This ATCA lecture series, first proposed by Jay Handelman, was inaugurated when Clive Barnes accepted the invitation of then ATCA chair Chris Rawson.
“At our twice-annual meetings, we have always heard a great deal from theater artists. But lately we have seen the need to speak more directly to our own concerns, too. These are difficult times for theater critics, with space for theater coverage shrinking, papers relying more and more on part-time or freelance critics and, in many cities, papers folding. Reminders of the importance and even the high honor of our calling are more necessary than ever.”
“And we are changing. Representing the rank and file of American theater critics, ATCA finds itself now with more academics, more former theater artists and many more freelance critics. If there ever were any cohesion or commonly shared standards and assumptions in the profession, they are not much in evidence today. The training and competence of American theater critics remain issues of concern. In other words, sobering reminders of the obligations of the critic are also necessary.”
“So we are looking for speakers in this new series to inform us, stir us up, challenge us and send us back to work determined to be better critics. Inspire, badger, praise, blame, educate, excoriate, entice, regenerate — any of those might be appropriate.”
Not much has changed since 1992, except that the parlous state of the newspaper industry has made the “difficult times” for critics even worse, while the Internet has added problematic and exciting new dimensions. By now we have heard a lot of wisdom (and inevitably some hot air) from a remarkable roster of speakers, as the following list makes clear. Links to transcripts or recordings are provided when available. So our series continues.