Thursday, January 8, 2015

SOLIDARITY: Charlie Hebdo Attack


IN THE WAKE of the January 7 terrorist attack on the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC) has issued the following statement of solidarity with those who suffered as a result of the violent attempt to silence members of a free press:
The International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC) extends its deepest sympathies to the victims of the January 7 terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. This act of senseless violence is a chilling assault on freedom of expression. For those who practice the profession of criticism, free expression is the air that sustains our life's work. Vicious attacks such as these threaten not only our daily work but also demand that we stand firm in the face of those who would shake civilization to its very core. We are all Charlie Hebdo
Margareta Sörenson, President of IATC
Michel Vaïs, Secretary General
*****
L'Association internationale des critiques de théâtre (AICT-IATC) adresse ses condoléances les plus vives aux proches des victimes de l'attentat terroriste qui a eu lieu à Paris le 7 janvier contre Charlie Hebdo. Cette attaque violente constitue une atteinte à la liberté d'expression, condition vitale pour tous ceux qui exercent la profession de critique. Un pareil attentat constitue non seulement une menace pour nous tous dans notre travail quotidien, mais exige une position ferme contre ceux qui tentent de viser le cœur même de notre civilisation. Nous sommes tous Charlie Hebdo
Margareta Sörenson, Présidente de l'AICT
Michel Vaïs, Secrétaire général

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

DONATE: Critical Stages Needs You

Critical Stages
THE PRESIDENT and the secretary general of the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC) have written to remind those who support critical engagement and advocacy in the arts that Critical Stages, the international web journal overseen by IATC, relies upon its readers for significant financial support. At the recent Beijing World Congress of AICT-IATC the General Assembly passed without objection a call for subsidies from national sections. The suggested minimum donation in that motion was $100 USD, though some members indicated that larger sections might be able to do more.

Since the inception of the journal, its functions have been largely supported by volunteer members of the editorial board and by the largesse provided by institutions who believed in the mission of the publication as detailed by the IATC and its former president (and former Critical Stages editor), Yun-Cheol Kim.

Illinois Theatre, the producing arm of the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has provided significant support for the past two funding cycles through institutional advertising. Given the technological nature of a global, bilingual publication such as Critical Stages, there are fixed costs for consistent upgrades and maintenance of the website in addition to the challenges of keeping the archives easily accessible.

Please take a moment to read this message from President Margareta Sörenson and Secretary General Michel Vaïs:
Our organization, IATC, is growing. More than ever before, we are reaching out to continents beyond the Western world—a very positive direction. We are also organizing successful conferences and important seminars for young critics. And another source of pride for IATC is Critical Stages, our web journal.
Today, the media world is changing at full speed: print media and the mainstream press are both diminishing platforms for our work, so that many theatre critics around the world are urgently seeking ways to publish. As we saw at our recent Beijing conference on criticism and the internet, many of us are finding that new technologies can provide support for the work of the critic.
In this context, our own web journal, Critical Stages, is essential to us all. A journal committed to excellence, it offers readers an overview of the performing arts internationally and, at the same time, gives us a platform of our own on the web, for nurturing our profession and inviting the world to share in the excitement and challenges of theatre criticism. 
We need to secure the future of Critical Stages, by giving it a stable financial life. Since before its first issue in 2009, the journal has been produced on a shoestring budget and by volunteers. Once again we thank Yun-Cheol Kim for his initative and team-building work in creating Critical Stages, and now we thank Savas Patsalidis for taking over as an editor working with a highly qualified group of editors. The plans and some funds are already in place for 2015, and a proper bank account is now reserved for Critical Stages and its costs. But for CS’s future: any kind of sponsors or donations are more than welcome! 
Now we ask all national associations to help by making an extra contribution. We know that each country’s economic situation is very different, and as a suggestion we propose contributions between 100 EU and 500 EU. Any amount, smaller or bigger, is of course welcome. Contributions must be sent to our treasurer: 
Stéphane Gilbart
Email: stgilbar@pt.lu
or electronically, as a transfer, to this account: 
AICT – Critical Stages CIC
Iban FR76 3006 6106 8100 0200 4170 347
BIC: CMCIFRPP
Our dream, naturally, is that Critical Stages will become an independent web journal, standing on its own feet, able to compensate contributors in some way and to finance the editorial work. To make the dream come true, we are developing a clear strategy for building a sound foundation, which will lead to long-term stability.
Thank you in advance for your solidarity and help!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

REPORT: Newsletter from Canada

Martin Morrow
OUR NEIGHBORS to the north have forwarded an interesting update on changes to the Canadian Theatre Critics Association. In the latest edition of Critically Speaking, the CTCA newsletter, new president Martin Morrow discusses some of the challenges that face the organization at this moment in which everything digital seems to overshadow conversations on art and aesthetics. Morrow acknowledges the accomplishments of his predecessor, longtime president of CTCA Don Rubin, who decided that four terms were enough and chose not to extend his tenure.

Editor of the influential six-volume World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Rubin remains the international liaison for the Canadian organization to the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC). Rubin shares some of his thoughts on the work of his time as president and points to a future, under Morrow's leadership, in which Canadian theatre criticism begins to work across certain cultural and lingustic barriers within the country as Canada continues to provide leadership among countries that prize multilinguistic approaches to arts and culture.
Don Rubin

Stephen Hunt from Calgary offers an interesting perspective on the Beijing World Congress of the IATC-AICT in this edition of the newsletter. The questions he raises about productions seen during the congress--largely limited to student productions at the Central Academy of Drama--will resonate with most congress attendees, as will his praise for the unfailingly patient and helpful organizers of the event. (His tongue-in-cheek call for something akin to a Clean Air Act to help reduce Beijing air pollution is amusing and exactly on point.) Hunt provides a clear, interesting overview on the conference presentations related to the topic of criticism in the Age of the Internet.

The newsletter also contains information on honorees of the Canadian association, which include the new president. The edition ends with a reprint of a well known essay by John Gassner on the "practicality of impractical criticism." You may access the entire newsletter here.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NEWS: Swedish ITI Newsletter

OUR FRIENDS at the Swedish section of ITI have just sent along their December newsletter, which is viewable as a web page here. The publication includes news of interest to theater aficionados everywhere, with special focus on Scendatabasen, which compiles thorough listings of productions of theater, dance, and opera beginning in 2007--data collection began in 2006--and includes productions opening this month. It is a superb resource for researchers, critics, artists, and the public.

The newsletter also links to information about Swedstage 2014, the second edition of this exciting festival. The recent edition of Swedstage featured eleven perfomances including a Mats Ek production of The Emigrants, based on the classic novel by Vilhelm Moberg and dramatized by Irena Kraus. One particularly interesting event of Swedstage is the "Pitch of Swedish Playwrights" during which playwrights pitch their ideas to an assembled group and present new scripts aimed at all types of audiences. Fifty persons from nearly thirty nations were represented at the festival. The next edition is scheduled for 2016.

According to the newsletter, Teaterunionen – Swedish ITI
is the forum for co-operation and information within Swedish performing arts and the center for contact and exchange across borders. We are a member organization for Swedish institutions and organizations within Swedish performing arts and arrange the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts, which is the largest Swedish national festival and meeting.
Teaterunionen also handles various national and international theatre projects such as improving the international knowledge of Swedish plays, showcase Swedish performing arts for the international market and co-operations across borders. We also arrange national and international seminars and conferences.
Moving: The Emigrants, directed by Mats Ek, Swedstage 2014.
Photo: Sören Vilks



Saturday, November 22, 2014

CALL: Jan Kott Our Contemporary

Our Contemporary: Jan Kott

IN CELEBRATION of the centenary of Jan Kott's birth, an international conference is scheduled for February 19, 2015 at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-Upon-Thames, London. "Jan Kott Our Contemporary: Contexts, Legacies, New Perspectives" borrows its title from Kott's influential work on the bard, Shakespeare Our Contemporary.

Conference organizers welcome inquiries from prospective speakers who will deliver twenty-minute papers on the role of Kott in Shakespeare and theatre studies, as well as his contribution to the intellectual life of the twentieth century. The conference is aimed at scholars, students, practitioners, reviewers, and the members of the general public for this free event. There will also be evening performances of Songs of Lear, which will be performed at the Battersea Arts Center, London. The acclaimed production was created by Song of the Goat Theatre, a Polish company.

Sweet Smell: Rose Theatre, Kingston-Upon-Thames

The organizing committee, which includes International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC-AICT) honorary president John Elsom, suggest a wide range of topics for discussion to include:
1. Jan Kott as academic critic. How has Shakespeare Our Contemporary shaped the development of Shakespeare criticism and theatre studies?  
 
2. Kott and the art of the essay. What made Kott’s essays influential; and do we still need them?
3. Kott and ancient Greek drama. How has the critic influenced classical studies? 
4. Kott and Existentialism. What was the importance of Kott’s work as a translator of Sartre?
5. Kott and the theatre of the absurd: the critic’s response to Beckett, Ionesco, and Gombrowicz.
6. Kott and global theatre. What was the importance of the critic’s interest in Kabuki and Noh?
7. Kott’s and the anthropology of theatre. What was the extent of Kott’s interaction with Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor, and Peter Brook?
8. Kott and Modernism. Can the critic be read as a Modernist writer?
9. Kott and religion. What were the critic’s views on Catholic doctrine on morality and sexuality, particularly in light of his writings on androgyny in Renaissance art and literature?
10. Kott’s politics. What were the critic’s reactions to Marxist and post-Marxist political theory, and to their impact on Polish theatre, international theatre, and theatre theory?
11. Kott and Jewish ethnicity. What is the significance of the Shoah on Polish and world theatre?
12. Kott, Polish emigration, and émigré culture. How do exiled artists and intellectuals like the critic shape the societies in which they work?
Abstracts of approximately 200 words accompanied by a 50-word bio should should be sent by December 5, 2014 to Aneta Mancewicz and Richard Wilson: kott.london2015@gmail.com Postal address: Aneta Mancewicz and Richard Wilson, Kingston University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Penrhyn Road, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE. Speakers will be notified of acceptance by December 8, 2014.

Tickets for Songs of Lear at the Battersea Arts Center, February 20 and 21, 2015, will be available at a special rate. Organizing committee: John Elsom (Kingston Shakespeare Seminar), Anna Godlewska (Polish Cultural Institute), Anna Gruszka (Polish Cultural Institute), Aneta Mancewicz (Kingston University), Aleksandra Sakowska (British Friends of the Gdansk Theatre Trust), Richard Wilson (Kingston University).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WORLD CONGRESS: Beijing and Beyond

En avant: Global participants of the IATC-AICT World Congress in Beijing 
IT HAS BEEN a very busy 2014 for members of the International Committee. We continue to make additional opportunities for American Theatre Critics Association members to participate in international events. Beginning with the 2012 Warsaw World Congress, when ROBERT COHEN joined the delegation, seven different members of ATCA have represented the United States at IATC events.

BRAD HATHAWAY was invited to represent ATCA in India, for an established critics' seminar. Hathaway, long of the Washington, D.C., area and now a resident in the San Francisco Bay Area, made a case for critical advocacy regarding the interests of the larger theater community amid the ongoing struggle over intellectual property issues in the digital age. Hathaway reports:
The India Section of IATC convened a Critics' Symposium as part of the Sixth International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur, India from January 30 to February 1. Moderated by the section's founder, Deepa Punjani of Mumbai, the symposium examined what it means to be a critic in the 21st century. Presentations from Indian critics included Punjani's "The Transforming Force of Theatre Criticism in the Age of Digital and Satellite Technology," observations on three examples of theater arts as a tool for social change by Ajay Joshi of Pune, Vikram Phukan of Mumbai's "Getting Theatre the Coverage It Deserves: Beyond Press Releases and Hype" and two presentations by Kerala-based critics, Renu Ramnath and CS Venkiteswaran. Participants from around the world included Romania's Alice Georgescu, who spoke on "Critics in Transition: With Special Reference to the Work of Two Romanian Directors," Poland's Konrad Szczebiot who discussed "Polish Theatre of Form – Between Puppetry and Visual Art," and Sweden's Margareta Sörenson, recently elected IATC-AICT President at the Beijing World Congress, who discussed the stages of transition in the arts.
PATRICK DYER, a new member from Chicago, attended a Young Critics Seminar in Debrecen, Hungary, and WENDY ROSENFIELD attended the spring 2014 International Executive Committee in Caen, France, as the delegate for the committee chair. (While in France, Rosenfield saw JEAN LAMBERT-WILD's production of Waiting for Godot, which you may read about here.) Delegating is a practice that the current chair has employed regularly for the past two years: JAY HANDELMAN attended the spring 2013 International Executive Committee in Jönköping, Sweden, that May. Of his attendance at the Performing Arts Biennial (Biennalen Scenkonst), Handelman wrote for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota:
Attending one of these festivals as an American accustomed to a certain style of performance is like walking into a different world, as I've discovered over the years at other festivals in Rotterdam and Warsaw.
Theaters around the world have their own way of creating performances that is nothing like what the vast majority of Americans think of as theater. [. . .] What is exciting for an outsider is seeing how collaborators try to break down the traditional walls that separate performers from audiences, and how stories or ideas are shared.
The most "traditional" piece I saw was From Sammy with Love, a two-man tribute to the life and career of Sammy Davis Jr., and to his eight-year marriage to Swedish beauty May Britt. In America, it might easily become a standard biographical look at the singer, but it becomes a pointed and entertaining story that deals with racism faced by Davis, Britt and the two talented Swedish song-and-dance stars — Karl Dyall and Rennie Mirro — who recall his dynamic style.
Hey, Babe: Karl Dyall, left, and Rennie Mirro, frame a photo of
Sammy Davis, Jr., in From Sammy with Love, at the Performing Arts
Biennial in Jönköping, Sweden. PHOTO: Biennelan Scenkonst
[. . .]
At each performance and with each post-show conversation, I wondered what it would be like if theaters across the United States could send productions to a central location every couple of years, not for prizes and awards, but to celebrate our own national culture, and see what’s happening elsewhere.

There are lots of obstacles, beginning with money, because it's costly to send shows and sets to other cities, or to resurrect appropriate plays a year or two after they were first presented. How would theater companies be chosen, and where would it be held? Lots of questions to be answered, but everything has to start with an idea.
Quiet Americans? Jay Handelman, Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, and Jonathan
Abarbanel just before the General Assembly of the Beijing World Congress
JONATHAN ABARBANEL, JAY HANDELMAN and JEFFREY ERIC JENKINS attended the 2014 IATC-AICT World Congress in Beijing, China. Jenkins attended as a member of the IATC-AICT Executive Committee, and Abarbanel and Handelman served that the official delegates from the American section of IATC-AICT. Abarbanel spoke on the impact of social media in criticism from his experienced perch as a multitasking theatre critic in Chicago. The goodwill built by the presence of the three in meetings and other events of the congress led to the re-election of the American section with an overwhelming number of votes. Ninety percent of the international ballots cast included the United States as one of the ten members of the Executive Committee. Only Serbia, which bid to host the 2016 World Congress in Belgrade, received as many votes. Also elected was the first African nation, Nigeria, and India, also a first for that country. Jenkins was elected Vice President of IATC-AICT, he is the first ATCA member to serve as an officer of IATC-AICT.

SAVAS PATSALIDIS, of Greece, has been selected as the new editor-in-chief of Critical Stages, the international web journal founded by IATC-AICT that is now in its tenth volume. The American section received much gratitude during the World Congress for financial support ($5,000) of the journal, which was provided through the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. DON RUBIN of Canada has joined the editorial team as managing editor. He will work with Patsalidis and executive editor Jenkins on strengthening the journal's business model. The journal welcomes visitors to the open-access website: www.criticalstages.org. Members are encouraged to consider suggesting possible submissions.

The Assembly of the World Congress voted to request additional, much-needed support from individual national sections. The suggested base-amount is $100. Larger sections are encouraged to give what they can on an annual basis.

STAY TUNED: News will be shared here and via the ATCA e-blast as soon as IATC-AICT has firm plans for 2015 seminars. More than a half dozen were proposed during the Assembly, but these proposals have not been fully developed. When the seminar directors make an announcement, the ATCA chair will issue an e-blast to the entire membership. Do not delay when these opportunities arise, we have had ATCA members denied when seminars fill quickly.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

HONORS: Mario Fratti Feted in Italy

Mario Fratti at La MaMa in 2002.
Photo: Jonathan Slaff
ATCA member and playwright Mario Fratti recently returned from Italy, where he received the prestigious Capri Award for Forbidden Diary (Diario Proibito), his only novel. Chronicling the horrors of the German invasion of Italy, the book's recent publication led to a much-deserved celebration. On September 26, Fratti was presented with the award before the Italian Parliament.

Forbidden Diary is a controversial work, written when the author was only 20 years old. It was finally published in September 2013 by Grause (Naples). The book tells of the difficult war years in 
Fratti's hometown of L'Aquila, the end of fascism and then the war, the rise of freedom and the first years of democracy. The novel is also a literary testimony of the contribution of L'Aquila to the liberation of Italy from fascism. The published work also includes Fratti's play Martyrs, about nine young freedom fighters who were captured and shot by the Germans in 1943.

The Abruzzi earthquake in 2009 shattered Fratti's medieval-walled hometown, including the apartment where the expatriate playwright maintained a residence. He was active in relief efforts for the town and treasures his remaining ties to it. Congratulations to our beloved friend and colleague on this important honor.