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Critical Insight: New arts journalism fellowship in Pittsburgh features speakers from The New Yorker, NYT, WaPo, NYMag, LA Times, and more
Applications to the program from Pittsburgh Public Theater and American Theatre magazine are due July 15

April 9, 2024 | Theater artists rely on several sources of feedback for their work – the size of the audience, feedback from impassioned directors, standing ovations. But many believe that the most impactful of all – the weight input of a professional critic – is on a slow path toward irrelevance.

Pittsburgh Public Theater and American Theatre magazine disagree. The two organizations announced today a groundbreaking investment in Pittsburgh arts journalism and the next generation of theater critics with Critical Insight, a new generative arts journalism fellowship that brings the best in the field to early-career and aspiring critics through mentorship, professional insight, arts experiences, and an immersive regional theater retreat. Applications to the inaugural cohort are available now at and close July 15.

“Arts journalism is a critical part of our cultural community and creates incredible provocations for audiences and artists alike,” Pittsburgh Public Theater Artistic Director Marya Sea Kaminski said. “Critical Insight is truly contributing to the canon, to the amazing legacy of artists coming out of Pittsburgh like August Wilson and Andy Warhol, who wouldn’t be the artists they are today without the dialogues critics foster.”

Critical Insight features seminar sessions with leading guest speakers who represent the best of contemporary theater journalism, from both esteemed legacy publications like The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times, and pioneer publications like HowlRound Theater Commons and Rescripted. Seminar leader and co-chief theater critic at New York Magazine / Sara Holdren said programs like this help ensure future critics can stand on solid ground.

“I'm so excited to be a part of Critical Insight, which is exactly the kind of imaginative, collaborative, good faith project American theater needs,” Holdren said. “Critics have the ability to reveal an artform to itself — to be, just like the makers of art, "the abstract and brief chronicles of the time." Vital theater needs robust criticism, and vice versa, and so it's thrilling to participate in this new effort to galvanize and reflect on these sister forms, and to foster a next generation of passionate writers and makers.”

Work generated through the fellowship will appear occasionally in American Theatre magazine, in fellow-curated newsletters, and in partnership with Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation. Fellows will also be mentored by American Theatre magazine’s editors, including Editor-in-Chief Rob Weinert-Kendt.

“Our magazine’s mandate is to report and reflect on the nation’s diverse, wide-ranging theater scene, and we can’t do that without also nurturing new generations of writers,” Weinert-Kendt said. “Critical Insight is an ideal way to find and encourage the folks who will not only help American Theatre do its job, but who can enrich and broaden the dialogue around theater everywhere.”

Fellows will receive a stipend from Pittsburgh Public Theater and complimentary season subscription to numerous theater companies in the Pittsburgh area, thanks to The Public’s partnerships with organizations including Quantum Theatre, the New Hazlett Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights, and more. Critical Insight culminates with an all-expenses-paid four-day regional theater retreat in spring 2025 to Washington, D.C., where fellows will be immersed in another thriving theatrical region.

Applications to the inaugural class of Critical Insight fellows are due July 15 and are available at The program, which will admit up to 8 fellows, begins in September 2024 and concludes in the spring of 2025. Prospective fellows should have fewer than 2 years of professional arts journalism experience, be located in or near the Pittsburgh metropolitan area for the duration of the fellowship, available to attend a majority of seminar sessions on occasional Wednesday evenings, and be at least 18 years old by March 1, 2025.

Emerging critics, students, theatermakers, dramaturges, writers in other fields, journalists looking for a new beat, and theater lovers are encouraged to apply.


Annalisa Dias
Transdisciplinary artist Annalisa Dias is a Baltimore-based, Pittsburgh-raised Goan-American transdisciplinary artist, community organizer, and award-winning theater maker working at the intersection of racial justice and care for the earth. Her writing often explores themes of identity, displacement, and colonization. She is a Co-Founder of Groundwater Arts, an artist-led collaborative working toward a more just and loving world.
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Brittani Samuel
Critic and contributor for The New York Times, The Washington Post, American Theatre Magazine, Broadway News Brittani Samuel (she/her) is a Caribbean-American arts journalist, theater critic, and the co-editor of 3Views on Theater. Her work appears in American Theatre magazine, Broadway News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more. She is an alumna of the BIPOC Critics Lab and the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute, as well as the inaugural recipient of ATCA’s Edward Medina Prize for Excellence in Cultural Criticism. For more of her published work, please visit To chat about how great Rihanna is, visit her on Instagram @brittaniidiannee.
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Ashley Malafronte
Senior Editor, HowlRound Theatre Commons Ashley Malafronte is a theatremaker, editor, and educator. She is senior editor of HowlRound Theatre Commons and Head of Theater Studies for the Waterwell Drama Program. Recent production credits: A View From the Bridge (Long Wharf Theatre, dramaturg/assistant director); Mad Forest (Waterwell/PPAS, director), The Emancipation of Sugar and Baby (The Brick, director), and Private Lives (Arizona Theatre Company, SDCF Noël Coward Fellow).
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Charles McNulty
Critic, Los Angeles Times
Charles McNulty is the theater critic of the Los Angeles Times. He received his doctorate in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism from the Yale School of Drama. McNulty has taught at Yale, the New School, New York University, the City University of New York Graduate Center, UCLA and the California Institute of the Arts. A former Village Voice theater critic and editor, he was the chairman of the Pulitzer drama jury in 2010 and received the George Jean Nathan Award for
Dramatic Criticism for the theater year 2009-10.
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Helen Shaw
Theatre critic at the New Yorker Helen Shaw is a staff writer at the New Yorker, writing about the theatre. Before joining the New Yorker, she was the theatre critic for New York Magazine, and has written at 4Columns, the Village Voice, the New York Sun, Art Forum, Art in America, and Time Out New York, where she also served as dance editor.
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Jose Solís
Cultural Critic; Founder and Director, BIPOC Critics Lab Jose Solís is a Honduran cultural critic based in Madrid. His work appears in The New York Times, American Theatre magazine, TDF Stages, Backstage, 3 Views, and America. He is the founder and director of the BIPOC Critics Lab. He is also the creator and host of Token Theatre Friends and Vermuteatreros.
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Lauren Halvorsen
Dramaturg and writer of Nothing for the Group Lauren Halvorsen is a Washington, DC-based dramaturg and writer. She has dramaturged over 45 new, contemporary, and classic plays and held artistic positions at the Alley Theatre, City
Theatre, WordBRIDGE, The O'Neill, The Wilma, and Studio Theatre, where she was the Associate Literary Director for nine years. Lauren writes Nothing for the Group, a weekly
newsletter about the American theater.
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Naveen Kumar
Journalist and culture critic for outlets including The New York Times and Variety Naveen Kumar is a journalist and culture critic who contributes theater reviews to The New York Times and Variety. He is a contributing editor at, and his work has also appeared on The Daily Beast, Vox, Town & Country, and more. He is associate director of the National Critics Institute, the leading arts-writing workshop for professional journalists.
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Peter Marks
Former chief theater critic, Washington Post Peter Marks was chief theater critic at The Washington Post from 2002 to 2023. Before that he
was a critic and reporter at The New York Times. He’s co-host of the theater podcast Marks & Vincentelli.
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Rob Weinert-Kendt
Editor-in-Chief, American Theatre magazine Rob Weinert-Kendt is the editor-in-chief of American Theatre magazine, a position he's held since 2015, and is chief theater critic for the Jesuit weekly America. He also contributes regularly to The New York Times, and was the founding editor of Back Stage West.
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Sara Holdren
Director, Theater Critic at New York Magazine / Sara Holdren is a director, teacher, and writer-about-theater from the Blue Ridge foothills of Virginia. She is the theater critic for New York Magazine and, the recipient of the 2016-2017 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, and the co-founder of the theater project Tiltyard. Sara lives in Jersey City with her partner, Beau, and their feline children, Masha and Danny.
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Pittsburgh Public Theater strives to be a true public theater to the Pittsburgh region and welcomes more than 70,000 guests through the doors of the O’Reilly Theater every year. The Public is renowned for its exceptional mix of programming, featuring American classics, world premieres, new adaptations, and favorite musicals. Its commitment to education and engagement initiatives is a cornerstone of its mission and includes the signature Shakespeare
Monologue & Scene Contest and innovative community partnerships. The O’Reilly Theater is a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Pittsburgh Public Theater is under the leadership of Artistic Director Marya Sea Kaminski and Managing Director Shaunda McDill and celebrates its 50th season in 2024.

American Theatre magazine is the nation’s only general-circulation magazine devoted to theatre. Founded in 1984 by the pioneering arts service organization Theatre Communications Group, the magazine featured cowboy-hattedplaywright Sam Shepard on its first cover in April of that year. Since the fall of 2023, it is published quarterly.

American Theatre covers theatrical trends and events, stage artists of every stripe, and economic and legislative developments affecting the arts. Its main purview is America’s wide-ranging network of professional, not-for-profit theatres—commercial, amateur or university theatre is less frequently covered—and the magazine does not review productions (but does review theatre-related books). Important international theatre is regularly featured, and
significant productions in the U.S. and abroad are highlighted under such headings as “Critic’s Notebook,” “Currents,” “First Person” and “Global Spotlight.” The complete scripts of major new American plays, accompanied by provocative playwright interviews, appear five times each year.

The country’s leading arts journalists as well as top professionals from the field contribute to the pages of American Theatre. Special issues include the Fall “Season Preview” issue (containing complete production schedules for hundreds of TCG Member Theatres across the country); the Winter “Approaches to Theatre Training” issue; and each April a “Summer Preview” issue with listings from theatres that program summer-centered seasons. American Theatre is a member benefit to over 12,000 TCG individual members, and can also be purchased at select newsstands nationwide.