First ATCA Helbing Fellow offers a report and some reflections

First ATCA Helbing Fellow offers a report and some reflections

The initial year of the Helbing Mentorship Program that began in September 2022 has just concluded. Inaugural ATCA Helbing Fellow Billy McEntee spent the year creating a comprehensive history of the work of Terry Helbing, including extensive interviews with those who worked with Helbing, preserving a vital part of LGBTQIA+ theater history in the mid-20th century. His final report to the committee is available at the link below.

The committee hopes to make the interviews and other materials Billy collected during the year available for member access at some time in the future. For all continuing updates on the project, visit the Helbing Mentorship program page.

Billy has been a stellar initial Fellow who always engaged with committee suggestions, and was always eager to pursue people and ideas the committee generated. In truth, we all learned more from Billy this year than he learned from us. And we’re thrilled to report that Billy has agreed to stay with the program as a member of the committee that will select and work with the 2024 Program Fellow.

Billy offered the committee some thoughts on what the year has meant to his professional growth.

“ATCA’s Helbing Mentorship Program came at the perfect time in my career. After working in arts administration in New York for seven years while simultaneously freelancing as a theater journalist, I decided to take the plunge, leave my day job, and become a full-time freelance critic and writer. While doing so, I was thrilled to see ATCA was offering the inaugural Helbing Mentorship Program. As I sought new professional ventures and financial stability, the program gave me a cohort of professionals to learn beside and grant money to compensate my work.

Support for theater, in the United States, is tenuous; it can be just as flimsy for theater critics. That ATCA offers rigorous mentorship and financial support is a rare gift. It has very much buoyed my first year as a full-time freelancer and afforded me a new network of critics whose work and writing I’d long read and admired. What’s more, as part of this first year, I had the chance to learn about the program’s namesake, Terry Helbing. I conducted interviews, visited his archives at The Center, summarized his work and its impact on the theater, and compiled an oral history from people who knew this extraordinary thespian, critic, and New Yorker so his legacy lives on and inspires future writers.

Finally, I was able to pursue longer stories that more aligned with my interests and writing style. Being an arts critic does not always pay well, but the grant from ATCA helped me research and write what have been some of my favorite pieces in my career. I double as the Theater Editor at The Brooklyn Rail, and I decided to begin contributing there, in addition to editing, this year. I had the chance to unspool the fabric of new plays and write about them in preview periods thanks to the trust of artists and press reps (as with my Grey House and Grief Hotel essays) and also spent time experiencing Joseph Medeiros’ singular works — in ancient Greek! — amongst others. It has been a great joy, and I have ATCA to thank.”

– Submitted by Helbing Mentorship Program committee member Martha Wade Steketee

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