Feb. 4, 2009

Randy Gener wins Nathan Award for dramatic criticism

Nathan

New York City writer and critic Randy Gener, senior editor of American Theatre, is the winner of the 2007-08 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, which is administered annually by Cornell's Department of English.

The award was endowed by Nathan (1882-1958), the great theater critic who graduated in 1904 from Cornell, where he was an editor of both The Cornell Daily Sun and humor magazine the Cornell Widow. Nathan went on to write for and co-edit (with H.L. Mencken) two influential magazines, The Smart Set and American Mercury, and to publish 34 books on the theater.

Nathan's will mandated that the award winner for "the best piece of drama criticism during the theatrical year" be chosen by a majority vote of the heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities.

Gener is also an editor, playwright, visual artist and author of "Love Seats for Virginia Woolf" and "What Remains of a Rembrandt Torn Into Four Pieces," among other plays; scholarly essays, articles and reviews in the Village Voice, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, the International Herald Tribune and other publications. He also was a founding critic of the New York Theatre Wire, an online magazine.

The Nathan Award committee was particularly impressed by Gener's writing for American Theatre this year, stating: "He has used that venue and others to draw attention to largely ignored voices and visions on the international theatrical scene, [including] the work of Filipino-American playwright Jessica Hagedorn, a small but lively Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, and the future of theatrical criticism itself in essays that wed critical intelligence with a beat reporter's love of the telling and unruly fact.

"In one piece, Gener argues that, at its best, criticism is 'a cultural asset, one of the bases on which democracy and community are built.' He fulfills that lofty goal by implicitly reminding us of how much that is excellent in theater here and abroad is ignored by a critical fraternity which, during this age of globalization, seems more parochial than ever."

The Nathan Award has been given annually since 1959. Previous winners include Walter Kerr, Jack Kroll, Charles Isherwood, Michael Feingold, Ben Brantley and Cornell Professor H. Scott McMillin, who was awarded the prize posthumously last year for his book "The Musical as Drama."

The award consists of $10,000 and a statuette, which will be presented to Gener by English department chair Ellis Hanson in March at a celebration in New York. For more information about the award, see http://www.arts.cornell.edu/english/awards/nathan/.