American Theatre Critics Association’s 2020 Conference: The Next Normal

What good is sitting alone in your room — when through the magic of Zoom, you can join fellow arts journalists from around the country for a weekend of education, inspiration and commiseration?

ATCA’s first virtual conference will be held Friday-Sunday, Nov. 13-15, 2020! Our theme is “The Next Normal,” and we’ve asked theater leaders from around the country to join us.

You’ll meet some of the top names in the industry, including Oskar Eustis (The Public Theater) interviewed by Pulitzer-nominated critic Soraya Nadia McDonald. You’ll hear from playwright/author Richard Wesley (“The Mighty Gents”), “A Strange Loop” creator Michael R. Jackson, and the musical theater duo of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime,” “Anastasia”). Maya Phillips, the New York Times’ inaugural arts critic fellow, is set to give our 2020 Perspectives in Criticism address.

In a series of panels and one-on-one conversations, regional artistic directors will discuss the challenges of 2020 and producers will share how their shows are faring while stages are dark. We’ll hear from award-winning playwrights, talk about mental health care for writers and explore what inclusive theater could look like on the other side of COVID-19. We even have some live performances and cabaret-drag trivia in the mix.Stay tuned to this page and the weekly ATCA UPDATE newsletter for the latest developments

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  • $40 Member Early Bird: through October 31, 2020, for full 3-day conference
  • $50 Member Full Price: November 1, 2020 and after, for full 3-day conference
  • $50 Non-Member Guest: for full 3-day conference

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(note all times Eastern Standard Time)


1:00 PM WELCOME to ATCA 2020: The Next Normal

ATCA chair Martha Wade Steketee and conference committee co-chair Lou Harry

SESSION: Conversation with Oskar Eustis and Soraya Nadia McDonald 

2:30 PM SESSION: Arts & Activism: Covering Social Justice Theater 

Kelundra Smith in conversation with:

Murielle Borst-Tarrant, Kuna/ Rappahannock Nations; author and activist.Snehal Desai, artistic director, East West Players

Rohan Preston, theater critic at the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Diany Rodriguez, co-founder of IDEA ATL

Kinan Valdez, producing artistic director, El Teatro Campesino

4:00 PM SESSION: Musicals Reinventing Form

Michael R. Jackson, playwright, composer, lyricist, “A Strange Loop” with Jiles King

5:00 PM PERSPECTIVES IN CRITICISM: Maya Phillips, arts critic fellow, The New York Times

7:00 PM SCREENING: Horton Foote: The Road to Home

2020 documentary screening followed by director Anne Rapp, daughters Hallie Foote and Daisy Foote, and friend and colleague Michael Wilson in conversation with Michael Barnes. View the trailer here.

LATE NIGHT: post-show chat

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ATCA Chair Martha Wade Steketee and ATCA leaders welcome old and new members, and report on 2020 member survey, the new website, professional issues, and ATCA future plans.

1:30 PM SESSION: Meeting the Moment: Regional theaters rethink work amid pandemic and push for equity

Elizabeth Kramer in conversation with:

Robert Barry Fleming, artistic director, Actors Theatre of Louisville

Jacob G. Padrón, artistic director, Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, Conn.

Stephanie Ybarra, artistic director, Baltimore Center Stage 

3:00 PM SESSION: The Future of Broadway: Producers on what’s next for shuttered shows

Frank Rizzo in conversation with: 

Mara Isaacs, producer, “Hadestown”

Brian Moreland, producer, “The Lifespan of a Fact,” “Blue” at the Apollo Theater

Jeffrey Seller, producer, “RENT,” “Hamilton” 

4:30 PM SESSION: Prize-winning playwrights

Kerry Reid in conversation with:

Lee Edward Colston II, “The First Deep Breath”

Chandler Hubbard, “Animal Control”

E.M. Lewis, “How the Light Gets In”

Dan McCabe, “The Purists”

Stephanie Alison Walker, “The Madres”

6:00 PM DINNER BREAK: Conference Cocktails with Brian Bartels and Lindsay Christians

7:00 PM Theater Trivia with Beneva Fruitville

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12:00 PM SESSION: Animals on Stage with Bill Berloni and Frank Rizzo

1:00 PM Q&A: Self-care for Journalists with Laura DeSantis, licensed psychotherapist

2:00 PM SESSION: Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens 

Jay Handelman talks with composers of “Ragtime” and “Anastasia” about openings overseas, working through the pandemic and the state of theater 

3:15 PM SESSION: New Book Hour

Misha Berson in conversation with:

Michael Reidel, “Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway”

Howard Sherman, “Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century”

Richard Wesley, “It’s Always Loud in the Balcony: A Life in Black Theater, From Harlem to Hollywood and Back”

4:30 PM FAREWELL to ATCA 2020: The Next Normal

Lou Harry hosts special guest [to be announced]

* All sessions conducted via Zoom. Subject to change and availability of invited guests.

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