Great moments and push-back in NYC

Great moments and push-back in NYC

Some great moments in ATCA’s mini-meeting in NYC:

* At the Sardi’s brunch, celeb guest Dan Lauria sounds like Vince Lombardi: “I like the challenge. I’m a Marine. Come on. Bring it on.” His stage wife in Lombardi, Judith Light, looks ethereal as she allows the winds of the universe to flow through her career. Solid talent Stacy Keach is handsome as he responds to his introduction. Dana Ivey, an actress with chops, was drawn to the theater by “language and tiaras.”  Add the estimable composure of Jeffrey Wright and the earnest grace of radiant young Lily Rabe to the glow of fabulous guests like Andre DeShields, Linda Lavin, and Paxton Whitehead, and you get some idea of the drama and the glory.

* At a discussion session, Mirror Rep co-founder Sabra Jones explains The Method at last: “It’s not all these pieces you plug in, but a pill you take.”

* Playwright Richard Nelson notes that the best critics will hold playwrights and theaters to the artists’ highest standards. And he observes that fine critics articulate back to the playwright even as they inform their readers.

* Three critics with a geek side —Andy Propst, Leonard Jacobs, and Andrew McGibbon—tie up ATCA’s mini-meeting with humor and gently packaged tech info for the clueless and cognoscenti alike.

Some push-back on the Perspectives on Criticism panel:

Adam Rapp, a playwright whose work I respect, set us straight about theater criticism. The critic, he assured us, is not going to offer any new perspectives, as the bright people involved in the process of producing a play are perfectly capable of figuring out its problems. (Refresh my memory: How many smart people have produced how many failed plays?)

We were also assured by a successful artistic director —who doesn’t read reviews as a general rule— that the critic is just another voice. Theaters, the director explained, already have their feedback mechanisms and their blogs, where they can go if they want opinions on their shows.

Well sure, all kinds of opinions fly around in the ether. While some online chatter is superb and surely worthwhile, and professional news organizations and journals are also on the web, a large percentage of what’s out there is noise passed off as theater criticism. The more I sample reactions to any given play on theaters’ own websites and blogs, the more fundamentally necessary the serious, knowledgeable critic/ arts journalist appears to be.

All in all, that was a great mini-meeting. Congrats to the chairs. — Kathryn Osenlund,

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