The George Jean Nathan Award, named after the preeminent American drama critic of the early 20th century, is the most prestigious award for theater criticism in the United States. Past winners have included the greatest practitioners of the craft: Stanley Kauffman, Walter Kerr, Robert Brustein, John Lahr, Hilton Als, Harold Clurman, Elizabeth Hardwick, Eric Bentley, Ben Brantley, Michael Feingold, Charles Isherwood...
Now, Fil-Am critic, playwright, visual artist and senior editor of American Theater Magazine Randy Gener is joining that distinguished company. From Ralph Pena's blog:
“The heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton, and Yale Universities have chosen Randy Gener, Senior Editor of American Theatre magazine, to receive the annual George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. The honor is reserved for 'the American who has written the best piece of drama criticism during the theatrical year (July 1 to June 30), whether it is an article, an essay, treatise or book.'
“The Awards Committee citation for Gener reads, 'He has used that venue [America Theatre Magazine] and others to draw our attention to largely ignored voices and visions on the international theatrical scene, to the work of Filipino-American playwright Jessica Hagedorn, to a small but lively Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, and to the future of theatrical criticism itself in essays that wed critical intelligence with a beat reporter's love of the telling and unruly fact.'
“The citation continues, 'In one piece, Gener argues that, at its best, criticism is ‘a cultural asset, one of the bases on which democracy and community are built.' He fulfills that lofty goal by implicitly reminding us of how much that is excellent in theater here and abroad is ignored by a critical fraternity which, during this age of globalization, seems more parochial than ever.'
“In addition to being the Senior Editor of American Theatre, [Mr. Gener] is a writer, critic, editor, playwright, and visual artist based in New York City. He is the author of the plays Love Seats for Virginia Woolf and What Remains of a Rembrandt Torn into Four Pieces, among other plays, as well as scholarly essays, articles and reviews in The Village Voice, The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Star Ledger, Time Out New York, and other publications.
“The Nathan Award is considered the highest accolade in the U.S. for dramatic criticism. When George Jean Nathan provided for it in his will, he explained that it was his 'object and desire to encourage and assist in developing the art of drama criticism and the stimulation of intelligent playgoing.'
“The prize for the Nathan Award consists of the annual net income of half of Mr. Nathan's estate. The annual award now amounts to $10,000, making it the richest as well as one of the most distinguished in the American theater. In addition, the winner receives a trophy symbolic of the award. Ellis Hanson, Chair of the Cornell English Department, will present the award to Gener at a March 9 celebration at the Kalayaan Hall (Freedom Hall) of the Philippine Center near Rockefeller Center in New York City.” [More details here.]
Bravo, Mr. Gener! And congratulations!
PLUS: Reading Randy--Mr. Gener's “Picks for the Best of the 1997-98 Theatrical Season in New York,” including a rave for the Ma-Yi Theater Company's production of Nick Joaquin's A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, here.
[Photo 2: From Orthocomics, Randy Gener featured in Instinct Magazine]