Broadway gets Bette, but ATCA-SF17 gets a real matchmaker

March 27:

“Call on Eddy, if your housing budget needs a friend.
Just name the kind of room you’d like to share and the scratch you’d pay.
Ed will pair you with an ATCA pal for a matching stay.
Call on Eddy, if your conf’rence budget needs a friend.” *

* With apologies to Jerry Herman.

That’s right, the inimitable “Fast Eddy” Rubin has volunteered to serve as the ATCA-SF17 housing matchmaker for members wanting to share accommodations during the conference. If you want his assistance, please email him at erubin5000@aol.com.

Speaking of accommodations, our room block at the Hilton is 79% full. Once we hit 100% the current low room rate may no longer be available and higher rates will likely apply. DO NOT CALL THE HOTEL. YOU MUST BOOK ONLINE.

Click here to book ‘em, Danno.

The clock is also ticking on the early bird rate for the conference registrations. The $195 rate converts to $245 on April 15, 2017. Save that $50 difference.

Click here to register.

The other deadline to consider comes on May 1, 2017. This is the deadline for current qualifying members - those who joined ATCA since the 2016 conference in Philadelphia - to request ATCA-SF17 registration sponsorship courtesy of the Foundation for ATCA. You can verify your eligibility for this sponsorship by sending an email confirming your plans to attend ATCA-SF17 using this benefit to atca-sf17@americantheatrecritics.org.

May 1 is also the deadline for new member applications to be filed in time to be vetted for acceptance and ATCA-SF17 attendance. So if you have been planning to encourage friends and colleagues who might want to come to San Francisco to apply, DO IT NOW.

As ever, you may send your questions on any other aspects of the San Francisco conference to atca-sf17@americantheatrecritics.org.

584 Castro Street - #119
San Francisco, CA  94114


ATCA-SF17 Newsletter 3/19/17

The Early Bird Man of Alcatraz…

This year’s ATCA conference will be a groovy happening in San Francisco from June 15-18, 2017! You can save yourself half a C-note if you register by April 15, after which the Early Bird Man of Alcatraz jumps The Rock and registration fees go up to $245 for both members and guests.

Click here for the registration link.

If you are bringing a guest, please process your own registration first and then that of your guest. PLEASE NOTE: There will be NO refunds on registration fees.

If you are a “new” member of ATCA - meaning you joined since roughly the time of the conference in Philadelphia last April - Foundation ATCA will underwrite your San Francisco conference registration. If you wish to apply for this sponsorship, please send an email to atca-sf17@americantheatrecritics.org and request confirmation of your eligibility.

If you know someone who is considering joining, please tell them the membership application submission deadline for processing in time for consideration for this benefit for the San Francisco conference is May 1.

The Conference Commune

Thanks to a great connection with one of our Bay Area Travel Writers colleagues ATCA has secured an amazing rate at a hotel that could only be more centrally located if it existed inside a theatre! The Hilton San Francisco Union Square, the largest non-gaming hotel on the West Coast, is in the heart of the theater district and within walking distance of shopping, restaurants, cable cars and much more.

Click here to reserve your rooms!
Hilton San Francisco Union Square, 333 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

The base room rate is $179 per night plus a 16.5% occupancy tax, so your cost for a three-night stay is $625.34 including taxes. Various upgrades are available including four-person occupancy, view rooms, and junior suites. All ATCA participants will receive complimentary guestroom internet, complimentary fitness center access, and waived check-in/check-out porterage charges. ATCA has reserved a block of thirty rooms for the conference. Additional rooms are subject to availability and rates may increase, so book early to ensure your accommodations.

For members who want to arrive early or stay late, the ATCA rate can be booked as early as Friday, June 9 for check in and extended through a Wednesday, June 21 check out, subject to availability, of course.

The hotel has a pool, restaurant on premises serving breakfast and dinner, food service from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, oh… and a cozy little bar called Cityscape… covering the whole 46th floor! 

Click here to reserve your rooms!

Scaling The Rock and Other Tales of the City

There’s been an exceptional amount of interest from conference attendees in being able to plan an excursion to Alcatraz. You can do so before or after ATCA-SF17 as a guest of Alcatraz as long as you have a solid assignment for writing a travel piece on San Francisco from your publisher. If you fit the bill, please email  with the following information to atca-sf17@americnatheatrecritics.org (copy and paste of the fields below into your email is encouraged):

  1. Name:
  2. Media Outlet(s):
  3. Email Address:
  4. Requested Alcatraz Visit Date:
  5. Requested Alcatraz Visit Time:
  6. Guests (if any):
  7. Mobility Assistance Needed (Y/N):


1. All bookings subject to availability.
2. Deadline for reservations is May 1.
3. ONE pass per journalist with writing assignment per media outlet.
4. Guest tickets will be approximately $37.00 per person.
5. Night Tour, Behind the Scenes and Alcatraz & Angel Island Tour options are NOT available.
6. Also, requested times may need to shift slightly subject to availability.

Here is the schedule that will be in effect in June
. Just like theatre, once confirmed, tickets will be held at Will Call at the pier. You must bring a picture ID and you will be asked to pay for your guest tickets (if any) at that time. That’s all the carrier pigeon  wrote. These requirements are from the venue.

In other travel writing news, conference attendees arriving early or staying later who have confirmed assignments to write stories 
about San Francisco as a travel destination should contact Laurie Armstrong at San Francisco Travel, for assistance with their local pre- or post-conference itinerary. larmstrong@sanfrancisco.travel


Playwright Lauren Yee wins $10,000 Francesca Primus Prize for 2016

March 14, 2017—The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has announced that playwright Lauren Yee has been awarded the 2016 Francesca Primus Prize for her play in a word. Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman playwright. Yee will receive the $10,000 award check immediately and be officially congratulated at an upcoming ATCA conference. Playwright Lauren Yee

How do you find the words to express grief and loss, especially when they are tinged with guilt? That is the conundrum at the heart of in a word. Fiona and Guy’s seven-year-old adopted son, Tristan, disappeared two years earlier, apparently kidnapped. Tristan was a very bright but difficult child, and the day he vanished was a particularly taxing one for Fiona. The passage of time seems to have intensified her inability to cope with what has happened, rather than making things easier. Words elude her or change meaning even as she says them, and objects take on a life of their own. Her chronic distraction and fixation on Tristan’s disappearance are also creating what may become an irreparable rift in her relationship with Guy. 

What makes in a word so remarkable is the imaginative and unique way Yee plays with language. Words and their meanings become fluid and either merge or collide with one another. One critic commented that “reality swerves regularly into absurdism” in the play, and Yee says that in a word “captures my interest in both the form and architecture of language….the loss triggers not only a breakdown of their [Fiona and Guy’s] relationship but a breakdown of their conversations with each other and the outside world.” She continues, “To me, the funny and the painful go hand in hand. I’m interested in how human beings rely on fantasy and humor to get through difficult situations….My work varies wildly in subject matter and style. In each, the language is completely specific to the world of that particular play.”

in a word evolved through a series of readings from 2010 to 2014 at theaters as eclectic as the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, Lincoln Center’s LCT3 in New York City, and the Boston Court Theatre in Pasadena. It received its debut production at the San Francisco Playhouse in 2015 as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere with subsequent productions at the Cleveland Public Theatre, Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego, and Strawdog Theatre Company in Chicago. The play has been published by Samuel French.

Yee is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, the largest resident company of Asian American playwrights, as well as a Dramatists Guild associate member and a Northwestern University playwriting module mentor. Previously she was a Playwrights’ Center Core Writer and playwright-in-residence at the Chance Theater and Second Stage Theatre. Theaters that have commissioned her plays include South Coast Rep, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Trinity Repertory Company, Portland Center Stage, Mixed Blood Theatre, Lincoln Center Theatre/LCT3, the Goodman Theatre, and Encore Theatre Company. She received her BA in theater studies and English from Yale and her MFA in playwriting from the University of California San Diego. She has been honored with numerous awards and fellowships. Other plays include Ching Chong Chinaman, The Hatmaker’s Wife, Hookman, King of the Yees, and Samsara.  

Yee was selected from 26 applicants by a nationwide committee of critics, chaired by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City, UT) and composed of Julie York Coppens (Juneau, AK), Marianne Evett (Arlington, MA), Kerry Reid (Chicago, IL), Lynn Rosen (Bellingham, WA), and Herb Simpson (Geneseo, NY).

“The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation was established to recognize and support emerging women artists who are making a difference in the theater community in which they work,” observed Barry Primus, the foundation administrator. Founded in 1997 in memory of actress and critic Francesca Primus, the Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004.

ATCA is the nationwide organization of theater critics and an affiliate of the International Association of Theatre Critics. In addition to the Primus Prize, it administers two other playwriting awards: the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. ATCA members also recommend a regional theater for the annual Tony Award and vote on induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Previous Winners of the Francesca Primus Prize

2015      Sharyn Rothstein, playwright, By the Water 
2014      Jennifer Haley, playwright, The Nether
2013      Stefanie Zadravec, playwright, The Electric Baby
2012      Tammy Ryan, playwright, Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods
2011      Caridad Svich, playwright, The House of the Spirits
2010      Michele Lowe, playwright, Inana
2009      Jamie Pachino, playwright, Splitting Infinity
2008      EM Lewis, playwright, Heads
2007      Victoria Stewart, playwright, Hardball
2006      Karen Zacarias, playwright and founder/artistic director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, Washington, DC, Mariela in the Desert
2005      Michelle Hensley, artistic director of Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company, Minneapolis
2004      Lynn Nottage, playwright, Intimate Apparel
2002      Alexandra Cunningham, playwright, Pavane
2001      S. M. Shepard-Massat, playwright, Some Place Soft to Fall
2000      Brooke Berman, playwright, Playing House
1999      Melanie Marnich, playwright, Blur
1998      Brooke Berman, playwright, Wonderland
1997      Julia Jordan, playwright, Tatjana in Color


U.S. Theater Critics Name Six Finalists for Nation's Largest New Play Award

The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has selected six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2016.

The top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented April 8 at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. At $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award program of its kind.

In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many awards. No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year. Since 2000, the award has been generously funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

The finalists, alphabetically by play (including comments from the judging panel):

The Ice Treatment, by Nate Eppler – “Compelling, with fast moving story and well-constructed dialogue…plus a cosmonaut,” opined one panelist of Eppler’s darkly funny take on celebrity, concerning a “modern day, working-class monster—or is she?” “Always on the verge of careening out of control, the tonal shifts are wild,” chimed in others of this “interrogation of the American Dream” as an ice skater “writes her own story, regardless of the truth. “The Ice Treatment” had its world premiere at Actors Bridge Ensemble in Nashville, TN.

in a word, by Lauren Yee – “Important and honest questions are being asked, here,” commented one panelist. “Yee’s masterful drama about a mother’s living nightmare after a child’s disappearance is a mystery of word puzzles” that are “lyrical and haunting and very well-constructed.” “To have an ending that is satisfying dramatically but still appropriately unresolved is a tough nut to crack and this one does it.” “in a word,” received a rolling world premiere via the National New Play Network at the San Francisco Playhouse, the Cleveland Public Theatre, and Chicago’s Straw Dog Theatre.

Man in the Ring, by Michael Cristofer – With “the inexorable feel of a classic tragedy,” this drama “with its Caribbean songs and its rhythm and thrust, seems at first to be a play of beautiful and utter simplicity. But au contraire.” Based on the true story of a boxer who killed a man in the ring, “the playwright threads through guilt and tragedy, weaving past and present together seamlessly.” This rich play stays “within the playwright’s total control while allowing for the frayed edges that make it feel alive and not premeditated.” “Man in the Ring” premiered at Chicago’s Court Theatre.

Mary Page Marlowe, by Tracy Letts – “Generous and incredibly specific,” Letts’ play drew panelists in “by both the flawed, multifaceted woman at the play’s center and how the non-linear storytelling painted this vivid picture of her.” Added others: “The beauty of this play, the originality, the well-crafted scenes – with a scope so much larger than so many ‘issue’ plays” brought to life “an imperfect, fascinating, stalwart character…who doesn’t yield her story to any of the people around her.” “Mary Page Marlowe” premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.

Time is On Our Side, by R. Eric Thomas – Who gets to tell our stories? And why do they tell them? Those are some of the questions asked in Thomas’ tale of podcasters who discover a hidden diary. The play features “fantastic language,” and “sharp wit” that “could have become a sentimental mess at any moment but somehow always saved itself.” “Time is On Our Side” premiered at Philadelphia’s Sympatico Theatre.

Visiting Edna, by David Rabe – With “extraordinarily constructed dialogues and monologues that are simultaneously wide-ranging and super specific,” Rabe’s play is primarily focused on a dying mother and her son but with characters including her TV…and Cancer itself. “While aging and dying may be all around us in the theater, right now,” commented one panelist, “I found this play particularly brave and honest and deep, without getting sentimental or trying to be existentially profound, about what it means to face death (both for mother and son). I can’t shake this play. And I don’t want to.” “Visiting Edna” had its world premiere at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre.

These six finalists were selected from eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. They were evaluated by a committee of theater critics, led by Lou Harry of the Indianapolis Business Journal/IBJ.com.

Other committee members are: Misha Berson, Seattle Times, American Theatre (Seattle, WA); Bruce Burgun, The New Orleans Advocate (New Orleans, LA.); Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times (Madison, WI); Mike Fischer, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI); Pam Harbaugh, BrevardCulture.com,florida.theatreonstage.com (Indialantic, FL); Michael P. Howley, theatremontgomery.blogspot.com (Montgomery, AL); Erin Keane, managing editor, Salon.com (Louisville, KY); Mark Lowry, TheaterJones.com, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Dallas, TX); Jonathan Mandell, NewYorkTheater.me, DC Theatre Scene (New York, NY); Julius Novick, veteran critic and professor (New York City); Marjorie Oberlander, The Shakespeare Newsletter  (New York, NY); Kathryn Osenlund, Phindie, CurtainUp (Philadelphia); Wendy Parker, freelance (Midlothian, Va); David Sheward, ArtsinNY.com, Theaterlife.com (Jackson Heights, NY); Martha Wade Steketee, Howlround.com, TDF Stages (New York, NY); and Perry Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing, CVNC.org, (Charlotte, NC).

“The opportunity to experience outstanding work from around the country is one of the great pleasures of working on this project,” said committee chair Lou Harry. “Another is to participate in debates among learned colleagues with a wide range of theatrical experience. The result, I’m proud to say, is that awards will be going to deserving playwrights who are adding to the theatrical wealth of the world. Thanks to the Steinbergs, these plays will have extra light shining on them.”

Since the inception of ATCA’s New Play Award, honorees have included Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Moises Kaufman, Craig Lucas, and Robert Schenkkan. Last year’s honoree was “Vietgone” by Qui Nguyen. For a full list of all of our winners and runners-up, go towww.americantheatrecritics.org and click on Steinberg-ATCA under Awards.

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust was created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of himself and his late wife. Pursuing its primary mission to support the American theater, it has provided grants totaling millions of dollars for new productions of American plays and educational programs for those who may not ordinarily experience live theater.

ATCA was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of critics’ functions and responsibilities. The only national association of professional theater critics, with several hundred members working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and websites, ATCA is affiliated with the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

ATCA also presents the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award, honoring emerging playwrights. It also administers the $10,000 Francesca Primus Prize, funded by the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by female artists who have not yet achieved national prominence. Annually, ATCA makes a recommendation for the Regional Theatre Tony Award presented by the American Theatre Wing/Broadway League and votes on inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame. For more information on ATCA, visit www.americantheatrecritics.org.

For more information on the Steinberg/ATCA Award, contact Lou Harry, ATCA New Plays Chairman, Arts & Entertainment Editor/Indianapolis Business Journal/IBJ.com, lharry@ibj.com or Wm. F. Hirschman, chairman of ATCA executive committee  muckrayk@aol.com

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ATCA names seven finalists for 2016 Francesca Primus Prize

January 22, 2017 — The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has announced the names of the seven finalists for the 2016 Francesca Primus Prize. Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize, which includes an award of $10,000, is given annually to an emerging woman playwright. 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.”

Mia Chung’s “You for Me for You” is set in North Korea, where two sisters are desperate to escape their bleak existence. Junhee is successful, Minhee is not, but the world that Junhee finds in America is as alien and unfriendly as the one her sister must cope with at home. The play premiered at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 2012, but Chung completely revised it for new productions at the Royal Court Theatre in London, Portland Playhouse, and Mu Performing Arts at the Guthrie Theatre.

Ida, the central character in Cheryl Davis’ “Maid’s Door,” is an elderly African American woman who is slipping into dementia. Her mind keeps carrying her back to the days when she worked as a maid for a white family and had to use a separate door. The play interweaves scenes from the past and present with her family to capture her feeling of confused timelessness. “Maid’s Door” was part of the 2015 National Black Theatre Festival.

Laura Jacqmin’s “Look, we are breathing” takes a unique perspective: Mike, its central character, is dead. Three women who knew him well—his mother, a high-school teacher who clashed with him, and the young woman who wanted to be his girlfriend—paint contrasting portraits of him. Was he a rude, rebellious teenager or only misunderstood? The play premiered at the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago.

Darja, the central character of Martyna Majok’s “Ironbound,” is as tough minded and stubborn as the play’s title. She has had to be that way to survive as an immigrant factory worker in New Jersey. The play focuses on her conflicted relationship with the three important men in her life—her ex-husband, her son, and her longtime lover—over the course of 22 years. “Ironbound” premiered at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland.

Melissa Ross’ “Nice Girl” takes a hard look at the ambivalent relationship between a dominating, needy mother and a daughter anxiously longing for more in her life. When Jo, the daughter, meets Donny, will their relationship open new doors for her or simply drive a deeper wedge between her and her mother? “Nice Girl” debuted at Labyrinth Theater Company in New York City.

Melissa, the daughter in Stephanie Walker’s “The Art of Disappearing,” has never felt accepted by her family. When her mother Charlotte begins to show signs of developing dementia, their inability to communicate and Melissa’s feelings that her mother has never encouraged or appreciated her need to be an artist intensify. “The Art of Disappearing” premiered at the 16th Street Theater in Chicago.  

We become incoherent in the presence of grief and loss. Lauren Yee vividly captures this experience in “in a word.” When Fiona and Guy’s young son, Tristan, disappears—apparently kidnapped—Fiona cannot cope with or even express her feelings of loss and guilt. The fact that Tristan was a difficult child only makes her feelings more ambivalent. The play was a National New Play Network rolling world premiere at the San Francisco Playhouse and the Cleveland Public Theatre. 

The seven finalists were selected from 26 award applicants by a nationwide committee of critics, chaired by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City, UT) and composed of Julie York Coppens (Juneau, AK), Marianne Evett (Arlington, MA), Kerry Reid (Chicago, IL), Lynn Rosen (Bellingham, WA), and Herb Simpson (Geneseo, NY). Playwrights can nominate themselves for the award or be nominated by theater companies where their work has appeared. 

“The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation was established to recognize and support emerging women artists who are making a difference in the theater community in which they work,” observed Barry Primus, the foundation administrator. The Primus Prize originated in 1997 in memory of actress and critic Francesca Primus. For a fuller description of the award, with information about applying and a list of previous winners, click here.

ATCA is the nationwide organization of theater critics and an affiliate of the International Association of Theatre Critics. In addition to the Primus Prize, it administers two other playwriting awards: the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award.

For more information, contact Barbara Bannon at bbannon@xmission.com.