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Blood-suckers select Chicago: Theater critics to gather here in 2012

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The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has selected Chicago, IL as the site of its 39th annual conference, June 13-17, 2012. It will be the fourth time Chicago has hosted an ATCA conference, more than any other American city, and the first time since 2002.

During the course of four days, theater critics representing print, broadcast and online platforms will attend as many as six productions by indigenous Chicago theater companies and explore local and national theater-related topics through panel discussions, workshops and a Perspectives in Criticism keynote address. The ATCA annual conference will be co-hosted by the League of Chicago Theatres and the City of Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.

Attendees will experience the energy and diversity of Chicago Off-Loop Theater in various neighborhoods, rather than focus on Downtown theaters. The preliminary schedule includes events at the new Black Ensemble Cultural Center in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, and also at Theater Wit! in the Lakeview/Wrigleyville theater district.

As a closing-night highlight on June 16, ATCA members have been invited to join the local theater press attending the opening night of Eastland, a world premiere musical at Lookingglass Theatre Company, the 2011 recipient of the Tony Award for an outstanding regional theater.

Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, tentatively has accepted an invitation to deliver the Perspectives in Criticism address, always a conference highlight and open to the public. Celebrated for his success as a commercial Broadway producer prior to accepting the NEA post, Landesman also has Yale University doctorate in theater criticism.

The Chicago proposal was approved unanimously July 8 by ATCA members attending the 2011 annual conference in Ashland, OR, home of the celebrated Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The presentation was made by this writer, Jonathan Abarbanel, a senior Chicago theater critic and member of the ATCA Executive Committee, who will serve as conference chair. Abarbanel previously chaired ATCA meetings in Chicago in 1991 and 2002. He is critic for Chicago Public Media and the weekly Windy City Times newspaper, and is on the theater faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The American Theatre Critics Association is the only national organization of professional theater critics. A non-profit membership organization, it was founded in 1974 and currently has over 200 members from Alaska to Florida and Massachusetts to California. Together with its companion charitable foundation, ATCA advocates on behalf of American theater and theater criticism through professional development programs such as training seminars and lectures, scholarships and annual cash awards for new American plays. ATCA members also participate in selecting honorees each year for the American Theatre Hall of Fame, and in recommending a non-profit theater company for the annual regional theater Tony Award.

The American Theatre Critics Association represents the United States in the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-designated global cultural organization.

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