Two drama critics receive 2015 George Jean Nathan Award

Brian Herrera
Chris Jones

Two winners of the Cornell-administered George Jean Nathan Award for 2014-15 have been chosen for the year’s best work in dramatic criticism.

Brian Eugenio Herrera was selected for his book “Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance” (2015), and Chris Jones was chosen for his work as theater critic for the Chicago Tribune.

Herrera, assistant professor of theater arts at Princeton University, is also a writer and performer whose solo show, “I Was the Voice of Democracy,” has been presented in cities around the world, including Ithaca. In “Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance,”Herrera tracks the growing impact of Latino artists on and Latino representation in the American theater and American culture. The Nathan Committee noted in particular Herrera’s outstanding analysis of the 1959 musical “West Side Story.”

Jones joined the Chicago Tribune in 2000 after serving as a touring theater critic for Variety. Of Jones’ numerous memorable pieces from 2014-15, the committee especially admired his review of “The Project(s),” a new play addressing the daunting conditions facing residents of Chicago’s housing complexes. Jones’ review weighs in forcefully on issues of public policy and racial politics even as he locates the play’s virtues and limits.

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. In establishing the award, Nathan said his aim was to “encourage and assist in developing the art of drama criticism and the stimulation of intelligent playgoing.” 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 comprises the heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities and drama specialists from each university; it is administered by Cornell’s Department of English.

Previous winners include Jill Dolan, Randy Gener, Alisa Solomon, Charles Isherwood, Elinor Fuchs, Hilton Als, Cornell professor H. Scott McMillin, and last year’s winner, Michael Feingold. 

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Melissa Osgood