There’s been a spate of recent comments on criticism as chastisement and/or advertising (mainly of books, but we see the connections). For links to pieces by Richard Brody (newyorker.com), Jacob Silverman (slate.com), David Streitfield (nytimes.com), J. Robert Lennon (slate.com) and Dwight Garner (nytimes.com), click below. Here’s a teaser from Brody’s “How to Be a Critic”:
It’s as silly to deplore nasty criticism as it is to deplore snark or wit or sarcasm or just plain crankiness. It’s how we are—it’s how I am—and nastiness is as inseparable from criticism as it is from family life, from politics, from business, from the playground, and, for that matter, from art itself. One of the defining qualities of art is its implacability—its representation of violent and dangerous emotions, its ardor for and even embodiment of the negative, the destructive, the repugnant. Art is a place of maximal danger; it endangers the soul of the artist no less than the soul of the reader or viewer or listener. Exaltation comes at a price; sublimity, after all, involves a type of terror.
Great news: former ATCA chair Bill Gale continues to recover from a two-week hospital stay which included a quadruple heart bypass operation and another to insert a pacemaker. For his take on it all (he calls it “Heartless”) … .
James Anthony Kilker, husband of long-time ATCA member Marie Kilker, died Aug. 16, age 86, in Bradenton, FL. Jim was known to ATCA from the many conferences he attended and as co-host with Marie of ATCA members and guests at a tour of Paris for critics in November 1999.
Don’t miss this opportunity to vote — it’s a benefit of ATCA membership. If you want to know more about the Hall of Fame, go to the Hall of Fame link under the Awards button on the ATCA website. If you have further questions, email one of the ATCA members on the Hall’s Executive Committee, Chris Rawson or Jeffrey Eric Jenkins. The deadline is Sept. 15.
Organizer Lou Harry bids us welcome to Indianapolis: “Central Indiana is looking forward to welcoming you to the home of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the place that gave the world Kurt Vonnegut and David Letterman. Conference offerings will include the Midwest premiere of Nicky Silver’s “The Lyons” at the Phoenix Theatre, a performance of Matthew Lopez’s “The Whipping Man” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, a trip to the new $118 million Center for the Performing Arts for a concert by Barbara Cook and Michael Feinstein and a visit to Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Archives, plus lots more… .
Tennessee critic and ATCA co-founder Clara Hieronymus just turned 99, occasioning a burst of congratulations from near and far. Tucked among them was a pitch for Under the Copper Beech: Conversa- tions with American Theater Critics (ed. Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, 2004), in which she and other pioneer regional critics Henry Hewes, Larry Devine, Ann Holmes, Elliot Norton, Jay Novick, Ernie Schier, Dan Sullivan, Otis Guernsey and Norman Nadel are interviewed by colleagues including Tish Dace, Jay Handelman, Damien Jaques, Sylvie Drake, Bill Gale, Jeffrey Sweet and Marianne Evett.
If you’re reading this, you should have a copy, and another to give a friend. Order them by sending $15 each, payable to Foundation ATCA, to Chris Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
The annual ballot for the Theater Hall of Fame, for which ATCA members contitute 2/3 of the electorate, will arrive in August and need to be returned by Sept. 15. If you want to familiarize yourself with the HF, look at our accounts of the annual induction celebrations (scroll down for individual years back to 1998) or, for a list of members, visit the HF website.
Thanks to Wendy Rosenfield, the new ATCA website has a steady stream of Twitter links to commentary on criticism (@Theatre_Critics, orange boxes on the home page) and also links to ATCA member reviews and stories (@ATCA_Member, just below them). You should follow both, or just check in here frequently, using the Older Posts buttons to catch up. Some recent good stuff:
Anne Midgette (Washington Post) asks, “Does the web make criticism meaner?” Click here.
Arthur Brisbane, NYT Public Editor, writes, “WHEN critics criticize, there is light and there is friction. In my nearly two years as public editor, I’ve had a steady flow of reader complaints about The New York Times’s many critics.” For “The View from the Critic’s Seat,” Click here.
In a Huff Post column, “Does Criticizing Critics Cross a ‘Times’ Line?,” Howard Sherman (late of the Theater Wing), calls Brisbane’s column “a disappointment … it sets up a premise and then utterly fails to address it.” Click here.
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, chair of ATCA’s International Committee, sends word of the latest (sixth) edition of Critical Stages, the web journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC). Go to the International Committee’s own web page or go direct to Critical Stages. Coming updates will include a report from the ATCA delegation (which Jenkins heads) to the IATC.
Maybe you missed the reference in the (excellent!) rush of ATCA tweets (those orange boxes up top on the left), so here it is again: the controversial Johann Hari defends criticism, most recently in Spin.
At the Chicago conference, the ATCA membership elected Michael Howley and Tim Treanor to three-year executive committee terms (until 2015). Re-elected to a second term was Barry Gaines (until 2015). Continuing excom members are Jonathan Abarbanel (2013), Jay Handelman (2013), Brad Hathaway (2014), Pamela Harbaugh (2013), Edward Rubin (2014) and Wendy Rosenfield (2014). Celebrated for completing their second terms were Barbara Bannon and Bill Hirschman.
The new excom then re-elected Handelman chair, Abarbanel vice-chair, Hathaway treasurer and Bannon secretary (serving ex-officio). For committee chairs and others, go to Leadership & Committees under About ATCA, above.