Coming out of productive meetings in New York and drawing on much work beforehand, excom chair Bill Hirschman has a lot to announce: proposals on ATCA’s membership and governance; sharing the NY conference via video; volunteers for international meetings; nominations for the Steinberg/ATCA and Osborn Awards; Primus Prize finalists; “Philadelphia, here we come” (April 6-10); Elections supervisor?; membership directory; speaking out; Excom vacancies … . All this follows.
Today (Thursday) the excom meets, and tomorrow the rest, with a full day of panels and discussions. (Schedule here; doubtless there have been changes.) The Sardi’s with the Stars luncheon follows on Saturday and there’s many a play to see… . If one of us has time amid the hurlyburly, we’ll post some updates.
A Seattle critic for the Huffington Post recently advertised his extra press comps for sale to women willing to accompany him. (Howard Sherman has the basic facts.) That’s risible enough, and it may even have been a joke (he advertised them at half face value, and most press comps have zero face value), but amused contempt and thundering denunciation have been his lot. Now ATCA has issued a statement, beginning, in part:
“[ATCA] is incensed that a Seattle theater critic for The Huffington Post has offered for sale on Craigslist his second free ticket to events that he was covering.
“’To be very clear, the writer is not a member of our organization,’ said Wm. F. Hirschman, chairman of ATCA’s executive committee. ‘But, nonetheless, we want to stress that our code of conduct specifically forbids taking advantage of the generosity of theaters’ decades-old practice of providing a second ticket to reviewers.’ …
“Chairman of ATCA’s Committee on Ethical Standards Victor Gluck wrote, ‘The ultimate problem with reviewers selling their complimentary tickets is that it casts an ethical pall over the entire critical community.’”
For the full ATCA statement, click here.
Use this link or the one in the right-hand column.
Sometimes we post essays about criticism in the right-hand column. But this piece by Charles McNulty for the LA Times earrents the front page.
Nowadays, he says, “criticism isn’t always readily distinguishable from the salesmanship and hype that have corrupted not just our politics but the arts, education and even healthcare.” … “Reviews written at an assembly-line rate aren’t going to have much room for contemplation. One symptom of the relentless pace is the lazy sprawl of plot summaries.” … “Verdicts must be delivered, but they shouldn’t be the ‘point’ of a review any more than an interpretive statement should be the point of a work of art.” … “[Report cards] make for dull reading… . Good prose ignores protocols… . Criticism is fundamentally — and defiantly — an act of writing.” … “Convincing an audience why [theater] should matter to them, and to a culture increasingly enthralled by its own superficiality, seems to me not a bad way of spending a working life.” He even quotes Northrop Frye!
Kerfuffles past: Similar issues were raised two years ago in the critical dust-up between McNulty and John Lahr, summarized here, with links.
Or something like that (Ben knew how to have a good time). He was doubtless thinking of ATCA’s 2016 annual conference, slated for Philadelphia, April 6-10, 2016. The host hotel is the Marriott Courtyard on Juniper Street, across from City Hall, at $149 a night. Five productions and maybe six! … and much more; details soon.
But before that, we convene in New York for the annual weekend conference, Nov. 13-15 (detail in the right-hand column — or scroll down to the Daumier critic at Sardi’s).
The 2015 class of the Theatre Hall of Fame, chosen by ATCA members and current members of the Hall, includes composer-lyricist team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, lighting designer Ken Billington, publicist Merle Debuskey, director Robert Falls, actor Stacy Keach, playwright Tony Kushner, director-designer Julie Taymor and the late actor-director Roger Rees. Their induction will be celebrated Nov. 16 at the Gershwin Theatre, where names of Hall members are mounted in the upper lobbies in letters of gold. Producing the induction is Terry Hodge Taylor. For further information: Playbill; Hall of Fame; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; ATCA archive of Hall inductions.
Hotel and theatre ticket arrangements are on your own.
See the event page for details.
ATCA members’ ballots for the 2015 class of the Theatre Hall of Fame (located in Broad- way’s Gershwin Theatre) are in the mail and must be returned by Sept. 4. If you haven’t received yours by this Friday (Aug. 14), email Barry Gaines or Chris Rawson. It is an honor of ATCA membership to be part of this electorate — please participate!
Lou Harry, new chair of the New Play committee, welcomes new committee members Kathy Allen, Evans Donnell, Marjorie Oberlander, Frank Rizzo, Martha Steketee and Daniel Sullivan – a pretty heavyweight group.
As we pass the year’s mid-point, Lou reminds all ATCA members to nominate outstanding new plays by American playwrights (“and I do mean outstanding — okay plays just add work for all of us”). Nominated plays must have had a professional premiere in the U.S. in 2015.
Questions? Email Lou.
Where does our money go? (Well, in this case it’s mainly the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust money.) We have videos of the checks changing hands at last spring’s Humana Festival, as the 2015 Steinberg/ATCA and Osborn Awards were presented by New Play Committee chair Bill Hirschman.
First, Hirschman introduces Jim Steinberg of the Steinberg Trust; then Rebecca Gilman receives the $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for Luna Gale; then Lucas Hnath and Nathan Alan Davis accept $7,500 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Citations for The Christians and Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea, respectively; and finally Tom Coash accepts ATCA’s $1,000 Osborn Award for Veils. (Thanks to ATCA member Pam Harbaugh of Brevard Culture.com.)
In an email, excom chair Bill Hirschman gives a comprehensive report on actions taken and contemplated by the new excom elected at the New Orleans conference. Included are calls for recommendations for the Steinberg and Osborn awards, plus news on electronic voting, the Bitter Lemons controversy, printed directory, a call for volunteers, and plans for future conferences in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco. The full report follows.
Speaking for the ATCA excom, chair Bill Hirschman has said:
“The American Theatre Critics’ Association, the only national organization of professional theater critics, is concerned with the model started by Bitter Lemons. While it does not guarantee a favorable review or allow theater companies to choose the reviewer, this pay-for-play arrangement creates a clear appearance of a conflict of interest. That appearance, even if spurious, undermines the crucial credibility of not only Bitter Lemons’ critics, but all critics.
“Our profession has fought for decades to preserve the image of independence. When our work is put out for sale to those we cover, we are concerned not just for the criticism itself but for the bypassing of editorial judgment in deciding what and what not to cover.”
Follow the active responses @Theatre_Critics (orange section, left-hand column).