Michael Feingold Wins Nathan Award for Criticism

The former Village Voice critic takes the award for online writing at TheaterMania.com, particularly two pieces, one playful, the other thoughtful.

ITHACA, N.Y.: The George Jean Nathan Award committee has chosen Michael Feingold as the recipient of the 2013–14 prize for the year’s best work in dramatic criticism. Feingold writes a bimonthly column called “Thinking About Theater” for the website TheaterMania.com, which he began after being laid off by longtime employer the Village Voice in 2013. He is also a playwright, dramaturg, and translator, known especially for his translations of works by Brecht. It is Feingold’s second Nathan Award, and the second ever for online-only writing. The prize purse is now $10,000.

Michael Feingold. (Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy)
Michael Feingold. (Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy)

Having spent more than three decades reviewing productions for the Voice, Feingold has used his new column, in the words of a press release from the Nathan committee, “to expand his scope and put theatre in a broader context. His columns engage with a wide range of topics, from particular works, performers, and playwrights to more general aspects of theater culture and history.”

His columns usually appear in two parts, the statement went on, “an unusual format that allows Feingold to ‘stage’ his thoughts about theatre almost like a two-act play, with a weeklong intermission that gives his readers time to ponder the questions raised in the first half while anticipating their resolution in the second.”

The committee was “particularly taken,” it said with “Secrets of Pleasurable Theatergoing” and “Lives, Saved or Lost,” a meditation on the tragic early deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and other figures, while celebrating the longevity of such theatre artists as the nonagenarian lyricist Sheldon Harnick.  The committee singled out this piece for special commendation.

This is the second time that the Nathan Award has been given for work published online; in 2011 the award went to Jill Dolan for her blog The Feminist Spectator.

In receiving the 2013-14 Nathan Award, Feingold joins an exclusive club of two-time winners that includes Jonathan Kalb, John Lahr, Michael Goldman and Robert Brustein.  Feingold previously received the Nathan Award in 1996 for his reviewing for the Village Voice.

The Nathan Award was endowed by George Jean Nathan (1882-1958), a prominent theatre critic who published 34 books on the theatre and co-edited (with H.L. Mencken) two influential magazines, The Smart Set and The American Mercury. Nathan graduated from Cornell in 1904; as a student, he served as editor of the Cornell Daily Sun and the humor magazine The Cornell Widow.

The Nathan Award committee is comprised of the heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities, together with drama specialists from each school, and is administered by Cornell’s Department of English.

Previous winners include Charles McNulty, Walter Kerr, Jack Kroll, Alisa Solomon, Charles Isherwood, Elinor Fuchs, American Theatre writer Randy Gener, Hilton Als, Cornell professor H. Scott McMillin and last year’s winner, Scott Brown.

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