So You Want To Be A Critic? Let Me Say A Few Words First…

HARTFORD — The word of professional arts criticism and writing has had a seismic change in the last decade with traditional media print platforms downsizing the role of reviewer, indeed its arts coverage.

But there’s hope — and even opportunity — for writers who are savvy enough to navigate a new media terrain. Those who adapt, write well and take an entrepreneurial approach can find new inroads — and even a career, where none existed before.

Arts writer Frank Rizzo has seen this media landscape change as dramatically as the shows he’s covered for 40 years as arts writer and theater critic for more than 33 years for The Hartford Courant and its Tribune network of newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun.

Rizzo will be lecturing on “How To Be a Critic In a Changing Media World” at the Mark Twain House & Museum, 385 Farmington Ave., Hartford on Saturday, Sept. 29  as part of the two-day  Writers’ Weekend that also includes Sunday, Sept. 30.

The Writers Weekend offers writers (and aspiring writers!) two days of workshops, panel discussions, author talks, book signings, and more, featuring a variety of presentations on a wide range of topics. Other presenters to date include storyteller Matthew Dicks, humor writer Gina Barreca, poet Bessy Reyna, children’s book author Dana Rau, young-adult author CD Bell, playwright Jacques Lamarre, mystery writer Chris Knopf, travel writer Kim Knox Beckius, and novelist Amity Gage, with many more speakers to be announced soon.

“It’s the best and worst of times for arts writers,” says Rizzo, now a freelance journalist who works for a wide variety of news outlets and on-line platforms. “While the traditional media universe is unrecognizable from just a few years ago, there are opportunities, too, that never existed before. This new world of arts writing is still evolving and no one knows for sure how it will end — if it will at all. But understanding its dynamics and being able to change with it is essential for any arts writer.”

Rizzo is a theater columnist and feature writer for Connecticut magazine as well as a theater critic for Variety, covering shows in New York and beyond. He also contributes stories for American Theatre magazine, The New York Times, the Hearst newspapers of Connecticut, Theatre Development Fund’s on-line STAGES magazine, Hartford magazine, and other outlets, including back at the Courant.

He is also on the board of directors for the American Theatre Critics Association and the Connecticut Critics Circle. He is also a judge in a number of national playwriting competitions.

Rizzo, who lives in new Haven and New York City, also lectures at universities, museums, cultural organizations and, most recently, Show-Score in New York, on a variety on subjects, including the musicals “Hamilton,” “Carousel,” and “My Fair Lady.” He also writes on arts subjects for his blog, You can also follow him on Twitter @ShowRiz.

The registration fee for the Writers’ Weekend includes admission to Saturday night’s keynote address by Gary Shteyngart (and a copy of his novel “Lake Success:)  plus Sunday evening’s capstone presentation by Jodi Picoult  (and a signed copy of her new book “A Spark of Light”).

Registrants receive discounted admission to Tapping Into Twain, which is the Mark Twain House & Museum’s annual brew fest, on Friday, Sept. 28.

Registration is $250; $225 for members of The Mark Twain House & Museum.


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