The American Theatre Critics Association, Inc. is the only national association of professional theatre critics. Our members work for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and on-line services across the United States.

Membership is open to all any writer who regularly publishes substantive pieces reviewing or otherwise critically covering theater.

Daumier’s 1865 caricature, “La Promenade du Critique Influent,” has been ATCA’s self-deprecatory logo since its founding. Many annual conferences have used it to create parodic logos of their own (see the examples on the Home and Conferences pages).Since its founding in 1974, ATCA has provided opportunities for members to explore the remarkable artistic resources of our national theatre and of theatre around the globe.

We work to foster greater communication among theatre critics in the United States and abroad, to improve the training and development of critics at different stages of their careers, to advocate absolute freedom of expression in theatre and theatre criticism – including the individual critic’s right to disagree with the opinions of colleagues and to increase public awareness of the theatre as an important national resource.

Benefits of Membership

ATCA offers valuable professional and networking opportunities through twice yearly conferences. In a typical year, members gather for a four-day annual conference in a major theatre center outside New York, as well as for a shorter meeting in New York or elsewhere, perhaps at some theater festival. In addition to panels, workshops, seminars, guest speakers, discussions with regional and national theater practitioners and a sampling of the region’s theatres, there’s ample opportunity to talk shop and socialize with others in the profession.

ATCA also offers occasional other opportunities for educational and personal enrichment. As do the annual conferences, weekend seminars and study tours help critics sharpen their skills and widen their cultural horizons.

In addition to these conferences and meetings, ATCA provides information through email and on its website about current trends in theatre, the ethical dilemmas critics face, and upcoming international seminars and workshops through the International Association of Theatre Critics, of which ATCA is the American affiliate.

ATCA members also join in supporting new plays. Each year ATCA administers more than $50,000 in awards for new plays and emerging playwrights. Members also make a recommendation to the American Theatre Wing for the Regional Theatre Tony Award© and vote on inductees to the Theater Hall of Fame.

ATCA History

ATCA was founded in 1974 by a group of leading theater critics from around the country who for several years had been gathering at the O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn. They decided, what with the growth of professional regional theater, that there needed to be a national organization with a larger scope than the geographically-challenged (one might even say provincial) New York Drama Critics Circle. They may have had even saltier things to say than that.

ATCA’s connection to the O’Neill is made tangible in the annual National Critics Institute, which many ATCA members have attended as fellows and mentors and which ATCA continues to support financially. And many ATCA members continue to visit the O’Neill when they can — as many did in July, 2010, for the annual conference.

The best account of ATCA’s early years and indeed of the wisdom and experience of a passing era in theater criticism is Under the Copper Beech: Conversations with American Theater Critics, edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins (Foundation ATCA, 2004; pp. x, 221). This collection of informal interviews with many of ATCA’s founders — Lawrence DeVine, Otis L. Guernsey Jr., Henry Hewes, Clara Hieronymus, Ann Holmes, Norman Nadel, Elliot Norton, Julius Novick, Ernest Schier and Dan Sullivan — ought to be in every critic’s library.

Under the Copper Beech
retails at $15, or $20 postage paid; for ATCA members it’s $10, or $15 postage paid. Proceeds benefit the educational programs of Foundation ATCA. To purchase, send a check (made out to Foundation ATCA) to Robert Sokol at the address below. To purchase at a large discount in quantity for criticism courses, contact Chris Rawson.

ATCA Member Code of Conduct

(Adopted July, 1997, Cedar City, Utah, updated June 2017)

Our love of theater has brought us together from a variety of backgrounds, careers and levels of experience. It is important for us to remember that our actions reflect on the organization, its members and the profession. 

Membership in the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) is a privilege. The Association expects the members to adhere to the following in the performance of their professional duties:

1) Collegiality is expected within the Association. Members must treat their colleagues with professional and personal respect, courtesy and integrity. Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated in Association meetings and activities, and is strongly discouraged in our profession as a whole. 

2) Members of the Association are expected to maintain high standards of journalistic practice with respect to the integrity and independence of their reporting and reviewing. Such standards include, but are not limited to, confirmation of news and information by reliable sources, acknowledgement of sources, accuracy of quotes and freedom from conflicts of interest (actual or perceived).

3) Complimentary tickets or merchandise are intended for use only by members and their guests (if any). Complimentary tickets/items not used by a member should be returned to the giver (typically the theater company or media representative). It is forbidden to re-gift them to third parties or to sell them. Asking for more — whether tickets, merchandise or anything else — is discouraged unless offered. 

4) A member must adhere to the policies of the individual theaters he/she attends with respect to the use of cell phones and other mobile devices, cameras or other recording/photographic devices, smoking and bringing food or drink into the playhouse. Members should be aware that the various performing unions (AEA, SDC among them) forbid the use of recording or image-taking devices during performances (including curtain calls) unless expressly authorized in advance.

5) In the course of performing their duties, members should be discreet in discussing productions or performances in public spaces before, after and during the performance. Members should respect the reticence of colleagues who prefer not to discuss their reactions. 

6) Members must be sensitive to issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, diversity and underrepresented populations.

7) Members should respect the reputation of the Association and not invoke ATCA’s name or their membership in it to intimidate, coerce or establish their bona fides.

8) Members recognize that their postings on social media — often done in an instant — can reflect upon their professional status and reputation and also on the status and reputation of the Association.

9) Members should recognize that failure to abide by this agreement may jeopardize ATCA’s relationship with media representatives, event hosts, the theater community and others who offer the organization services or hospitality. It also compromises our reputation, both individually and as the only national professional organization for theater critics. 


Contact Us

For information and membership inquiries contact:

ATCA Operations Manager, Robert Sokol

American Theatre Critics Association
584 Castro Street - #119
San Francisco, CA  94114

o: 415.964.8040 | f: 415.869.3700