Reflections after attending the National Critics Institute

I spent the past two weeks at the O’Neill Theatre Center in New London, Conn. at the National Critics Institute— the only writing workshop for early and mid-career theatre critics. In a cottage in New England I pondered about the state of theatre, the state of journalism, writing about people of color, how to incorporate dining content into theatre journalism, and how to find my voice. The latter was my greatest revelation– the disconnection between the way I speak and the way that I write hinders my ability to develop my voice as a writer. This voice is critical to me making this a career, so I better invest a good chunk of my time into finding it.

I left with a sense of clarity and action items. I am going to meet with my mentor, put together a pitch for an arts column, and use the friends I have with telecommunications degrees to help me put together an interview reel, so that I can pitch myself to cover the arts in broadcast news outlets.

Here are some gems from the Institute:

“Theater is about getting under the skin of different types of people.” -Linda Winer, Theater Critic, Newsday

“Be good to yourself as a critic when you watch a show. Be in a place that is fair to the work and to your ability to respond to the work.” -Matt Wolf, Theatre Critic, The Guardian and The Times London

If you’re doing something worthwhile, isn’t it worthy of analysis? If you’re not supporting criticism, what are you saying about your art form?” -Robert Simonson, Cocktail Writer, New York Times

“Competition is good, but if it flatlines, then no one knows what’s going on. Criticism is good, because it makes you better.” -Ann Nyberg, WTNH, ABC Affiliate, Connecticut

“Travel widely. Explore lots. Read lots. Eat lots.” -Sam Sifton, Deputy Food Editor, New York Times

“Appetizers are the off-Broadway of the food world” -Chris Jones, Theater Critic, The Chicago Tribune

“I didn’t get into this business to kill art; I got into this business to create art.” -David Stone, Producer, Wicked, If/Then, Next to Normal

“I don’t buy the idea that a good, solid play that does not wow the New York critics will not have a life a life after that.” -Dan Sullivan, retired theater critic, LA Times

“Theater that is not written about well is not going to make people want to go.” -Charles Isherwood, Theater Critic, New York Times

“Broadway is mostly singing animals and movie stars.” -Charles Isherwood

“Make yourself an interesting autobiography.” -Linda Winer

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