ATCA

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 any writer who regularly publishes substantive pieces reviewing or otherwise critically covering theater.

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Join Us on Twitter: @theatre_critics and @atca_member
Member Blogroll

Nancy Bishop reviews Chicago theater for gapersblock.com and for her own blog.

Lindsay Christians writes theatre reviews at 77 Square; also arts blog On the Aisle; The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal, Madison.

David Cote blogs, reports on theater and reviews Broadway, Off and Off-Off productions for Time Out New York and davidcote.com.

Harry Duke covers theatre throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. His essays and reviews can be found on the For All Events website and in the Sonoma County Gazette.

Michael Grossberg  writes on theater, comedy and the arts in Theater Talk, for the Columbus Dispatch.

Melissa Hall writes theatre reviews for the blog Stage Write. She mainly attends Indianapolis events, but also covers other Midwestern venues when possible.

Jay Handelman writes  News, reviews and opinion for the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Pam Harbaugh’s blog, Brevard Culture, offers reviews, commentary and links in arts and culture primarily for residents of Brevard County and the Orlando area.   

Lou Harry  writes Lou Harry’s A&E: opinion, debate and discussion on arts and entertainment for the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Bill Hirschman is editor, chief critic and reporter for Florida Theater On Stage.

Chris Jones writes reviews, interviews and commentary for Theater Loop at the Chicago Tribune.

David Lefkowitz publishes the theater website TotalTheater.com, co-publishes the theater journal Performing Arts Insider, and reviews on his weekly radio show, Dave’s Gone By.

Jack Lyons covers the theatre scene for the Desert Local News. Jack is based in Desert Hot Springs and covers the entire Coachella Valley and the rest of Southern California including select productions in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and San Diego.

Katherine Luck writes news and reviews of theatre in Seattle, Portland, and around the Puget Sound at Pacific NW Theatre.

Jonathan Mandell reviews Broadway, Off-Broadway and independent theater productions, and covers theater for a variety of publications, including Playbill and American Theatre Magazine.  He blogs at New York Theater and Tweets as @NewYorkTheater.

Andrew McGibbon writes Theatre Opinion, News and Information in TheAndyGram, based in NYC.

Kathryn Osenlund reviews Philadelphia theater productions and some New York theater festivals for www.curtainup.com. She also writes for www.Phindie.com —independent coverage of Philadelphia and arts, and tweets as @theatrendorphin.

Rick Pender edits   The Sondheim Review, a quarterly dedicated to the musical theatre’s foremost composer and lyricist.

Christopher Rawson contributes to OnStage Journal and OnStage podcasts and reviews in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Wendy Rosenfield covers drama, onstage and off, in Drama Queen and the Philadelphia Inquirer

Michelle F. Solomon is a critic, reviewing professional theater and professional touring productions, for Florida Theater On Stage and miamiartzine.com.

Martha Wade Steketee writes reviews, interviews, and commentary on Broadway, Off Broadway, regional theatre, and film for Urban Excavations in New York City.
Steve Treacy is the primary theatre critic for The Port Townsend Leader. Find his reviews of Pacific Northwest shows at ptleader.com.

Lauren Yarger  reviews Broadway and OB for Reflections in the Light and reports on pro theatre and arts in Connecticut Arts Connection.

 

 

San Francisco Annual Conference, June 15-18, 2017: The whole, mouth-watering experience is now available for your consideration. ATCA members click here! 

 

 

International

See ATCA International for news of the International Association of Theatre Critics from the ATCA members who represent us there. See also the IATC’s own site (just [2017] handsomely redesigned) and its web journal, Critical Stages, where the current issue deals at length with Theatre and State

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Critics in the news

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Why is Lyn Gardner sad?

Why is Lyn Gardner happy?
The first Lyn appeared in The Stage from London, March 14, with this story — Journalist and critic Lyn Gardner’s theatre blog for the Guardian had been cancelled.

… The second Lyn appeared in The Stage, March 16, with this followup: “More than 40 UK theatres, including the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sheffield Theatres and the Royal Exchange, have signed a letter to the Guardian calling on it to reinstate Lyn Gardner’s theatre blogs.”

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And just previously, in N.Y… . we had the Charles Isherwood imbroglio, and the followup flap over a NYT “Big River” review.

Martha Steketee’s accumulating interviews of critics for The Clyde Fitch Report (click for index):


 

      

The 2016 Tony Award for Regional Theater went, on ATCA’s recommendation, to New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse.
 
Elsewhere (off)site: for the website of the Drama section of the (British) Critics’ Circle, click here.

 

{For collected Pull Quotes going back to July, 2012, CLICK HERE.} 

I “believe in culture as a social justice and social change project, which requires not just looking at how ‘good’ a performance is, but at what it does in the world.” — Jill S. Dolan, critic for “The Feminist Spectator” (Princeton University, Dean of the College).

“The Internet allows an avalanche of opinion for infinite sources, many of them rubbish, mean-spirited and lazy. But there’s some terrific writing out there too, and best of all there are so many new ways of reviewing.” — Frank Rizzo, 33 years as Hartford Courant critic, now writes for Variety and many more.

“You go wanting to fall in love with a production and that is so rare. I wanted to be smart and reasonable in my writing, to steer people towards the truth, and also had a lot of empathy for artists. I knew pretty soon formal criticism wasn’t for me.” — Eliza Bent, playwright and arts writer, American Theatre, TDF Stages, etc

* Previous Pull Quotes are ASSEMBLED HERE

ATCA members: Send us material for the Members’ Milestones page.


Past Conferences

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NYC weekend, 2016 (for reports and details, scroll down on central column)



2016 annual conference in Philadelphia, April 6-10. Some coverage: day one, day two, day three-A, day three-B, day four, day five. Full schedule here

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2015 NYC Weekend Conference
Sherry Eaker & Ira Bilowit, chairs

 

2015 New Orleans Conference 
Alan Smason, chair 

 

2014 Weekend Conference
New York City
 

2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Humana Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville, April 2-6
; chair, Jonathan Abarbanel.

2013 ANNUAL CONFERENCE, CATF, Shepherdstown, WV, July 17-21 — Details here; Tim Treanor, Chair

Logo by Tim Menees after Honore Daumier

2013 WEEKEND CONFERENCE
Indianapolis, Indiana
March 21-24, 2013
Lou Harry, Chair 

2012 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Chicago, June 13-17, 2012
Jonathan Abarbanel, Chair
See ATCA BLOG for short takes

Milwaukee Add-On
Anne Siegel, Chair
June 17-20, 2012

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2012 WEEKEND MEETING
Colorado New Play Summit
Denver Center Theatre Company, Feb 10-12, 2012

2011 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Ashland, Oregon July 6-10, 2011
Chris Rawson, Chair 

Logo by Tim Menees after Honore Daumier

2010 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Conn.
Chris Rawson, Chair 

Playwright and critic

Playwright and two critics

Check out: ATCA Blog — scroll back for accounts of ATCA/Ashland, ATCA/O’Neill, more on the Pulitzer controversy, also from Humana and Denver festivals

 

 

Past event logos

 

 

(above) Sarasota, 2009. 

 

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Fun ‘n Games

Honest-to-Goodness Theater Geek Trivia Contest, Florida Theatre On Stage, Bill Hirschman, ed. (includes links to answers)

Round One.
Round Two

Monday
Jan022017

IATC Young Critics Seminar in Poland in October, 2016

ATCA’s Russell Warne (managing editor, Utah Theatre Bloggers Assn.) files a very interesting report on the YCS he recently attended in Poland, commenting

IATC Young Critics’ Seminar in Wroclaw, Poland, 2016, left to right: Renan Ji (Brazil), Lucia Galdíková (Slovakia), Klaudia Antal (Hungary), Russell Warne (U.S.), Ilze Ļaksa-Timinska (Latvia), Octavian Saiu (moderator, Romania), Maia Kanchelashvili (Georgia), Iiris Viirpalu (Estonia), Albena Tagareva (Bulgaria), and Radka Kunderová (Czech Republic).especially on the similarities and differences between the concerns and issues addressed there and in the U.S. (To read, cick link here or below.) Such seminars are sponsored irregularly by the International Association of Theatre Critics, of which ATCA is the American affiliate. Expenses (including housing and some food) are generally paid by the hosts, and ATCA or its Foundation can often help with travel. Watch the ATCA eBlasts for info on future seminars, or keep an eye on the IATC website.

Russell Warne writes:

            Thanks to the financial support of Foundation ATCA (and some lucky timing with the schedule at my day job), I was fortunate enough to attend the Young Critics’ Seminar, sponsored by the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC). Held in conjunction with the Theatre Olympics in Wrocław, Poland, the Oct. 19-25, 2016 young critics’ seminar was a 6-day educational development event in which a senior IATC member, Octavian Saiu from Romania, led discussions about all aspects of modern theatre criticism. I was one of ten young critics from ten countries that participated in these conversations.

What fascinated in my time with the moderator and with other young critics was how relevant the discussions were for my day-to-day practice as a theatre critic in America. Although it would be infeasible for me to write about every topic we discussed, several interesting themes were discussed throughout the seminar. For the convenience of ATCA members, I have divided these six themes into two groups: topics that American theatre critics discuss among themselves regularly, and topics that are rarely discussed by American theatre critics.

Regular Topics Among American Critics

Changes to the criticism landscape

            Critics from almost every country stated a theme that is common in ATCA meetings: shrinking economic opportunities for critics as media outlets reduce their coverage of live theatre. Two of the participants (including myself) were unpaid critics for online web sites, while all of the other young critics used their criticism work as supplemental income. The international critics all see the internet as the cause of the changes in the criticism landscape. Yet, they also saw the internet as an opportunity for their work. The flexibility of the internet as a medium and the opportunity it gives for worldwide exposure were both seen as assets to seminar participants. These are almost the exact same pros and cons I hear from American critics about the impact of the internet on their profession.

Criticism as an art form

            Notwithstanding the shrinking cultural space for theatre criticism, American critics and IATC young critics’ seminar participants both firmly believe that theatre criticism itself can be an art form. My favorite American critics are those whose reviews have a literary quality to them (such as the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout) and who see their writing as a creative endeavor. To varying degrees, every seminar participants viewed themselves as creative.

            Like any good artist, many of the international critics were searching for ways to push the boundaries of their art form. This can be as simple as finding an innovative phrase to describe “good acting,” or as large as finding a new literary form or outlet for a piece of criticism. Some participants said they had experimented with embedded criticism (in which the critic watches the rehearsal process and uses what they observe to inform their writing on about the final show), while our seminar moderator had even written a book about imaginary productions. I’ve seen this desire to be a creative critic in ATCA members, and it is heartening to see this impulse is an international phenomenon.

The wider role of critics

            A related theme was that theatre critics are more than reviewers of plays. While everyone in the international critics seminar acknowledged the value of reviewing, many critics thought their job was to push their theatrical community in a healthier direction. We discussed at length the possible ways that this can happen. These included writing pieces about the problems in their artistic community, working with companies during the rehearsal process, and serving as a liaison between their local theatre community and theatrical communities in other locations. Some critics even suggested a desire to reinvent theatre criticism for the 21st century while still maintaining its core values of critical thinking, judgment, and professionalism. Almost any ATCA member will recognize the desire to be more than “just a theatre reviewer.” Additionally, ATCA members usually want to improve their theatre communities by nudging them in a more artistically ambitious direction.

Topics Rarely Discussed by American Critics

Viewpoints on the politics of theatre

            In American theatre circles the discussion of politics and theatre almost inevitably focuses on the ideas and concerns of the political left. There are concerns about cultural appropriation, gender parity in hiring artists, and the roles available to racial minorities. These concerns are valid, but I realized in the seminar that an emphasis on these concerns gives American critics and theatre artists a limited view of the impact of the politics of theatre.

            In the international seminar, however, the theme of the politics of theatre came up almost hourly. Sometimes it appeared in the form of clear political issues. For example, one concern among some critics in the seminar was that a unified groupthink of theatre artists in some countries leads artists to ignore the viewpoints of many audience members. As a consequence productions that confirm the preconceived social beliefs of the professional theatre community (including critics) get a pass and are more likely to be judged as good art. People, including critics, may be afraid to judge such plays harshly because they are afraid of being perceived as hostile to the “correct” political views. In comparison, work that gives voice to other political or social viewpoints is judged more harshly—if it ever gets on stage at all.

            The theme of the politics of theatre extended beyond the content of the shows on stage. Many of my colleagues from Eastern Europe discussed the relationship between theatre companies and the cultural ministries that support them financially. Stories of state censorship, government officials’ ulterior motives for sponsorship, and the structure of official support were fascinating—mostly because the American equivalent of these cultural ministries (the National Endowment for the Arts) is much less likely to interfere with the day-to-day functioning of theatre companies. I know some professional artists who wish that the United States had a dedicated cultural ministry. After hearing stories about how such cultural ministries function, I think that Americans are probably better off without one.

Emphasis on directors (not playwrights)

            At the ATCA meetings I have attended, the American critics probably talk more about playwrights than any other type of theatre artist. ATCA gives out multiple annual prizes to playwrights, and ATCA is constantly hunting for the new playwrights with interesting stories and voices.

            On the other hand, my colleagues from other nations were far more interested in directors than in playwrights. The marquee artist for every show at the Theatre Olympics was the production’s director, and none of the shows had any literary merit. Instead, the emphasis was on visual images and directorial concepts. Although this may have been due to the context (a show with strong directing and visual imagery would play better at an international festival than a play that relies on its script), I was still surprised that most of my fellow critics were more interested in the oeuvre of a director than the body of work of a playwright.

Novelty vs. Tradition

            One of the things I love about ATCA is how its members strike a balance between respect for the theatrical canon and an interest in new plays and contemporary artists. Most ATCA members are as competent in discussing Henrik Ibsen and Lillian Hellman as they are discussing Tony Kushner and Neil Labute.

            However, at the Theatre Olympics, the emphasis was much more on new plays and productions. The hottest tickets at the Olympics were for the new works by well-known directors. Adaptations or productions of classic plays were much less interesting to European audiences. Even when other critics were discussing classic plays, most wanted to see old plays done in a new style. When I suggested at the seminar that there was value in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in the Athenian forest or a Hamlet that takes place in a Danish castle, one seminar attendee said, “What’s the point? We’ve already seen that before.”

            Seeing the commonalities and differences in international criticism was a valuable experience for me. Hearing my fellow critics’ views on these issues—and others—has made me more aware of the various perspectives that can inform theatre criticism. My experience in Poland showed me that Americans can make valuable contributions to the international criticism scene and that viewpoints from overseas can be very informative to Americans. I hope that reading about the themes we discussed at the IATC Young Critics’ Seminar will help American theatre critics and artists build bridges with their colleagues abroad. Domestically, I also would appreciate a conversation about issues in theatre criticism that Americans may not contemplate on a regular basis.