BIPOC Critics Lab
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival is pleased to support the November 2020 BIPOC Critics Lab, developed and led by cultural critic Jose Solís. Jose has created an educational space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) who haven't been welcomed into cultural criticism, whether due to systemic oppression, lack of opportunity, or because they didn’t know they were allowed to see themselves as critics. Following the tenets of dialogue, compassion, and nurturing one’s unique voice, future critics who attend will contribute to the creation of a custom program that fits their specific needs and encourages them to pursue the path of criticism that best serves them.
In the BIPOC Critics Lab, lifelines are encouraged over deadlines, and criticism is approached through a multimedia lens, in which podcasting, audiovisual techniques, and social media are as valuable as being skilled in written essays and traditional reviews. Critics conclude their lab experience with their first paid published piece and leave with practical knowledge, tools for decolonization, and a reminder that in order to honor the culture and artforms they’re covering, they must first honor their individual voices.
The program is divided into ten master classes over ten weeks, in which critics begin by defining “What My Criticism Will Be,” and finish by having their first paid piece published in a journalistic outlet or the materials of a partner theatre company. When working with a theatre company, future critics will not be reviewing the work, but offering their services through interviews, essays covering themes suggested by the company, listicles, original podcasts, or audiovisual creations.
Future critics are constantly reminded that the work of a critic is not to pass judgment and make recommendations, but rather to be the mediator between the art and the audience. Critics exist to open up dialogue, not to end it. Therefore, assignments will not require critics to spend their nights stressed about a deadline (lifelines > deadlines) and will be open to alternative, out of the box solutions. Although future critics are taught real-world strategies and encouraged to think in a creative way, during the BIPOC Critics Lab they will feel able and comfortable to play around and experiment. Aside from the last piece, completing assignments is encouraged but not obligatory.
The BIPOC Critics Lab takes place over Zoom, meeting every Sunday for ten weeks, beginning November 15.
The application asks for some basic information, and two uploads:
1. A resume listing your proudest moments (define this as you see fit!). We want to learn more about your background, heritage, taste, voice, sense of humor, and their worldview--as opposed to seeing a list of schools, jobs, and dates that reveal nothing about
your humanity, but merely how much time you spent somewhere.
2. An answer to the question, "Why do you want to become a critic?" The medium you choose to answer this question is up to you. Mediums may include, but are not limited to: written essays, musical compositions, collages, paintings, poems, short films, recipes, etc. There are no word limits, in fact, wordless submissions are welcome.
Application Deadline: Friday, October 30, 2020
Please contact Kelsey Mesa at KRMesa@kennedy-center.org with any questions.
Jose Solís began his career as a cultural critic when he was 16 and launched a film review website while living in Honduras, where he was born and raised. He began writing about theatre while attending college in Costa Rica, and upon moving to NYC in 2012 focused entirely on the stage. His work appears in The New York Times, American Theatre, TDF Stages, Backstage, 3 Views, and America Magazine. In 2020 he was selected as the Floria Lasky Visiting Artist at Hunter College where he will host the Wed@One series, and started the BIPOC Critics Lab, a workshop he created meant to train the cultural critics of the future. He is also the co-creator and co-host of Token Theatre Friends, a weekly web series/podcast where he talks to some of the most influential theatre artists working today.
Jose discusses the BIPOC Critics Lab in American Theatre here.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I apply if I live outside of the United States? Yes! You are welcome to apply, but know that if you are accepted, all meetings are given in Eastern Time and we ask that you translate that time for yourself.
2. Can I apply if I am not a student? Yes! Any BIPOC individual 18 or older may apply.
3. Is there a fee to apply? No! This program is at no cost to participants.