George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, 2010-2011

Just a note to say that The Feminist Spectator blog won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2010-2011.  I’m delighted by this honor.  The Feminist Spectator is the first blog ever to receive the award in its 56 year history, and I’m only the seventh woman to win in the history of the award.  The last woman so honored was my friend and colleague Alisa Solomon, who won for her book Re-dressing the Canon:  Essays on Gender and Theatre in 1998.  I attended Alisa’s celebration party at PS122 that year, and remember the pride I felt in her accomplishment.  I’m thrilled to be joining her and so many other critics and writers I admire in this distinguished company.

Other recent award winners include Charles McNulty (chief theatre critic at the LA Times), Marc Robinson (for his book The American Play), Randy Gener (for his writing at American Theatre), H. Scott McMillin (for his book The Musical as Drama), and Ray Knapp (for his book The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity).  The prize is adjudicated by the chairs of the English Departments at Cornell, Yale, and Princeton, though Cornell administers the award.

Karen Fricker wrote a lovely post in her theatre blog at The Guardian about the significance of my award, noting that Nathan award’s history of gender imbalance “might reflect the field’s demographics, [but] it does nonetheless prompt questioning about why criticism is still largely perceived and practiced as a man’s game, when the accomplishments of Dolan and other leaders in the field . . . prove that turning out incisive, engaging critical prose about what happens on a stage does not require a Y chromosome.”

The significance of the Nathan award going to a blog has also been remarked by various commentators.  London-based theatre critic Mark Shenton, on his blog Shenton’s View, suggests that “the web can also usefully provide a forum for critics to do their work away from the commercial and space restraints that typically operate in newspapers.”  Shenton discusses the recent firing of long-time Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman as an example of the sad state of contemporary arts criticism, and says that Hoberman has responded to his ouster by announcing that he’ll start a blog.  Shenton also notes that Howard Kissel, who once wrote for the New York Daily News, now regularly contributes his criticism to the online Huffington Post.

Clearly, there’s a lot to say about the state of theatre and arts criticism.  I’m hoping to sponsor a panel discussion about gender and criticism, and about blogging as a forum for criticism, as part of my Nathan award celebration.  Save Saturday, April 28, tentatively planned as the date for an event here in Princeton.  Details forthcoming.

Meanwhile, I want to take the opportunity of the award to thank those of you who read this blog.  When I first started writing The Feminist Spectator (seven years ago this August), I felt like I was sending words out in the void, happy to see them move off my private screen but unsure where and with whom they might land.  Learning that so many of you read the blog, and engaging your comments and quarrels, gives me great pleasure, and encourages me about people’s desire to engage long-form, generative arts criticism.

I’m so grateful for the critical community your reading creates for my writing.

The Feminist Spectator

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