What a success! Congratulations to Fr. David Cregan, Ph.D., who organized and hosted the 2nd Annual Philadelphia Theatre Research Symposium here at Villanova last Friday. The schedule began with a new scholars panel, with "emerging" scholars Deborah Braak, Valerie Joyce, and Mitch Matson. Their papers - on real-world dramaturgy, Americanized British theatre, and Forum theatre, respectively - offered fresh perspectives from which to approach their topics.
Next, Toby Zinman, theatre critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer and professor at the University of the Arts, delivered the keynote address. She touched on her philosophy about being a critic (it involves having enough bravery to voice an honest opinion), and spoke engagingly about Edward Albee's importance to American theatre. (To read her Philly Inquirer review of Albee's latest, Me, Myself and I, look here.) For those of us who have been Toby's dedicated (sometimes indignant) readers, it was a wonderful opportunity to encounter her as a passionate, good-humored theatre-goer, who is excited about the future of Philadelphia theatre. I daresay she made some friends she never knew she'd lost.
Finally, Toby was joined by Mark Cofta (Philadelphia City Paper), Nancy Furey (www.talkinbroadway.com), and Fr. David himself (Main Line Times) for a critics' roundtable. Several members of the audience posed challenging questions (In what sense do you see yourself as an advocate for theatre? Is it possible to review a show without prejudices or pre-formed expectations? What's your opinion about the current state of Philadelphia theatre?), which the panel answered with admirable candor.
The whole afternoon lasted beyond its slated 3 hours, to no one's dismay. Keep your eye out next spring for the third annual PTRS.