The Theater Hall of Fame has mailed out this year’s ballot to ATCA members — check your mailbox. There are 44 theater artists listed, including actors, directors, choreographers, librettists, lyricists, composers, designers, playwrights, producers and others, including some with predominantly regional theater credits.
NEW THIS YEAR: In a cover letter to ATCA members, Hall producer Terry Hodge Taylor explains that next year’s ballots will go only to those who vote this year. So, if you want to stay on the voting rolls, mail your ballot to reach his office by Sept. 9.
ATCA provides the majority of the Hall electorate. It’s a privilege to vote, and you can also suggest nominees for next year’s ballot. So read the credits, do some research if necessary, and vote, or you’ll lose the franchise.
Conference Chair Sherry Eaker invites all ATCA members who have paid their 2016-2017 dues to our annual New York weekend meeting. Take advantage of our Early Bird discount good through Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 at 11 pm EDT.
Attractions include the traditional Celebrity Luncheon at Sardi’s, the Players Club, a conversation with N.Y. theater critics, and panels on design, new musicals and cabaret.
For full conference info and schedule, plus how to register, click the logo above or the button below. See you in Manhattan!
Go to the N.Y. Times obit to sign the guestbook.
Scroll to the bottom of the extension of Bill Hirschman’s testimonial to find the separate “How Ira Bilowit Saved the Drama Desk from Oblivion!” by Glenn Loney.
ATCA chair Bill Hirschman writes:
Ira J. Bilowit, the esteemed arts journalist of New York City and good friend to most of ATCA and many more, passed away July 22 at age 90.
An ATCA member since 1976, Ira was instantly recognizable at any gathering with a broad welcoming smile, bright eyes, feisty attitude, silver goatee and a willingness to share his encyclopedic knowledge with anyone who asked. He could be counted on to hold court in the hospitality suite until younger members faded away.
His indefatigable service to ATCA included working with Sherry Eaker to create the wonderful New York conferences, especially lining up luminaries for the Sardi’s luncheon. He had volunteered in Philadelphia last spring to help with the upcoming New York meeting. His career and many services to ATCA were honored in April 2014 when he was given an emeritus membership.
The much-sought annual award goes to the big New Jersey company that is best known for its musicals. As it has been since it was started in 1976, the award is “based on a recommendation by the American Thetare Critics Association,” as noted in the announcement by the Tony Awards® Administration Committee. The award will be presented with the other Tonys on June 12.
For more substantive stuff, ATCA members should watch their email. Here, we hope to post some links. But in the meantime, below are Alan Smason (chair of last year’s conference in N’Orleans), Bill Hirschman (just reelected excom chair) and Howie Shapiro, sporting the peripatetic Conference Hat, which he has to store until he passes it on next year in San Francisco.
Additional $7,500 citations go to Steven Dietz and Jen Silverman
ATCA has selected Qui Nguyen’s “Vietgone” as the winner of the 2015 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2014.
This “sexy comedy about culture-shocked, grieving Vietnamese refugees who fled to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon” features “a vivid, specific voice, a wonderful sense of humor and compelling stakes,” said the judges. “Vietgone” premiered at South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, California.
Two citations that carry $7,500 awards were presented to Steven Dietz’ “Bloomsday,” which premiered at ACT Theatre in Seattle, and Jen Silverman’s “The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane,” which premiered at Philadelphia’s InterAct Theatre Company. At $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award program recognizing regional theaters as the crucible for new plays in the United States.
It was a two-play day (The Octoroon at the Wilma and Sex with Strangers at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, for most), following a busy membership meeting in the morning. There, the following new excom members were elected: to regular three-year terms, Bill Hirschman, Plantation, FL; Susan Cohn, San Mateo, CA; and Kerry Reid, Chicago, IL; and to a one-year term, Charles Giuliano, Adams, MA.
Then in the evening, we turned our attention to the wording of a motion to ally ourselves with other groups protesting recent laws discriminating against LGBT and other minorities. As you can see, it was just like the collaborative writing of another group in this same city, 240 years ago.
Three conference chairs: Robert Sokol (next year, San Francisco), Alan Smason (last year, New Orleans) and Howie Shapiro (this year, right now, Philadelphia).
And most of this year’s conference, on Friday at the (well, just where were we Friday? … it’s a bit of a buzz). And where’s a lighting designer when you need one?
The day began with a productive membership meeting in which, among much else, we broadened the criteria for memberhip to admit those writing about theater without necessarily doing traditional reviews. Barbara Bannon presented the 2015 Primus Prize (check, plaque, letter from Barry Primus) to Sharyn Rothstein, who made a gracious speech in return. We raised about $1,000 for our Foundation. And we chose San Francisco as the site for the 2017 conference, to be chaired by Robert Sokol of the S.F. Examiner.
In the afternoon there were three illuminating panels: (1) “Digital Theater and New Opportunities,” (2) the archives of the theater division at the N.Y. Public Library, and (3) “Trans Onstage: Critical Awareness.” More on these (probably) to come.
In the evening, most saw The Nether, by our 2014 Primus winner, Jennifer Haley, at InterAct, while some went hither and yon. But many regrouped later at the bar at our hotel for food, drink and debate (as you see, above). Onward!
Membership meeting in the morning, then on to the Kimmel Center and artistic director Jay Wahl (curator, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts).
In the afternoon, at the Lantern Theater, where we were welcomed by artistic director Charles McMahon on the set of As You Like It.
The main event was a lively talk about the ethnocentricism (conscious or not) of most theater critics, by Diep Tran, associate editor of American Theatre magazine and especially its website. It was billed as a Keynote Address, but actually it was the latest in ATCA’s series, Perspectives in Criticism (click here for full text), and we hope to have the text on line soon.
In the evening, most saw Peter and the Starcatcher at the Walnut Street Theatre, followed by talk extending into the night.
ATCA/Philly got underway yesterday with dinner and a show at the Arden Theatre — August Wilson’s Two Trains Running — followed by a quick talk about Wilson’s Pittsburgh connections by Chris Rawson of that city, and then by drinks and a first-ever ATCA “review slam,” at least for those with late-night stamina. Lou Harry was the joke-cracking host. Here’s Howie Shapiro, looking none the worse (yet) for the wear of being ATCA/Philly chair.
Jonathan Norton has won the 2016 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. The award will be presented at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville on April 9. The Osborn Award recognizes Norton’s “Mississippi Goddamn,” which premiered in February, 2015 at the South Dallas Cultural Center, directed by Vickie Washington.
An inaugural member of the Dallas Playwrights Workshop, Norton has had plays developed or produced by PlayPenn, The Black and Latino Playwrights Conference, TeCo Theatrical Productions, African-American Repertory Theater and more.
In “Mississippi Goddamn,” Norton takes us to the house next door to that of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers and offers a drama about a family making tough decisions in a tumultuous time.
“Everyone in this world has someone else whom he can look down on,” wrote George Orwell in 1946, “and I must say, from experience of both trades, that the book reviewer is better off than the film critic, who cannot even do his work at home.”
Now, of course, he can. So that must leave the theater critic (along with dance and restaurant — am I forgetting anyone?) at the bottom of the pile today. But as Nathan Heller asks in his New Yorker review of A.O. Scott’s new Better Living Through Criticism, “what’s the point of a reviewer in an age when everyone reviews?” A fair question. Scott has a few answers.
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 2015.
The top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented April 9 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.
This year’s finalists are:
Steven Dietz, Bloomsday
Samuel D. Hunter, Clarkston
Qui Nguyen, Vietgone
Jonathan Norton, Mississippi Goddamn
Lynn Nottage, Sweat
Jen Silverman, The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane
Deadline April 30.
ATCA invites submissions for the 2016 Francesca Primus Prize, an annual $10,000 award honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by an emerging female playwright (one who has not achieved national prominence). The prize is made possible through the generosity of the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation and honors the writer, critic, performer, dramaturg, and cherished ATCA member who died at 42 of lung cancer in 1992.
The Primus Prize operates on an open submission basis—an applicant may submit herself or be nominated by another individual or organization. Members of ATCA are also eligible to nominate or provide letters of recommendation. To qualify for consideration in 2016, a playwright must have had a fully staged, professional production of her script within the calendar year 2015. It does not have to be the play’s world premiere. The committee also considers the applicant’s body of work going back several years.
“In reference to the recent Wooster Group/Harold Pinter situation in Los Angeles and scattered reports of troubling analogs around the country, the American Theatre Critics Association strongly reaffirms our bedrock tenet that arts criticism is journalism,” stated Wm. F. Hirschman, chair, ATCA executive committee.
“Therefore, the decision to review a production to which the public is invited with admission charged is at the discretion and judgment of journalists and their editors.
For the full statement …
It took a while to get the bells and whistles aligned (tuned?), but you can now get aboard the Philly express. Why wait? Click here! to see what’s on the agenda, and then sign up.