June 18, 2014 –Working in theatre pays – but not much. And surely among the least paid jobs, below even that of actors, is the person who writes about theatre. With assignments drying up around the country, there’s so little opportunity to reap a reward for a life of writing theatre criticism that some writers do it for free. Or quit.
Does this troublesome trend mean theatre criticism is considered of little to no value? The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation would disagree. Tonight the Foundation will bestow a total of one million dollars on four recipients: Georgetown University Law Professor Randy E. Barnett; Goldwater Institute President Darcy Olsen; Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel.
And, for the first time in its history, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation will be honoring an arts journalist.
Terry Teachout is the theatre critic for the Wall Street Journal, writes for National Review and other magazines and maintains a blog About Last Night. His play Satchmo at the Waldorf starring John Douglas Thomas as Louis Armstrong is running off-Broadway now through June 29th. His love of jazz has led him to write several biographies, the latest Duke: The Life of Duke Ellington.
We saw the influence of his writing here in the Washington area when, in 2012, he reviewed Side Man, produced by 1st Stage. Ordinarily, the Tysons Corner company struggles to get print journalists to their shows. They didn’t even know the noted WSJ critic was in the audience. “I first found out about it the morning the paper hit the stands,” Mark Krikstan, Artistic Director of 1st Stage told us. “A friend in London that morning had picked up his copy of the WSJ and read a review of our show. He couldn’t believe it. So he called to tell me. Tickets started selling almost immediately. Donations came in. It brought people to us who would never otherwise have found our small company. His ‘stamp of approval’ was a wonderful gift.”
The selection was based on nominations solicited from more than 200 prominent individuals across the country and chosen by the Bradley Prizes Selection Committee.
In announcing their prize, Michael W. Grebe, President and CEO of the Bradley Foundation, said “Terry Teachout has distinguished himself, not just as a first-rate journalist, but as a supporter of the arts. His work as a biographer and a playwright is critical to advancing and preserving America’s artistic and cultural tradition.”
“Through the Bradley Prizes, we recognize individuals like Terry whose accomplishments strengthen American institutions, in hopes that others will strive for excellence in their respective fields,” said Mr. Grebe.
Tonight, this theatre critic/playwright/biographer will make history in the name of theatre criticism when he accepts the Bradley Prize. You can watch it live streamed here. Festivities begin at 7:30pm. Or, if you’re at the theatre tonight, the program will be available for the next twelve months.