Criticism is free speech

Criticism is free speech

“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.

Harold Pinter (1930-2008): What would he say?

“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.

“Most of our members respect requests not to review a workshop production or one still (within limits) in previews. We also recognize that under any and all circumstances, it is the unquestioned right of a production to refuse to give complimentary tickets.

“But we do not recognize the right of any group, including the licensing company, author or estate, to restrict coverage of a public event.

“There is a separate recent report of a company given rights to a classic, frequently-produced play. But the company reportedly had been told by the playwright or his representative that it not only must ban reviews, but that the company would be fined if the production were reviewed. The demand has since been rescinded but remains troubling. First, this is objectionable behavior that tries to restrict not only artistic freedom of expression, but also freedom of the press. Second, it is foolish in its futility in this cyber world in which anyone’s opinion can go viral seconds after the curtain goes down.”

ATCA was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of critics’ functions and responsibilities. The only national association of professional theater critics, with members working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and websites, ATCA is affiliated with the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

ATCA administers the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, the Francesca Primus Prize honoring an emerging female theater artist, and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award for a previously unrecognized playwright; recommends a theater for the Regional Theater Tony Award; and votes on inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame.

For more information on ATCA or this issue, visit or contact chairman Wm. F. Hirschman at

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