Everyone's a Critic, Season 2: Show Us Your Apps
Next week marks the start of Region II's Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), and with it comes the convergence of hundreds of drama students on Indiana University of Pennsylvania's (IUP) campus. Plenty of actors, directors and writers saw their first moments of glory at this festival--say auditioning for (or even better, winning) an Irene Ryan Award (that's Ryan at left, as "The Beverly Hillbillies'" Granny), maybe making it to the big event in D.C. The shows chosen to participate in the festival represent the finest college productions in each region, and this year they range from the delightful and much-lauded A Year with Frog and Toad, performed by IUP, to SHOT!, Temple University's follow-up to In Conflict, its successful original docu-drama about the Iraq War.
But just as every ocean liner collects barnacles, so the KCACTF arrives with a little something called the O'Neill Critics Institute (OCI) attached to its underside. The OCI, like the festival's other segments, awards one outstanding writer not only a trip to the Kennedy Center shebang, but also a spot at the two-week-long summer Eugene O'Neill Critics Institute.
I taught at KCACTF's OCI last year, when it was held at Philly's UArts (acronyms, anyone?). In order to get the students used to having their work read by an audience of strangers, I posted their reviews here, (scroll to the bottom) and ran the thing reality-competition-style, like a really boring version of "Project Runway," with a proscenium standing in for the runway and laser focus standing in for bitching and backbiting. (Where were the divas? The slackers? Damned well-behaved, hard-working kids!)
This year, we're at it again, but stepping the action up a notch. It's just not fair to send these babes into the woods with old-school bread crumbs, because the woods have been clearcut, and home, it seems, is wherever you hang your RSS feed. I hope to arm them with a GPS and some of the tools they'll need to set up their own shops out there in the ether.
Please comment on their work, offer suggestions, help us pick a winner, and let them know people still care deeply about theater criticism. Love critics? Great, tell them why. Hate critics? Tell them why. Indifferent? Tell them how they can convince you. Assuming all deadlines are met (lesson #1), you'll see the students here on Monday and every day after that until January 16, when everyone's still a critic, but only one gets the comp.