ITJA

Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy

National website for Critics Institute

The KCACTF sponsors competitions in each region of the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy (ITJA). The ITJA was established to assist in elevating the level of arts criticism and to provide writers the opportunity to grow at the same pace as the artists, whose work they review and interpret.

Like the Critics Institute before it, it works to train good writers, but ITJA does more. Criticism, especially with the advent of technology, has changed radically, and the ITJA reflects that. Critics who are fortunate enough to make it through the O’Neill Boot Camp at the O’Neill find work in all fields. A few head to graduate schools in criticism, and many work as journalists, but just as many become dramaturgs, art administrators, public relation and marketing specialists, and writers of plays and screenplays, among other jobs. Those who do become critics rarely work using over night deadlines, and most of the writing is sent electronically. Many are now working in radio and television, orally expressing their opinions using sound clips from the plays or movies they are reviewing.

The New ITJA moves away from the classroom model of just writing reviews and critiquing them in round table format. Students who participate are inventive within this framework; they write blogs, previews, interviews, and position papers; they frame their ideas orally; and they work with media specialists who currently embrace the technology of the 21st century. The New ITJA looks for opportunities that the critics can connect with dramaturgy, possibly even sharing a workshop or an assignment. It means we interview, observe, and reinvent, responding more actively to and with invited productions.

In the past, the school hosting the festival has provided the majority of the student critics who have participated in the institute, but in the last many years, we have encouraged each of the participating schools to publicize the Institute more enthusiastically. The process is simple and the rewards are many. And our guest critic, Andy Propst, author of two biographies, is the leading guest in most regions right now, having been trained at the National Critics Institute at the O’Neill and often used by the Musical Theatre Program there as a dramaturg. He’s a great resource.

Choose the best writers in your theatre program–and outside of it–who have an interest in advocating for the arts in a myriad of forms. The students selected will meet in daily workshops to look at professional and unprofessional theatre critiques with critics and media specialists with diverse backgrounds in theatre, journalism, criticism, and writing. They will also traverse among the festival, participating actively as reporters, interviewers, and recorders/interpreters of the events in which they actively critique and analyze. Their workshops are no longer limited to a table like an English class, but they use the entire festival as their canvas, upon which they write, comment, and critique, all as theatre advocates.

After the Institute is concluded, the participant who illustrates the most promise will be invited to a pool of eight. A select group of critics and professors will then choose 4 to advance to the Kennedy Center. From the four critics selected, one writer will be chosen by Washington Post critic Nelson Pressley and/or Chris Jones from The Chicago Tribune to attend the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center during its national playwriting conference (usually in early July), where he or she will work with leading professional newspaper and magazine critics from across the United States. All expenses will be paid. But four of our best writers and thinkers will be in Washington studying with critics such as Peter Marks from The Washington Post and Bob Mondello from NPR and the City Paper.

As Associate Coordinator of theNational Critics Institute and the National and Regional Coordinator for ITJA in Region VI, I invite you to find as many promising theatre advocates as you can to join our newly reframed workshop. If you think other departments have students who would be interested, please have them contact me directly at mark.charney@ttu.edu, but they must have a pressing affection for and knowledge of theatre.

Region VI would love to see you at the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy in San Angelo, Texas this February. And, remember, we’re not looking just for students who want to be theatre critics, although we welcome them too—we’re looking for students in ALL disciplines who want to explore how they can best advocate for theatre. As past participants will tell you, they sharpen not only their writing skills, but also their thinking and analytical skills as well, and with a very flexible schedule.

Contact Mark Charney with any questions you may have.

Mark Charney – ITJA and Dramaturgy Coordinator
Texas Tech University – Texas
School of Theatre and Dance
864 356 2150
mark.charney@ttu.edu