Good theater needs good criticism. As playwrights, directors, designers, and actors work to develop their craft and create work that challenges them and their audiences, they need the informed eyes and ears of journalists to celebrate their achievements, to give honest evaluations of their work, and to encourage them to continue to work to create exciting theater. Journalists are also needed to inform the public about the importance of theater itself. Good theatre criticism is necessary for the healthy life of the theater.
It is for these reasons that KCACTF, in partnership with the Eugene O'Neill Institute, sponsors the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy. While the Institute may work slightly differently from region to region, in general at each festival students spend a few days working with invited guest journalists. The students write reviews, blogs, public service announcements, etc., of some of the productions at the festival, discuss their work with the guest professionals and the student critics, and by the end of the festival submit a review that demonstrates what they see as their best work. One student participant from each region is selected to attend the Institute workshops at the Kennedy Center. From these, at least one student from all the regional fellows 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 students at both sites have the opportunity to work with nationally recognized theater journalists.
The Institute in Region VIII follows this format. Beginning on the first day of the festival, students meet with the professional journalists in a seminar format, where they talk about theater in general and the plays they will see at the festival, and where they will share their reviews of the work they have seen. Although the experience is intense and time-consuming, with several scheduled sessions, the atmosphere is open and collegial, and students generally leave the festival recognizing they have learned a lot and grown as writers. Indeed, the selection of a person to go to the Kennedy Center experience is usually viewed as far less important than the regional workshop experience itself.
All students from the region are eligible to participate in the Institute. A student does not need to be nominated by a respondent or faculty member. There is no pre-screening of writing or resumes. Preferably, students will sign up ahead of time so that adequate space can be planned for, but they may sign up when they arrive at the festival. To sign up now please fill out the INTENT TO PARTICIPATE FORM. Then confirm the workshop times when you check in at festival so that you can attend all sessions.
The Institute is also open to students of all disciplines and class levels. In the past, it has included college freshmen as well as graduate students. Although most participants come from theater programs, students in English and journalism are also welcome and can bring important insights to the discussions and to their reviews. Indeed, students with backgrounds as varied as cultural history and psychology could also contribute to and grow from the experience. The most important attributes participants share is a love of theater, the ability to write, and a desire to use these skills to help contribute to the development of strong theater.
What to Bring
The most important things to bring are a passion for good theater and an active inquiring mind. However, students should also know that much of the writing they will do occurs at night, after they have seen an evening show. We cannot guarantee that they will have computer access at the festival. Thus, students are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop computer that can be connected to the internet. While this not absolutely necessary, not having a laptop may make the experience more difficult. If students do not have a laptop, they should see if they can borrow one from the school library or academic department.
Link to the INTENT TO PARTICIPATE FORM submit prior to January 21st for priority processing.