Good theatre needs people who can write well about theatre. ITJA is based on the recognition that people who write about theatre write in many different ways and in many different situations.
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.
Just as playwrights, directors, designers, and actors need chances to develop and hone their craft, theatre journalists and writers also need opportunities to explore some of the different ways they can use their writing skills to contribute to the theatre world. ITJA hopes to provide student writers with one of these opportunities.
There are too many different types of theater writing one can explore to try to address them all in the limited time of the annual festival. However, at our regional festival student critics spend a few days working with an invited Guest Critic and other student writers. They will watch most of the invited productions, write reviews of some of these productions, and try their hand at other theater writing and reviewing assignments as selected by the invited Guest Critic. Throughout the week, students will engage in lively, energetic discussion of the plays and the writing they are all doing.
By the end of the festival the student critics submit a review and other theater journalism pieces that demonstrate what they see as their 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.
ITJA in Region II follows this format: Beginning no later than the second day of the festival, students meet with the guest critic in a seminar setting, where they talk about theatre in general, the plays they see at the festival, different types of writing about theatre, and their assignments. Although the experience is intense and time-consuming, with five or six scheduled sessions, the atmosphere is open and collegial, and students generally leave the festival recognizing they have learned a lot and grown as student critics and writers.
All students from the region are eligible to participate in ITJA. A student does 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 theatre.
Since we recognize many students coming to 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 to bring a laptop computer or tablet with wireless capability. Much of the writing the student critics will do occurs at night, in their rooms, after they have seen an evening show. We are also committed to make ITJA “green” by reducing the amount of paper we print and copy. Students will submit and receive drafts electronically, and they will need a laptop or tablet to do this. If students do not have a laptop or tablet with wireless capability, they should see if they can borrow one from the school library, technology support office, or academic department.
As critics, students will get guest access to the wireless network at Montclair State University. Also, we expect the host hotel will also have free internet access, so students can do work in their rooms.
Participation is limited to the first 16 students who preregister, although we will keep a waiting list since plans for some students may change.
Students planning on participating in ITJA should preregister. While we will accept registration when students arrive at the festival (provided there are seats remaining), 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 Critic or ITJA coordinator may want students to have before the festival. In addition, if we know ahead of time that students are doing something else at the festival and what they are doing, 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.
Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy
Department of English
Clarion, PA 16214