As a theatre artist, advocate, teacher and audience member, I engage in a great deal of critical thinking about theatre. I first learned critical theory and analysis in grad school at the University of Texas Austin while studying under Omi Olomo Osun (Dr. Joni Jones) and Jill Dolan. From them, I learned about the complicated ways in which race and gender politics for and against artists, audience members and critics. On a basic level, when we approach and engage with a piece of theatre we must be open-minded enough to consider and also counter cultural biases that work against women and artists of color. We must be socially aware, racially conscious and establish a more diverse and inclusive cultural literacy.
In her blog for the Washington Post, journalist and classical music critic Anne Midgette wrote this about the role and responsibility of the art critic:
“The role of a critic is to cover a field. This doesn't mean simply pandering to popular taste. It means doing one's best to convey a sense of what is going on in a given discipline by writing about every possible side of it. It means trying to convey a perspective that a reader who doesn't spend every night going to concerts/plays/films may not be able to gather himself; or offering a thoughtful take that might stimulate a reader who does go to everything to see something in a different light.
For part of our role is to foster dialogue and debate. That doesn't mean setting forth judgments of taste in order that readers might fall obediently into line behind us. Quite the contrary: it may mean putting out views that one knows may represent the minority. It means being interested in the thoughts of those who disagree. It means being delighted when someone is powerfully moved by something one didn't like oneself. It also means writing well enough that someone might want to read you -- a goal that's hard to reach if all you're doing is trying to push readers to buy tickets.”
For me, this is criticism at its very best and actually, it's what I see Howlround.com accomplishing so masterfully.
When I first began these series, I knew that I wanted to connect with the Women Theatre Critics of D.C. I wanted to engage them in a discussion not only about their ideals, standards and passion for the form, but also about the impact they hope to make on the American Theatre. As with my previous series on Playwrights, Directors, Artistic Directors, and Dramaturgs, it is my hope that these interviews will serve others who are making their way as theatre critics and feature writers in the Nation's Capital, and beyond. I also hope it will shed light on the essential role of the critic in the American Theatre and offer a point of entry into their process of engagement.
Jayne Blanchard has been a critic covering DC theater for the past 14 years, most recently for DC Theatre Scene and previously for the Washington Times. Prior to that, she was a theater critic in the Twin Cities and a movie reviewer in the Washington area. She is a proud resident of Baltimore.
Sophia Bushong is very flattered to have been asked to participate in this series, even though she reviews plays very rarely and usually just for the fun of it. She has been a creative writer, theater geek and actress all of her life. She has a BA in English Literature and Dramatic Arts from Dickinson College. She spent ten wonderful years acting and studying in New York City. She trained at the New Actor's Workshop, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, the American Globe Theatre Conservatory with John Basil, and with the best Voice for Actors coach ever, Robert Perillo. Favorite roles include: Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, STNJ, Shakespeare Live; Sylvia in Sylvia, Lake Placid Center for the Arts; the Angel in Angels In America, Parts I & II, Pendragon Theater; Woman in Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act,Prospect Theater; Madge Larrabee, Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Bernadette in The Misadventures of Julia Child, Upright Citizen's Brigade. A special mention must go to the part of Dissenter in MacRune's Guevara, Mirror Repertory Company, because she was cast in the role by her future husband. Five years into their friendship he sweet-talked her into moving to Washington, DC. Once here, she turned her focus towards writing. She has been a freelance contributor to the Washington City Paper Arts Desk blog for about sixteen months.
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins is an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival and theater producer, and an impassioned advocate for the Arts as a Commissioner and Vice Chair for the Arts for the City of Alexandria,VA. She also is also a staff writer and theater and film reviewer for DC Metro Theater Arts. Sydney-Chanele made her theater producing debut, 'Someone Who'll Watch Over Me' in May 2012 with Port City Playhouse, in Alexandria VA. and just ended a very successful theater producing effort in McLean, VA. with Neil Simon's 'Rumors' for McLean Community Players at Alden Theater. Her next producing effort will be Pearl Cleage's 'Blues for an Alabama Sky'. Co-Chair of the Film Program with Artomatic 2012, and Programmer of Cinema Art Bethesda, Sydney-Chanele is the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Festival , and Female Shorts Film and Video Showcase. She is active with DC Metro area film festivals, including programming and leadership positions with FilmFest DC, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film Festival, DC Shorts, Rosebud Film Festival, and AFI's Docs
Victoria Durham is a writer, spoken word artist and lifelong resident of the DC Metro area. After earning degrees from Temple University (PA) in both Film and African-American Studies, Victoria worked extensively as a freelance talent and production coordinator throughout the local independent film circuit. She also contributed her talents to such companies as Girard Video, BET, The Barrie School, WTTG FOX-5 and the CW (formerly UPN-20). In 2011, after contributing an article to the website of the late author Erica Kennedy, Victoria decided to more seriously pursue a career in arts writing and began penning her first stage play. More significantly, she began working as a freelance arts journalist. In 2012, Victoria covered the ever popular Capital Fringe Festival for the well-established website DC Theatre Scene. That same year she joined the staff of MD Theatre Guide as a contributing writer.
Susan began studying the field of theatre criticism as an assistant to theatre director and critic-at-large Robert Brustein in London 1972-1973. Subsequently, while pursuing a career on stage in New York, Minneapolis, and Boston, Susan continued to write reviews periodically. For the last three years, Susan has worked for DC Theatre Scene, covering theatre and opera for Washington’s premiere on-line arts magazine. Recently she was invited to write dance reviews dance for The Washington Post. Trained as both an actress and dancer, Susan brings diverse perspectives to her writing on performance. She has directed and also performed in repertory theatre, new plays, and experimental cross-over forms of dance-theatre. She served as Artistic Director of Performers Ensemble from 1978 to 1989 including serving as a company member of Peter Sellars’ Boston Shakespeare. In 1994, she co-founded Alliance for New Music-Theatre working collaboratively to develop libretto for operas and musicals and directing new works.
Marlene Hall grew up an army brat and has lived all over the world and in Washington, D.C. Marlene graduated from the University of Virginia where she wrote for the Cavalier Daily and was in Air Force ROTC. Commissioned an Air Force officer, she served in Korea, Germany, New Mexico, and Louisiana. Marlene earned two masters degrees while in the Air Force in Management and IO Psych. After leaving active duty, she has worked as a government contractor, freelance writer, public relations executive, and sales for Viridian green energy. She just graduated with her third master's in Public Relations from Georgetown University. Marlene dabbles in improvisational comedy and has taken classes at the famed iO Theater in Chicago. She is very active in the D.C. charity and social scene and contributes her time to veterans' issues including Team Red, White, and Blue, bringing veterans together through social and physical activities. Marlene has been going to plays since she was a little girl and her all time favorite play is "Les Miserables." She covers the plays in the DC area for The Huffington Post and Ask MissA. She love the vibrancy of the theatre in the DC area. She also participates in the GI Film Festival which honors the military through authentic story telling.
Jane Horwitz has been a regular panelist on WETA TV's critics' roundtable show “Around Town” since 1988. Horwitz wrote the "Backstage" column for The Washington Post's Style section from 1997 to 2011, covering the Washington area theater scene in feature stories and interviews. She currently writes freelance theater reviews for The Washington Post and for Washingtonian magazine's website. Her column The Family Filmgoer appears every Friday in The Washington Post's Weekend section and is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group to newspapers around the country. A Chicago area native, Horwitz earned her bachelor's degree from Stanford University and received a master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She began her career in radio as a reporter in Springfield, Illinois, then joined the television news department at WFAA TV in Dallas/Fort Worth. After eight years as a reporter and film/theater critic at WFAA, Horwitz married and relocated to Connecticut, and then to the Washington area. She worked on WTTG TV’s “Ten O’ Clock News” as a theater and film critic for four years, co-hosted the national cable program “The Moviegoing Family” on The Learning Channel and became a panelist on WETA's "Around Town." She began writing "The Family Filmgoer" column in 1993. In the 1990s, Horwitz was heard Friday afternoons on WETA 90.9 FM’s “PM Program” in a weekly segment called “Talking Pictures.” She also produced and hosted two pilot film review programs titled “Chicks on Flicks,” that featured a panel of female critics.
Debbie is recognized throughout the Center for her creativity, energy and zest for life. In addition to fostering camaraderie within the office, encouraging and contributing to group activities, she makes full use of her theater background at numerous NCHS events, most recently performing as “Sistah D” for Diversity Day. She organized the NCHS Double Dutch Jumpers and she is a walking and jogging coach who has helped many log miles on the trails in University Park. Debbie has performed on plenty of stages from Chicago to Montgomery, AL to Washington, D.C. and organized a dance troop while in college. She is a member of the Black Women Playwrights’ Group with works performed as part of the Source Theater Festival and NYC. She has a Masters in English from the University of Illinois and currently writes for D.C. Theatre Scene.
Jenn Larsen is one of the founders of We Love DC, a website created by a group of writers dedicated to exploring and celebrating life in the nation's capital. Currently serving as editor-in-chief, she writes about art, theater, and the craft cocktail scene. She is a graduate of the Catholic University of America's drama program where she studied both acting and design, and is a veteran of National Players, the nation's longest running classical touring company. In addition to We Love DC, her theater reviews have been featured on DC Theatre Scene, and she's been profiled by Washingtonian's Capital Comment and My Voice is Strong. An advocate for DC's talented food and drink industry, she's judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art's ARTINI gala, the DC Craft Bartenders Guild's Rickey Month Contest, the Jefferson Hotel's Quill Competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC.
Rosalind Lacy MacLennan, who hails from Los Angeles, has enjoyed writing for DCTheatreScene since 2006, where she covers Washington's Hispanic theatres. A 25-year journalism veteran, with newspapers such as the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, the Butler Eagle in Pennsylvania, the Suburban Newspapers of Northern New Jersey, Rosalind won a MD-DC press award for the Montgomery Journal in 1999. Acting started her career at Occidental College in L.A. Rosalind switched to U.C.L.A. for their theater and film departments and supplemented by joining the acting workshop of Martin Landau, from the Mission Impossible TV series. Since moving to the Washington area, she has reviewed theatre and classical music for the Gazette Newspapers, until she joined DCTheatrescene.com. Invited to join the National League of American Pen Women in 2007, several of Rosalind's poems have been published and won awards. A former board member of FootlightsDC, Rosalind is an aficionado of Spanish theater history. As a community activist, she attended Montgomery College, took law courses for three years and earned a paralegal degree. "I always wanted to be a lawyer or a novelist or both, but the draw of theatre is like a magnet." Reviewing and writing is something she has to do, or die.
Jennifer Perry hails from Liverpool, New York and has been a DC resident since 2001. When not attending countless theatre, concert, and cabaret performances in the area and in New York, she works for the US Federal Government as an analyst and previously worked in non-profit research and advocacy organizations. Jennifer previously wrote for Maryland Theatre Guide and DC Metro Theater Arts and continues to review theatre and cabaret for BroadwayWorld and DC Theatre Scene. Ms. Perry earned her B.A. in Sociology and Spanish (Linguistics) from Houghton College in Houghton, NY and her M.A. in International Affairs from the School of International Service at American University in Washington DC where she focused on international security and ethnic conflict.
Rebecca J. Ritzel is a writing professor and freelance journalist who lives in Alexandria, Va. Her cultural reporting has been featured in more than two dozen American, British and Canadian publications. Locally, she writes about dance for The Washington Post and theater for City Paper. She has taught literary journalism in the MFA program at American University and currently teaches in the Professional Writing Program at the University of Maryland. Ritzel is originally from Baltimore and earned her master's degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University. Follow her on Twitter @rjreporter
Jojo Ruf is the General Manager of the National New Play Network, an alliance of nonprofit theaters across the US that champions the development, production and continued life of new plays, and the Coordinating Producer for the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University. She is a freelance writer for theatreWashington, a Teaching Artist for Ford’s Theatre, and has worked with Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, Theater J, the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, and Georgetown University as a freelance producer and director. Jojo graduated from Georgetown University with a dual degree in English and Theater and Performance Studies. In 2010 she assistant directed and co-adapted In Search of Duende: The Ballad of Federico Garcia Lorca as part of the UNESCO/ITI World Festival of Theater Schools in Peru, and represented Georgetown as the lone US delegation among representatives from dozens of the world’s leading theater academies. She was the Coordinating Producer for the Tennessee Williams Centennial Festival, presented by Georgetown University and Arena Stage, and served as the Coordinator for Theater J’s Spinozium and other Beyond the Stage events for New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza. She also produced Will the Circle be Unbroken: Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, a Georgetown University/Arena Stage Collaboration.