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 19, 1997, Cedar City, Utah)

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.

“As a condition of my ATCA membership I agree to the following:

“I will respect the intent of complimentary items (tickets, merchandise) given to me in the course of my job and not use them for financial gain.
“I will accept the graciousness of our hosts at ATCA functions and the right of my fellow members to share equally in the hospitality they provide. I will not take more than my share or assume remaining items are free for the taking.
“I will respect the reputation of the organization and not invoke ATCA’s name or my membership in it to threaten or intimidate.
“Within the association, I shall treat my colleagues with professional respect, courtesy and integrity.
“I recognize that failure to abide by this agreement may jeopardize ATCA’s relationship with press agents, event hosts, the theatre community and others who offer us hospitality. It also compromises our professional reputation.
“I have read and understood the above and agree to abide by this code of conduct.”

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