Lily Janiak, a young critic on HowlRound, writes “Whose America? … Whose theater?,” a review/commentary on California Shakespeare Theatre, and starts a kerfuflle: read it here, with many combatants chiming in.
You had to be there, of course — which was one of his themes. This is all about live theater, after all, and in performance, Jason’s talk was animated and funny, full of impromptu sidebars. But for the basic speech, with its mix of autobiography and challenge …
Shepherdstown, WV, July 21 — Yesterday was packed. In addition to the Perspectives in Criticism talk by Jason Zinoman and the reorganization of the ATCA executive committee and the Foundation board, we saw two more plays, including what is conclusively CATF’s strongest, H20 by Jane Martin. At night there was a farewell party, including nice words from producing director Ed Herendeen and board president Jenny Ewing Allen and the presentation to them of a signed copy of Under the Copper Beach: Conversations with American Theatre Critics (a history of ATCA and theater criticism). Finally, conference chair Tim Treanor was presented with a necktie emblazoned with the WV Mountaineer/Daumier logo.
That completed Tim’s formal conference wear, because earlier in the day there was the passing of the Convention Hat. It’s a sturdy job festooned with memorabilia of conferences going back into the mists of ATCA history – 20 years, at least. First Chris Rawson, chair of the 2011 conference at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, passed it to Jonathan Abarbanel, chair of the 2012 Chicago conference. Then after a few pictures, Jonathan presented it to Tim, with whom it will rest until next year’s conference at the Humana Festival.
There were no barricades in the streets. With the sweetness of demeanor for which theater critics are famed, the ATCA executive committee elected Jonathan Abarbanel (Chicago, duelingcritics.net) its new chair. Then the overlapping board of Foundation ATCA elected Jay Handelman (Sarasota Herald-Tribune) its new president. More info on brief press release to come.
Shepherdstown, WV, July 20 — It’s hard for even a conscientious note-taker to keep up as the conference barrels along. Thursday there was a workshop on “Monetizing your Website,” with Brad Hathaway, Bill Hirschman, Mark Lowry and Lorraine Treanor. Yesterday we had a morning panel on “The Effect of Criticism on Theater,” moderated by critic Jason Zinoman (N.Y. Times), with CATF’s Kathleen Butler and Peggy McKowen, critics Nelson Pressley (Washington Post) and Jay Handelman (Sarasota Herald-Tribune), and Maggie Boland (managing director, Signature Theatre).
Then today came what is in effect our keynote address, Jason Zinoman as the Perspectives in Criticism speaker, the 32nd in a series of distinguished critics. It was a lively talk – autobiographical, smart, funny, challenging, optimistic – just what we envisioned when we invited Clive Barnes to start the series in 1992. (See list of speakers here.) But don’t take our word for it: read it here.
Aside from all this, there have been some interesting shows! But you can read about them best as our members write about them — for which, follow the twitter feeds on the top left of our home page.
Director Lear deBessonet also honored
Shepherdstown, WV, July 19, 2013—Today the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced at its annual conference, held at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, that playwright Stefanie Zadravec has been awarded the 2013 Francesca Primus Prize for her play The Electric Baby. Zadravec will receive the $10,000 award check immediately and be officially congratulated at an upcoming ATCA conference.
Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman theater artist. Playwrights, artistic directors, and directors are eligible to apply.
By popular demand, here’s the unofficial logo of this year’s conference. The caricature on the left is of a mountaineer (like the WVU mascot); the one on the right is of Daumier’s caricature of a self-important critic (ATCA’s logo). Here, the two seem mutually unsure of each other, but ATCA and CATF are actually getting along very well: we are being taken care of well beyond our deserts.
Well, not completely different, since coffee is (some) critics’ best friend. So here’s a word on the three coffee shops in Shepherdstown, home of CATF, host of ATCA’s annual conference. I’m still high on the three-shot Wet Dog (one of the great coffee drinks anywhere), so until I come back down I can’t fairly report on the other two.
Thursday, July 18, Shepherdstown, WV —
New ATCA members at the annual conference at CATFinclude (left to right), Bob Schneider, New Haven, CT; Russell Warne, Salt Lake City; Mark Dewey, Bluemont, VA; Erin Keane, Louisville; and Steven McKnight, Falls Church, VA. Missing: Alan Smason, New Orleans. Welcome aboard to all!
Wednesday evening, July 17 —
The ATCA executive committee put in a long day on reports, discussion and debate, as these snapshots testify. The results will show up at membership meetings the next few days.
But tonight, the conference proper began with a welcoming dinner at Byrd Hall, Shepherd University, with remarks especially by Suzanne Shipley, president of Shepherd University, and Ed Herendeen of CATF. Then came a production of Modern Terrorism, or They Who Want to Kill Us and How We Learn to Love Them by Jon Kern, directed by Ed Herendeen, featuring Mahira Kakkar, Omar Maskati, Kohler McKenzie and Royce Johnson. A lively audience discussion followed. Check your local media outlet for a review. (And if your local critic wasn’t here to review it, why not?)
Wednesday noon, July 17 —
ATCA arrives in the very eastern panhandle of West Virginia for its annual meeting, hosted by the Contemporary American Theatre Festival (CATF). Tuesday night, early arrivals were treated to an accomplished reading of The Few, by Samuel D. Hunter, author of last season’s The Whale. Kudos to actors Alex Podulke, Cassie Beck and Omar Maskati.
Catching up: Recipients of ATCA financial scholarships for this year’s National Critics Institute at the O’Neill Theater Center were Paul Hyde of the Greenville (S.C.) News and Andrew McGibbon of West Milford, N.J., who has his own theater site, TheAndyGram.com. Congratulations.
A new book on theater criticism, Refereeing the Muses by Bob Abelman and Creryl Kushner, has the good taste to use ATCA’s old friend on its cover. The 1865 caricature “Promenade of an Influential Critic” by Honore Daumier has served as ATCA’s official logo since 1974.
Appearances so dramatically notwithstanding, the book has no connection to ATCA. But some ATCAns have given it praise. It says it examines “the skill set associated with being a critic and arts journalist” and “explores the history, evolution, and future of the profession in the United States.” It may take a place on a critic’s (or teacher’s) bookshelf beside such standards as Irving Wardle’s 1992 Theatre Criticism.
Refereeing the Muses is published this month by Peter Lang Publishing.