In the Moment: American Theatre Critics Association Stops in Philly

In the past 25 years or so the theater scene in nearby Philadelphia, the nation’s 5th largest city, has blossomed into 50-plus stage companies that pay their actors, designers, and creative teams. About 35 hold Actor’s equity contracts at any given time according to Howie Shapiro, Philadelphia area theatre critic.

Howie Shapiro.
Howie Shapiro.

The metropolitan Philadelphia areas is also home to more than 1,000 equity members, added Shapiro. as I chatted with him at the recent annual meeting of the American Theatre Critics Association gathering in Philadelphia.

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Diep Tran.
Diep Tran.

Inclusion and diversity were major themes of the 2016 ATCA meeting. Diep Tran, Associate Editor of American Theatre gave the keynote Address entitled Perspectives in Criticism, 2016.

Helen L. "Nellie" Fitzpatrick.
Helen L. “Nellie” Fitzpatrick.

A major panel discussion entitled Trans Onstage: Critical Awareness was moderated by Helen L. Fitzpatrick, director of LGBT Affairs, of the City of Philadelphia.

Doug Reside.
Doug Reside.

Doug Reside, the Lewis and Dorothy Cullman Curator for the Billy Rose Theatre Division of the NY City Public Library, provided insights to the theater treasures both print and online of the NY Public Library.


Of course, beyond Philly cheesesteaks, a visit to the spiffy FringeArts space under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge that spans the Delaware River, there were generous opportunities to take in theater productions in Philadelphia.  I took in a number of productions and events including:

Photos by G. Widman for GPTMC.
Photos by G. Widman for GPTMC.

-Arden’s production of Two Trains Running by August Wilson.

-InterAct Theatre Company’s production The Nether.

-Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production Sex with Strangers, a co-production with NJ’s George Street Playhouse.

-Wilma Theater’s production of An Octoroon.

-Walnut Street Theatre’s Peter and the Starcatcher.

As Well As:

PIFA 2016

– Opening of Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts along with some installations at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press .
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press .

– And the all smiles and major street closing parade for the NCAA 2016 basketball champions of Villanova.

Qui Nyugen.
Qui Nyugen.

There was also the joy as at the announcement of winners of several major professional theater awards including the $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA award for outstanding new award for a production not yet produced in New York City to Qui Nguyen for his play Vietgone.

 Sharyn Rothstein.
Sharyn Rothstein.

The $10,000 Primus Prize for an emerging female playwright to Sharyn Rothstein.


For those who make the three hour trip up to Philly to take in the museums – the Barnes Collection currently has a jaw-dropping Picasso exhibition.

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And of course, Rocky still stands on the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


There’s also Reading Terminal Market, which remains a delight. So for whatever reason, do consider taking in a professional theater production.


Need some ideas for theater should you visit Philadelphia, DCMetroTheaterArts covers Philadelphia Theater and is a DC area local source of reviews.

Note: The American Theatre Critics Association, Inc. is the only national association of professional theatre critics. Our members work for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and on-line services across the United States.

Membership is open to all who review theatre professionally, regularly and with substance for print, electronic or digital media.


The American Theatre Critics Association works to foster greater communication among theatre critics in the United States and abroad, to improve the training and development of critics at different stages of their careers, to advocate absolute freedom of expression in theatre and theatre criticism – including the individual critic’s right to disagree with the opinions of colleagues – and to increase public awareness of the theatre as an important national resource.

DCMetroTheaterArts Critic David Siegel.
DCMetroTheaterArts Critic David Siegel.

DCMTA’s senior staff writer David Siegel is a member of ATCA and serves on its Professional Development Standing Comittee.

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David Siegel
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on DC Theater Arts, ShowBiz Radio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with the American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.


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