept. 19 letter to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Stamm and School Board President John Engel, the excom expressed its opposition, saying, “As journalists, we support your students’ First Amendment right to exercise free speech, which does not stop at the doorways of our public schools.” Further, the action misunderstands the artistic and social purposes of satire, musical comedy and education itself.
The letter (click below for full text) was signed by all nine excom members on behalf of ATCA’s nationwide membership of professional print, broadcast and internet theater critics.
In explaining the letter, excom chair Jonathan Abarbanel commented that the South Williamsport school officials “do not seem to understand either the musical or literary purposes of musical comedy, and certainly have failed to recognize the nature of satire, which is central to Spamalot. Yes, the show features two men who marry each other, but at the same time it satirizes gay stereotypes. It also is highly irreverent about disco music, Arthurian legend, armed combat, maiming, the Bubonic Plague, kingship, horsemanship, the preponderance of Broadway producers who are Jews, and God, who is an unseen but often-heard character in Spamalot. ATCA is pleased to join the Dramatists Guild of America in protesting the South Williamsport decision and calling attention to the illogic of it.”
ATCA members received nominations and ballots several weeks ago. Voting is fun, but it’s also a service to the American theater and it provides well-earned pleasure for the winners. If you need a replacement ballot, contact ATCA’s man on the Hall’s executive committee, Chris Rawson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Highlights include an interactive Playwriting Primer for Critics led by playwright Arthur Kopit, a panel of playwrights in the latest in our Perspectives in Criticism series, a Broadway panel on the influence of critics, a panel on “Social Media and You,” and the traditional Luncheon with the Stars at Sardi’s. Snail mail registration materials coming soon.
Go directly to the N.Y. Meeting registration page; or …
ATCA members are due shortly to receive their 2014 ballots for the Theater Hall of Fame. Voting is a privilege but mainly a pleasure, so watch for your ballot. In the meantime, read about the Hall of Fame on the ATCA site and look at the list of 519 Hall members on the Hall’s own site. Address questions here.
The annual National Critics Institute at the O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Conn., just finished its first year under Chris Jones (Chicago Tribune). Known for years as a “boot camp for critics,” NCI has broadened its subject to theater writing. Word is that Jones brought fresh energy to the intensive program, proving a worthy successor to NCI founder Ernie Schier (1968-1998) and Dan Sullivan(1999-2013). Foundation ATCA supports NCI with an annual scholarship, this year $2,000.
After 22 happy years of ATCA membership, Pat Feldhaus, who reviewed for various Northern California dailies, has retired. “Thank you for all my good times,” she says, especially ATCA conferences (including London, 1995), at which she would write and perform a song about the event. She also used her IATC card to write about plays around the world, but at 85, she finds travel difficult. “I’ve done all the things I’ve wanted to.”
*Added June 9: Here’s a video of Signature’s Tony Award acceptance speech, nicely including ATCA.*
The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced April 28 that the 2014 Regional Theatre Award will go to New York’s Signature Theatre, based on the recommendation of ATCA, which makes its choice through a confidential internal process of proposals and balloting. We are delighted our recommendation was accepted, as it has been every year since the award was instituted at ATCA’s suggestion in 1976. The award will be presented along with the other Tonys on June 8. Award announcement here; previous winners here. The award includes a grant of $25,000.
In its 40th year, ATCA is financially stable and looking to reach out to new critics. New officers elected, new programs planned, new thinking at Foundation ATCA. This fall, New York; next year, New Orleans; the year after, Moscow … uh, Philadelphia.
With two new members, the new excom meets on the afternoon of April 5. In full view (right): Jonathan Abarbanel, Myrna Petlicki, Erin Keane.
That night, a brief appearance is made by a sheetcake honoring ATCA’s 40th birthday (born in 1974): (at the left) from left, chair Abarbanel; Osborn Prize winner Topher Payne; former chair and Foundation president Jay Handelman; Foundation board member Glenn Loney; former chair Chris Rawson.