Perspectives in Criticism

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 state of the newspaper industry has made the “difficult times” for critics even worse, while the Internet has added dimensions both problematic and exciting. By now we have heard a lot of wisdom 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.


  • 2023, Nov., NYC: Naveen Kumar in conversation. Click for article / transcript
  • 2022, Nov., NYC: Helen Shaw in conversation. Click for article / transcript.
  • 2021, Nov., virtual meeting: Sara Holdren.
  • 2020, Nov., virtual meeting: Maya Phillips.
  • 2018, July, Spring Green, Wisconsin: Carrie Coon in conversation.
  • 2017, June, San Francisco: Robert Hurwitt and Lily Janiak.
  • 2016, April, Philadelphia: Diep Tran. Click for transcript.
  • 2015, March, New Orleans: Hedy WeissClick for audio recording.
  • 2014, Nov., NYC: playwrights Arthur Kopit, David Henry Hwang, Doug Wright and Tina Howe.
  • 2014, April, Louisville: Lauren GundersonClick for transcript.
  • 2013, July, Shepherdstown, WV: Jason ZinomanClick for transcript
  • 2012, June, Chicago: Terry TeachoutClick for transcript. 
  • 2011, July, Ashland, Oregon: Jim O’Quinn.
  • 2011, Feb., NYC: playwright-director-artistic director Emily Mann, playwrights Adam Rapp and Richard Nelson and artistic director Tim Sanford. Click for transcript.
  • 2010, July, O’Neill Theater Center: film critic Michael Phillips
  • 2010, Feb., Denver: ATCA panel of Christine Dolen, Jeffrey Jenkins, Chris Jones and Chris Rawson, moderated by Jim Steinberg.
  • 2009, Oct., NYC: producer Ken Waissman.
  • 2009, April, Sarasota: theater columnist Michael Riedel.
  • 2008, June, Washington, D.C.: Trey Graham, Peter Marks and Bob Mondello.
  • 2006, June, Shaw Festival: Leonard Conolly on GBS as a critic; Stratford Festival: Ian Herbert and Robert Cushman on “Critics and the Bard.”
  • 2006, Feb., NYC: John Simon.
  • 2005, June, Los Angeles: Norman Lear, keynote at first National Critics Conference.
  • 2005, Feb., NYC: Julius Novick.
  • 2004, June, San Francisco: Misha Berson.
  • 2003, June, St. Paul: Nancy Melich.
  • 2003, March, NYC: Eric Bentley.
  • 2002, June, Chicago: Albert Williams.
  • 2002, Feb., NYC: Linda Winer.
  • 2001, July, Ashland: Robert Hurwitt.
  • 2001, Feb., NYC: Robert Brustein.
  • 2000, Louisville: Richard Christiansen
  • 1999, June, Philadelphia: Henry Hewes.
  • 1999, Feb., NYC: Frank Rich.
  • 1998, May, Denver: Dan Sullivan.
  • 1997, July, Salt Lake City: Sylvie Drake.
  • 1996, Miami: Margo Jefferson.
  • 1995, May, Dallas/Fort Worth: Jeremy Gerard.
  • 1994, July, O’Neill Theater Center: Ernie Schier.
  • 1993, May, Seattle: Michael Feingold.
  • 1992, May, Cleveland: William Henry.
  • 1992, Feb., NYC: Clive Barnes.

Get in touch with us!

For general information contact:

American Theatre Critics Association
217 West 18th Street - #68 New York, NY 10011