Drama critic Michael Feingold wins Nathan Award

Michael Feingold

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 bi-monthly column called “Thinking about Theater” for the website TheaterMania.com; he is also a playwright, dramaturg and translator, known for his translations of works by Bertolt Brecht.

Having spent much of his career – more than three decades – reviewing productions for the Village Voice, Feingold in his new TheaterMania.com role has expanded his scope to explore theater in a broader context. His columns engage with a wide range of topics, from particular works, performers and playwrights, to general aspects of theater culture and history.

Feingold’s columns appear in two parts, an unusual format that allows him to “stage” his thoughts about theater 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 Award Committee was particularly taken with two pieces Feingold published during the 2013-14 theater season. “Secrets of Pleasurable Theatergoing” offers a series of slightly tongue-in-cheek directives to playgoers, some of them deliberately self-negating (e.g., “Celebrity doesn’t matter – unless you think it does”). “Lives, Saved or Lost,” ponders the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and other figures while celebrating the longevity of theater artists like the nonagenarian lyricist Sheldon Harnick. The committee singled out this piece for special commendation.

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

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

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.

The Nathan Award committee is comprised of the heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities and 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, Cornell professor H. Scott McMillin and last year's winner, Scott Brown.

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