The George Jean Nathan Award Committee has announced two recipients of the 2011-12 prize for the year's best work in dramatic criticism: Kenneth Gross for "Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life," and Jonathan Kalb for "Great Lengths: Seven Works of Marathon Theatre."
Since its inception in 1959, the award has been given to multiple winners only three times. The award committee comprises the heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities and is administered by Cornell's Department of English.
Gross is professor of English at the University of Rochester. According to the Award Committee, "Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life" "offers a brilliantly idiosyncratic meditation on the fascination 'wooden acting' exerts over its delighted but often unnerved human audiences."
Kalb is professor of theater at Hunter College of the City University of New York and a member of the theater Ph.D. faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center. The committee noted that Kalb's analysis of long productions "not only deepens our understanding of those intellectually and temporally challenging works, it also asks us to reconsider what it means to pay attention at and to a theatrical event that makes remarkable claims on our time in a communal setting."
The Nathan Award was endowed by George Jean Nathan (1882-1958), a prominent theater critic who published 34 books on the theater 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.
Previous winners include Charles McNulty, Walter Kerr, Jack Kroll, Alisa Solomon, Charles Isherwood, Michael Feingold, Elinor Fuchs, Cornell professor H. Scott McMillin, and last year's winner, blogger Jill Dolan. More information about the Nathan Award is available online.