DARTCritics began in St. Catharines, Ontario with the 2013-14 Brock University Theatre Praxis class taught by former critic for The Guardian, Professor Karen Fricker. The site originated as a practical way for students to train in the art of reviewing, and also sought to bring the artistic community of Brock University and St. Catharines closer together. After discussing ideas with some of the leading minds in theatre criticism in New York (Andy Horwitz), Scotland (Mark Fisher), and London (Maddy Costa), the students of the 2013-14 Theatre Praxis class embarked on exploring a style of reviewing called embedded criticism, or behind-the-scenes reporting. Students attended rehearsals of productions across the Niagara and Toronto regions, including Peter Hinton’s Shaw Festival production of Cabaret and Ross Manson’s Volcano Theatre production of A Beautiful View. Students attended rehearsals and blogged about their experiences, creating engaging material for the company’s audiences as well as other readers of the blog. To end a beautiful year of criticism, the class participated in the colloquium “The Changing Face of Criticism in the Digital Age,” alongside international and local critics and theatre artists including Jill Dolan.
That summer the DARTCritics site received funding from the Brock University Student Union (BUSU) to hire critics Hayley Malouin and Nick Leno (two former Praxis students). This funding allowed Hayley and Nick to provide coverage of In The Soil, an arts festival in St. Catharines. DARTCritics thus became a professional outlet for criticism in the Niagara region, providing a critical voice within the community. Hayley was also able to continue experimenting with embedded criticism by blogging about local company Twitches and Itches’ production of Once, of which she was a cast member.
DARTCritics returned from a successful summer to another school year, where the 2014-15 Theatre Praxis class took ownership over the site and began to experiment with criticism on a variety of different media platforms, resulting in the creation of the DARTCritics YouTube channel. On top of reviewing theatre in Ontario, DARTCritics expanded its critical reach by reviewing video games. Students ended the year with a evening-long Celebration of Criticism, which encouraged everyone to cultivate a critical voice in their own lives – and somehow managed to get Professor Fricker to play a round of Mario Kart.
After two successful years of criticism, the site continues to expand in the summer of 2015. Thanks to funding from Brock University’s Match of Minds Program, DARTCritics rehired Hayley and Nick as site editors, and brought on two new staff writers, Elizabeth Amos and Alex Jackson. With more funding than ever, the site is expanding its summer coverage outside the Niagara region. After covering another year of the In The Soil Arts Festival, DARTCritics are taking to the streets of Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake, covering Canada’s two largest repertory theatres, Stratford and Shaw. But it doesn’t end there! DARTCritics is also covering the fringe festivals in Hamilton and Toronto, as well as the Toronto Festival of Clowns.
Please follow DARTCritics as we continue to search for awesome theatre, meeting fascinating artists along the way. You can also follow us here:
YouTube: DART critics