The annual National Critics Institute at the O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Conn., just finished its first year under Chris Jones (Chicago Tribune). Known for years as a “boot camp for critics,” NCI has broadened its subject to theater writing. Word is that Jones brought fresh energy to the intensive program, proving a worthy successor to NCI founder Ernie Schier (1968-1998) and Dan Sullivan(1999-2013). Foundation ATCA supports NCI with an annual scholarship, this year $2,000.
After 22 happy years of ATCA membership, Pat Feldhaus, who reviewed for various Northern California dailies, has retired. “Thank you for all my good times,” she says, especially ATCA conferences (including London, 1995), at which she would write and perform a song about the event. She also used her IATC card to write about plays around the world, but at 85, she finds travel difficult. “I’ve done all the things I’ve wanted to.”
*Added June 9: Here’s a video of Signature’s Tony Award acceptance speech, nicely including ATCA.*
The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced April 28 that the 2014 Regional Theatre Award will go to New York’s Signature Theatre, based on the recommendation of ATCA, which makes its choice through a confidential internal process of proposals and balloting. We are delighted our recommendation was accepted, as it has been every year since the award was instituted at ATCA’s suggestion in 1976. The award will be presented along with the other Tonys on June 8. Award announcement here; previous winners here. The award includes a grant of $25,000.
In its 40th year, ATCA is financially stable and looking to reach out to new critics. New officers elected, new programs planned, new thinking at Foundation ATCA. This fall, New York; next year, New Orleans; the year after, Moscow … uh, Philadelphia.
With two new members, the new excom meets on the afternoon of April 5. In full view (right): Jonathan Abarbanel, Myrna Petlicki, Erin Keane.
That night, a brief appearance is made by a sheetcake honoring ATCA’s 40th birthday (born in 1974): (at the left) from left, chair Abarbanel; Osborn Prize winner Topher Payne; former chair and Foundation president Jay Handelman; Foundation board member Glenn Loney; former chair Chris Rawson.
Louisville, KY, April 5, 2014 — ATCA has named Lauren Gunderson’s I and You recipient of the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2013.
Gunderson’s delicate but droll play about teenagers exploring life and death received $25,000 and a commemorative plaque at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville on April 5.
Two citations that carry $7,500 each were presented to Christopher Demos-Brown for Fear Up Harsh and Martin Zimmerman for Seven Spots on the Sun.
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.
Louisville, KY — ATCA members today selected New Orleans as the site for the 2015 national conference, next spring, to be chaired by member Alan Smason.
The executive committee re-elected Jonathan Abarbanel chair, along with Tim Treanor vice-chair; Barbara Bannon and Kerry Reid were named secretary and treasurer.
The “convention hat,” laden with memorabilia from conferences past (including a bottle of Drama Critics Beer from the 1998 Denver conference), which had been bestowed on Treanor at the end of the CATF conference he chaired last summer, was duly passed along to Abarbanel, chair of this conference at the Humana Festival.
He insisted it be shared with Louisville critc Erin Keane.
ATCA today honored long-time theater critic, playwright and citizen of the theater, Ira J. Bilowit, naming him a Member Emeritus. This doesn’t mean he’s doing any less, simply that he’s done so much, both for criticism and ATCA, and in fact he will co-chair ATCA’s weekend conference in New York this fall. (For a video interview with Ira from 2009, click here.) Ira joins other ATCA emeritii: Tish Dace, Lawrence DeVine, Marianne Evett, Welton Jones and Julius Novick. (For other, former ATCA emeritii, click here and scroll down.)
Louisville, KY — Elected today to 3-years terms on the ATCA executive committee were Erin Keane of Louisville and Lou Harry of Indianapolis. They succeed Brad Hathaway of Sausalito and Eddie Rubin of New York. Wendy Rosenfield of Philadelphia was re-elected to a second term.
Louisville, KY — For the first time, a playwright was invited to give the Perspectives in Criticism talk that has been a feature of 33 ATCA gatherings since 1992. A few snippets of her lively remarks, engagingly delivered, which will continue to stimulate discussion throughout the conference:
“I am a playwright and you are a room full of critics and that is not awkward at all. Not at all… .
“… any review that encourages audiences to see the play for themselves is a good review to me … .
“I can tell you that more than being disliked, playwrights fear being misunderstood … .
“I can tell you that reviews of new plays are powerful forces in that play’s future … .
“I can tell you that people outside of our towns read reviews to decide whether or not they’re going to even read the play… .
“Rolling World Premieres save lives… . “
Louisville, KY — Tim Treanor, chair of ATCA’s professional development committee, today announced a new program for peer mentoring to the annual ATCA conference, meeting at the Humana Festival. Members will offer themselves as mentors and, after a few weeks to set up the mechanism, other members will be invited to send three pieces of work for in-depth assessment. Connections will be made by the ATCA administrator. Mentor, mentee or both may remain anonymous, as they choose. Fuller guidelines will be announced shortly.
Louisville, KY — For the full text of Jonathan Abarbanel’s welcoming remarks, sketching the state of the organization and outlining the work ahead, click below.
ATCA’s 2014 annual conference runs today through Sunday (April 2-6) at Actors Theatre of Louisville, but ATCA meetings the first two days will quickly yield to the Humana Festival of New American Plays, the premiere such festival in the country. On this, its final weekend, it attracts an audience especially thick with theater professionals. We’ll announce the Steinberg/ATCA awards on Saturday. The partying is also great. Maybe we’ll have a minute or two to post some notes along the way.
Longtime ATCA member Jay Stanley, who loved theatre, threw lavish parties for celebrity friends, broke taboos and established his own Marquee Awards, died March 8, 2014. He was 84. Click here for an obituary.
Playwright Lauren Gunderson will deliver the 33rd Perspectives in Criticism talk at ATCA’s annual conference at the Humana Festival in Louisville, April 3. This is a departure for the series, inaugurated in 1992, which has never featured a playwright except on a panel in 2011. The prolific Gunderson’s “I and You” is a finalist for this year’s Steinberg/ATCA Award, to be awarded in Louisville, and was also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
ATCA announces that Topher Payne has won its 2014 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. The award will be presented April 5 at the Humana Theater Festival at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville.
The Osborn Award recognizes Payne’s play, Perfect Arrangement, which premiered in June 2013 at The Source Festival in Washington D.C., directed by Linda Lombardi. The award is designed to recognize the work of an author who has not yet achieved national stature. Last year it went to Keri Healey for Torso. Previous winners have included Yussef El Guindi, Rebecca Gilman, Keith Glover and Richard Kalinoski.
For more about Payne and Perfect Arrangement, click here for full press release.
“Alternative criticism”: blog, tweet, amateur and pro, dedicated web sites, critical avant-garde, the audience role – some of the subjects in the February issue of Critical Stages, the online web journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics, along with book reviews and more. Critics world-wide are joined by ATCA members Russell Warne, Randy Gener and Leonard Jacobs.
ATCA has selected six finalists for the 2014 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 2013. No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year.
Generously funded at $40,000 by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, this is the largest national new play award of its kind. The top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented April 5 at Actors Theatre of Louisville, during the Humana Festival of New American Plays.
No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year. Last year’s winner, Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, opens on Broadway this spring. This year’s finalists, alphabetically by playwright, with the theater where each premiered:
Fear Up Harsh, by Christopher Demos-Brown (Zoetic Stage, Miami).
I and You, by Lauren Gunderson (Marin Theatre Company, California, as part of the National New Play Network’s rolling world premiere program).
Smokefall, by Noah Haidle (co-production of South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, Calif., and the Goodman Theatre, Chicago).
H20, by Jane Martin (Contemporary American Theater Festival, Shepherdstown, WV).
Stupid F**king Bird, by Aaron Posner (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington D.C.).
Seven Spots on the Sun, by Martin Zimmerman (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park).
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, Lynn Nottage, Moises Kaufman and Craig Lucas. Last year’s honoree was Robert Schenkkan’s “All The Way.” For a full list of all winners and runners-up, go to www.americantheatrecritics.org and click on Steinberg-ATCA under Awards.
For more about the finalists, the award, ATCA and the Steinberg Trust, click here for the complete press release.
The recipient of the 2012-23 prize, the most prestigious in our field (except for the Pulitzer, which only occasionally might go to a theater critic), is Scott Brown, theater critic for New York Magazine from 2010-2013. He has been a columnist at Wired magazine and a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly. The co-author of the off-Broadway comedy “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” he is currently working on TV and theater projects. More info here; more about the Nathan award here.