Theater critic longevity (insert your own witticism here)
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 12:48AM
Christopher Rawson

Who is the longest-serving theater critic? Queried in March by Ada Tseng of the LA Times, we replied that ATCAMichael Billington (no, just joking: really Daumier’s caricature of a self-important critic) doesn’t keep statistics, but we cited Michael Billington, who’s been reviewing for The Guardian in England for 48 years and reviewed for smaller papers for 10 years before that – so 58 years and still going strong. 

Then we asked in the ATCA UPDATE who is there on this side of the pond? We got these responses and are eager to hear from anyone else with 30 or more years and still counting…. Email here; cchr@pitt.edu; include the year of your first professional theater review and the net number of years of professional reviewing since. (Read Tseng’s story about Tom Titus and his 54 years.)

Welton Jones says, “I wrote my first theatre review in 1957 (college paper) and I’m still at it.” His first pro review was in 1961 and he wrote variously for the NY Herald-Tribune, Shreveport Times, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and Houston Post before settling into a 35-year run at the San Diego Union-Tribune (1966-2001). Since then he’s been with sandiegostory.com. Welton also chaired ATCA for four years, 1988-91. “With two years plus in the service and another year (in Houston) on police beat and going broke in the theatre biz, that’s an adjusted total of…. Well you young fellas can do the arithmetic.” (Let’s say 54 years reviewing, counting from 1961 with a couple of years off – the same number reported for Titus in Orange County.)

Since 1968, long-time ATCA member Didier Deutsch has been reviewing on Broadway, particularly musicals, for diverse smaller publications. For the past 20 years, he has reviewed all the Broadway musicals for a German magazine aptly titled “Musicals,” and he contributes a yearly report on the season to a French publication, “Théâtre Musical.” (51 years)

ATCA loyalist Herb Simpson says that “counting Dance Magazine and various newspapers and magazines, I’ve been steadily publishing reviews since 1970. I’ve been unwell recently but still manage to publish occasional reviews on one website or another.” (49 years) 

Chris Rawson, senior critic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, describes himself as a relative youngster, critic-wise, who’s been reviewing only since 1979, and since 1983 for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and more recently KDKA-TV. “It doesn’t count, but I also reviewed the year in theater for the 1963 Harvard yearbook.” (40 years)

John Orr began writing about theater as a student at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, CA, in 1968. He first began reviewing professionally from the mid- ’70s through the ’80s in the Los Angeles area, then he wrote mainly about movies and music in the ’90s. For the past 11 years he’s written pretty steadily about theater in the Bay Area, now mostly for the Palo Alto Daily News, Palo Alto Weekly, San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times. (c.30-40 years?)

Sylvie Drake started writing for The Canyon Crier in 1967 then migrated to the  Los Angeles Times until 1994 (during which time she had a term on the ATCA Excom). After a 19-year hiatus writing about theater for The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, she went back to reviewing and writing for Culturalweekly.com since 2013. “Not sure how you would tabulate that….” (Since 1967, minus 19 years; say 33 years)

Youngster Jay Handelman, president of Foundation ATCA and previously chair of ATCA, says he’s now starting his 34th year. 

Send your own data to cchr@pitt.edu.

Article originally appeared on American Theatre Critics Association (http://americantheatrecritics.org/).
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