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A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer

Refereeing the Muses

Bob Abelman and Cheryl Kushner

A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer: Refereeing the Muses examines the skill set associated with being a critic and arts journalist. It explores the history, evolution, and future of the profession in the United States, and carefully and purposefully dissects the preparation, observation, and writing process associated with generating thoughtful and interesting arts criticism.
Using theatrical productions as the best and most vivid example of a storytelling enterprise that employs creativity, imagination, collaboration, aesthetics, and artisanship to effectively engage an audience, this book is intended to generate the critical thinking and critical writing skills necessary to effectively engage in all forms of arts journalism.
It is designed to be used as a college-level textbook on theater criticism and arts journalism courses, for those looking to become more thoughtful, critical consumers, for casual critics thinking about starting a blog or working for their university newspaper, and for working critics hoping to improve their craft.
The text is written in an accessible style and includes quotes from renowned critics and arts practitioners throughout as well as frequent sidebars that offer timely, insightful, and entertaining examples of the points being made in the text.


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List of “In Profiles”


The West Wing 6 Gay Theater and the Diffusion of Innovation 18 Academically Adrift 20 Rating on a Curve 23 What Kind of Man 38 Waiting for Godot 39 Spider-Man’s Success by the Numbers 40 Upon Critics Who Judge of Modern Plays Precisely by the Rules of the Ancients 42 The Critic-Critic v. The Non-Critic Critic 45 Theater Critic Joke 55 “Discussing the Undiscussable” as Sociological Criticism 63 “In Defense of Disney” as Genre Criticism 65 “Color Vision” as Auteur Criticism 66 Assassins and Hair as Anthropological Criticism 68 “Dunlap’s Darby’s Return” 79 The Astor Place Riot 83 Shaw as Critic 92 The Aisle-Sitters of Gotham 99 Clurman’s “The Complete Critic’s Qualifications” 102 Kenneth Tynan—The Notorious Critic 104 Theater Criticism and the Pulitzer Prize 106 Plays and Films Featuring Critics 109 Jukebox Musicals 125 interior_abelman.ind 7 6/13/13 11:41 AM viii | A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer: Refereeing the Muses Genre 134 Who Doth Inhabit the Primary Position 137 Broadway Musical Flops 141 Timing and the Cruel Review 158 Job Description at East West Players (Los Angeles, CA) 162 The New York Times Critic Watch 166 Actors’ Equity 171 One Actor’s Process 173 The National Standards for Arts Education 180 Do Critics Need To Be Practitioners 191 Theater Mission Statements 196 International Association of Theatre Critics Code of Practice 199 Participant-Observer Exercises 201 Theater Critic Poem 210 Follow the Leader 215 Ira Glass on Writing 218 Guidelines for Writing a Good Headline 222 Being Word Savvy 224 The Washington...

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