We are back! 2020-21 was a challenging year, but we were still able to do ITJA virtually. This year, however, we are planning to have a face-to-face festival at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. But live theatre, like the cicadas, is just starting to reemerge. So, now more than ever we need advocacy. The challenges we face demand people who can write well about theatre and who serve as advocates for theatre and for the role of theatre in our society.

Criticism, of course, is still central to what a theatre journalist does, but more and more theatre journalists are:

  • reviewing plays in different venues (papers, magazines, websites, etc.)
  • writing blogs,
  • doing interviews and writing feature pieces,
  • writing material for individual theatres and their websites,
  • presenting views of theatre in podcasts,
  • regularly tweeting their experiences and insights, and
  • looking for new approaches to use technology to communicate about theatre.

ITJA can’t do all of this, but we hope to give you skills and ways of thinking about theatre you can use to create relevant theatre journalism.

We will be returning for the most part to how we did ITJA before the pandemic.  While there may be some possibility for doing ITJA virtually, we are hoping you can attend to see the live productions.  This may also depend on available space after preregistration.

At our regional festival, student critics spend a few days working with an invited Guest Critic and other student writers.  You will watch most of the invited productions—mostly live we hope, write reviews of some of these productions, and try your hand at other theater writing and reviewing assignments as selected by the invited Guest Critic. 

In addition to review writing, we will continue our commitment to Theatre Advocacy.  To give you the opportunity to practice Theatre Advocacy, you will create “think pieces.”  These are longer pieces that allow you to examine how theatre reflects or needs to reflect concerns of society, what theatre does and/or needs to do to make our world better.  You will receive guidance for all this work.  Indeed, we will give you some topics ahead of time, so you can work on these before you come to the festival.  

Throughout the week, we will engage in lively, energetic discussions of the plays and the writing they are all doing.

By the end of the festival the student critics submit their reviews and think pieces, demonstrating your best work.  One student critic from each region has the opportunity to be one of four nationally to be selected to attend ITJA workshops at the Kennedy Center.  At the Kennedy Center, at least one student critic is selected to attend the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center during its national playwriting conference in the summer.  All expenses are paid to both the Kennedy Center and the O’Neill Institute, and student critics at both sites have the opportunity to work with nationally recognized theatre journalists.

All students from the region are eligible to participate in ITJA.  You do not need to be nominated by a respondent or faculty member. There is no pre-screening of writing or resumes. ITJA is also open to students of all disciplines and class levels. The most important attributes participants share is a love of theatre, the ability to write, and a desire to use these skills to help contribute to the development of strong relevant theatre.

Since we recognize many students participating in the festival plan to do other things (Ryans, Design, Student Dramaturgy Initiative, being part of an invited production, etc.), we try to be as flexible as possible in accommodating each student’s schedule and needs.

The most important things to bring are a passion for good theatre and an active inquiring mind.

However, student critics also need a laptop computer or tablet and a Wifi connection. Much of the writing the student critics will do occurs at night, after they have seen an evening show.  The connection will be necessary to watch the shows and participate in discussions.  You will also submit and receive drafts electronically, and you will need a laptop or tablet to do this.


Participation is limited to the first 16 students who preregister, although we will keep a waiting list since plans for some students may change.  We prefer that students sign up ahead of time so we can plan ITJA more effectively and help students prepare. Students who preregister will receive any materials the Guest Critics or ITJA coordinator may want students to have before the festival. In addition, if we know ahead of time what your conflicts are, we will try to schedule the activities to reduce conflict.



The Theatre Institute of Journalism and Advocacy

If you have any questions or want to talk to me more about ITJA, please contact me. I will be happy to respond to faculty and student inquiries.

We look forward to another wonderful festival with lively discussions and strong writing from our student critics.


Ralph Leary

Ralph Leary

Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy

Clarion University (Emeritus)

Subscribe To OurEmails

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!