ATCA was founded in 1974 by a group of leading theater critics from around the country who for several years had been gathering at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn. They decided, what with the growth of professional regional theater, that there needed to be a national organization with a larger scope than the geographically challenged (one might even say provincial) New York Drama Critics Circle. They may have had even saltier things to say than that.
ATCA’s connection to the O’Neill is made tangible in the annual National Critics Institute, which many ATCA members have attended as fellows and mentors and which ATCA continues to support financially. Many ATCA members continue to visit the O’Neill as individuals and in ATCA convenings that have been held on the grounds over the years.
The best account of ATCA’s early years and indeed of the wisdom and experience of a passing era in theater criticism is Under the Copper Beech: Conversations with American Theater Critics, edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins (Foundation ATCA, 2004, 221 pages). This collection of informal interviews with many of ATCA’s founders—Lawrence DeVine, Otis L. Guernsey Jr., Henry Hewes, Clara Hieronymus, Ann Holmes, Norman Nadel, Elliot Norton, Julius Novick, Ernest Schier, and Dan Sullivan—belongs in every critic’s library.
Under the Copper Beech retails at $10 for ATCA members or $15 postage paid; or $15 for nonmembers, $20 postage paid. Proceeds benefit the educational programs of Foundation ATCA. To purchase, send a check (made out to Foundation ATCA) to:
c/o Tim Dodson, administrator
145 Bermuda Lakes Dr.
Meridianville, AL 35759