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Criticism

Here, you’ll find content about the art and practice of theatre criticism. Many pieces grapple with questions of how to diversify the field, making it more accessible for young people, queer folx, and critics of color. This section also contains all the pieces of criticism in the Journal, which we call “NewCrits.” NewCrits analyze productions and go beyond “thumbs up, thumbs down” reviews, placing the work(s) in question in a larger, broader context—whether that’s the context of the time or place it’s done in, the artists’ body of work, or its genre. Are you interested in writing a NewCrit? Check out our guidelines and best practices!

The Latest

Moving Theatre Toward Collective Self-Defense: Virginia Grise’s Your Healing is Killing Me
Essay
Moving Theatre Toward Collective Self-Defense: Virginia Grise’s Your Healing is Killing Me
by Marci R. McMahon
26 May 2022
Centering Perspectives of Color in Theatre Criticism
Podcast
Centering Perspectives of Color in Theatre Criticism
With Arti Ishak and Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel
by Nabra Nelson, Marina J. Bergenstock, Arti Ishak, Yasmin Mikhaiel
4 May 2022
Two Hundred Digital Theatre Reviews and Counting
Essay
Two Hundred Digital Theatre Reviews and Counting
by Ricky Young-Howze, Dana Young-Howze
28 September 2021
One actor stands on stage under a spotlight, kicking towards the audience.
Moving Theatre Toward Collective Self-Defense: Virginia Grise’s Your Healing is Killing Me
Essay

Moving Theatre Toward Collective Self-Defense: Virginia Grise’s Your Healing is Killing Me

26 May 2022

Educator and writer Marci McMahon reflects on her experience seeing Virginia Grise’s movement manifesto Your Healing is Killing Me at Cara Mía Theatre Co.

Kunafa and Shay Teaser Image.
Centering Perspectives of Color in Theatre Criticism
Podcast

Centering Perspectives of Color in Theatre Criticism

With Arti Ishak and Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel

4 May 2022

For artists, getting a quality review of their show is often critical to continued success. It can make or break new plays and emerging artists. However, works by BIPOC artists have often been subjected to the white critical gaze in reviews, which has frequently not made any attempt to account for the complexity of culture outside of the reviewer’s own understanding. There has been a major push by BIPOC artists to counter the white supremacy of reviews, including who writes the critiques and what they write about. In this episode, Arti Ishak and Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel talk about their experiences as MENA artists and critics, how they negotiate the field of criticism, and what changes can and must be made to the landscape.

A photo of a Zoom play with characters named Potential White Ally and Unapologetically Black Specialist with other people on screen for stage directions.
Two Hundred Digital Theatre Reviews and Counting
Essay

Two Hundred Digital Theatre Reviews and Counting

28 September 2021

When Ricky and Dana Young-Howze began reviewing digital theatre productions early in the COVID-19 pandemic, they weren’t expecting to build a tight-knit, global community. They share their journey into the digital theatre scene and reflect on what it has taught them.

Actors holding various bright-colored plants in the middle of a park with an audience circled around them.
Island Hopping in New York City for Theatre: How Live, In-Person Theatre Is Being Reimagined as it Reemerges
Essay

Island Hopping in New York City for Theatre: How Live, In-Person Theatre Is Being Reimagined as it Reemerges

2 August 2021

Jonathan Mandell reflects on a number of live, in-person productions that have taken place in New York City over the course of summer 2021.

blue graphic of actor onstage against yellow background
(Re)Imagine Arts Criticism
Video

(Re)Imagine Arts Criticism

A series that brings artists and community leaders together

Thursday 10 June 2021
Seattle, Washington

Seattle Rep presented (Re)Imagine Arts Criticism livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Thursday 10 June 2021 at 5 p.m. PDT (Seattle, UTC -7) / 6 p.m. MDT (Denver, UTC -6) / 7 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 8 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

A blue thing surrounded by indoor palm trees.
Pandemic Dreams
Essay

Pandemic Dreams

8 June 2021

Jonathan Mandell reflects on his experience of A Dozen Dreams, an art installation that began when twelve New York City-based women playwrights were asked: “What are you dreaming about right now?”

Footnote 3. An image of a door that opens up and allows a green galaxy of starts to pour through it. The door is on a wall of coding.
A Love Letter to Voyeuristic, Imaginative Acts
Essay

A Love Letter to Voyeuristic, Imaginative Acts

600 Highwaymen’s A Thousand Ways (Part One: A Phone Call)

22 April 2021

Aly Perry shares her experience of transformative public intimacy in 600 Highwaymen’s recent immersive show.

an actor onstage
Adapting to Pandemic Regulations
Essay

Adapting to Pandemic Regulations

A New Way of Performance Watching for an Old Classic

4 March 2021

Merve Parla shares her experience with Netherlands-based dance company Club Guy & Roni’s recent production of Swan Lake, an interactive experience with both offline and online components.

an actor kneeling onstage
A Summer on Fire, a Harvest Moon
Essay

A Summer on Fire, a Harvest Moon

8 February 2021

Caroline Sprague reflects on Shey Rivera Ríos’s recent piece, Fire Flowers and a Time Machine, transformative justice, the nonprofit industrial complex, and more.

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Whose America and Whose Dreams?
Essay

Whose America and Whose Dreams?

26 January 2021

Zeina Salame sits down for a conversation with Leila Buck and Tamilla Woodard to talk about their most recent creative collaboration, American Dreams, online audience interaction, and more.

four actors onstage
There’s an Array of Theatrical Talent on Display in Kosovo. So Why Won’t Its Government Support It Properly?
Essay

There’s an Array of Theatrical Talent on Display in Kosovo. So Why Won’t Its Government Support It Properly?

25 January 2021

verity healey, who spent time in Kosovo for its Theatre Showcase last October, discusses the precarious nature of Kosovo’s independent theatre sector and shares her thoughts about the plays she saw while visiting.

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a farm for my mother, a farm for meme
Essay

a farm for my mother, a farm for meme

21 December 2020

Priscilla Solis Ybarra reflects on her experience watching Virginia Grise’s a farm for meme at home, during the pandemic, with her eighty-two-year-old mother whose life shares parallels with the story in the play.

a person standing behind a table with multiple handheld two-way radios
Fire Season
Essay

Fire Season

Making Site-Specific Theatre About Climate Change that Could Be Threatened by Climate Change

17 December 2020

Playwright and environmentalist Alice Stanley Jr. shares her experience of Capital W’s newest immersive theatre piece, Fire Season—a play about climate change that took place in the Santa Monica Mountains during this year’s wildfires.

two actors onstage with five actors' shadows behind them
Remembering The Death of the Last Black Man
Essay

Remembering The Death of the Last Black Man

On How Black Theatre Is Essential

5 October 2020

Dr. Ayshia E. Stephenson revisits the 2016 Signature Theatre production of The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, which she believes stands as a testament to why Black theatre matters and is essential to resisting white supremacy.

zoom video chat
Breaking New Post-dramatic Ground
Essay

Breaking New Post-dramatic Ground

Wesleyan University’s The Method Gun

28 September 2020

Jean Tarbox discusses Wesleyan University’s Zoom adaptation of The Method Gun as a radical invention that invited audiences to see and interpret reality on a deeper, more perceptual basis.

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Finish the Fight and Making the Virtual Visceral
Essay

Finish the Fight and Making the Virtual Visceral

24 September 2020

Rebecca Salzhauer writes about Finish the Fight, a piece of online theatre that reminds viewers how theatre is a communion, a two-sided contract between storyteller and story-hearer, bound by the terms of being alive.

three actors onstage
Classical Theatre in Another Strange Land
Essay

Classical Theatre in Another Strange Land

3 September 2020

Esther Fernández talks about closing the gap that separates classical and contemporary theatre and discusses the piece En otro reino extraño, a polyphonic work composed of scenes from Lope de Vega’s plays; snippets of informal conversations between the actors in Zoom chats; poems transmogrified into electrocumbia, punk, and pop songs; and video montage.

Event details styled to look like a search engine window.
Can Critics Criticise during a Pandemic?
Video

Can Critics Criticise during a Pandemic?

Moderated by Nabilah Said, with panelists Loo Zihan, Teo Xiao Ting, and Jocelyn Chng

Tuesday 4 August 2020
Singapore

ArtsEquator presented Can Critics Criticise during a Pandemic? livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Tuesday 4 August 2020 at 7:30 p.m. SGT (Singapore, UTC +8) / 8:30 p.m. KST (Seoul, UTC +9) / 12:30 BST (London, UTC +1) / 13:30 CEST (Berlin, UTC +2) / 7:30 a.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4)

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Specters of Queer Trauma in Nosferatu, The Vampyr
Essay

Specters of Queer Trauma in Nosferatu, The Vampyr

4 August 2020

Chloe Hyman reflects on M Sloth Levine’s play Nosferatu, The Vampyr, which she believes serves to dismantle anti-Semitic tropes, due to the fact that Jewishness and queerness are inextricably bound in vampire lore.

an actor onstage with a large projection behind them
Distanced Devotion
Essay

Distanced Devotion

Grumelot’s Game Over Brings Us Closer

30 July 2020

Barbara Fuchs writes about Game Over, a devised piece by the Spanish company Grumelot, which was a profound exploration of storytelling across multiple platforms, including Zoom, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Spotify.

a person seated at a desk with multiple screens
At Home and in Lockdown with Belarus Free Theatre
Essay

At Home and in Lockdown with Belarus Free Theatre

The Show Goes On

30 June 2020

verity healey examines how Belarus Free Theatre is making work during COVID-19 and dives in to their latest show, A School for Fools.

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End Meeting For All
Essay

End Meeting For All

Zoom Theatre, Launched

25 June 2020

Barbara Fuchs reflects on Forced Entertainment’s three-part Zoom show, End Meeting For All.

an actor onstage
Taking Risks to Promote Community with Visky’s Juliet
Essay

Taking Risks to Promote Community with Visky’s Juliet

20 April 2020

Neil Blackadder writes about three productions of Juliet at Chicago’s Theatre Y, including the most recent one that configured and filled the small black-box space in an unusual way.

headshot of diep tran
Theatre Journalist + Playwright - Lauren talks with Diep Tran
Video

Theatre Journalist + Playwright - Lauren talks with Diep Tran

with playwright Lauren Gunderson

Thursday 16 April 2020
United States

Playwright Lauren Gunderson presented a conversation Theatre Journalist + Playwright - Lauren talks with Diep Tran livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Thursday 16 April 2020 at 11 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC-7) / 1 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 2 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC-4).

two actors onstage
ANDI BOI
Essay

ANDI BOI

One Transgender Youth’s Story on Stage

15 April 2020

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce talks about Dallas Children’s Theater’s production of ANDI BOI and the importance of seeing trans stories in theatre for young audiences.