Values and Best Practices

What We Do 

The Canadian Theatre Critics Association works to develop, promote, and innovate the craft of theatre criticism across Canada, to encourage the development of new Canada-based critics, and to provide informed analysis of Canadian theatre artists’ work on local and international platforms.

Preface

We who labour in the arts are living in challenging times, in which issues regarding ethics, principles and conduct need to be reasserted and proclaimed in a loud collective voice.

Nathan Cohen, one of our eminent Canadian theatre critics, put it this way: “A critic’s primary duty is not to lay down rigid rules and thereby arrive at decisions, but to serve playgoers as a guide and to assist dramatists and performers and producers by constructive suggestions, in raising their standards of achievement.”

It is in this spirit that the Canadian Theatre Critics Association puts forward the following statement articulating our core values and best practices.

Our Core Values

As an organization, we value integrity, innovation in criticism, and the continuing development of our field.

We believe that the arts are a vital aspect of Canadian society that are worthy of time, attention, and our advocacy.

We believe that the arts are a conversation. We value our role in responding to conversational offers made by artists and facilitating a dialogue between artists and the public.

We believe that critical response to live performance (in writing and through other forms of media) is a craft and practice in its own right; while responding to art works, criticism is also a craft independent of the artwork.

We strongly believe in equal rights for all, as set down in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[1] At the same time, we recognize the deep inequalities that still exist in Canadian society and advocate for critical practices that welcome the voices of those most marginalized.

We believe that critics must work with awareness of the privilege and responsibility that their platform brings.

We believe that healthy, respectful debate is essential to a flourishing arts scene and indeed society as a whole; robust debate leads to better art.

We believe that culture and society are constantly in motion and the arts reflect this ever-evolving context. Critical practices, too, evolve in dialogue with culture and society. The CTCA actively fosters the evolution of theatre criticism by seeking out, welcoming, and nurturing new critical voices, forms, and outlets, particularly voices that come from underrepresented perspectives.

Pure objectivity is an unattainable myth. Critics will always see the artwork and artists from their own perspective, framed by their tastes and lived experiences. Given this, responsible criticism involves critics supporting their opinions through observation, argument, and persuasion.

We believe that every arts community deserves a thriving critical sector and are aware that critical provision across Canada is uneven. We welcome opportunities to promote the further development of criticism across the country.

While we advocate for critics to be paid for their work, we believe that adherence to the values stated here in a consistent practice constitutes critical professionalism whether or not the critic is remunerated.

Guidelines for Best Practice 

  • Membership in the CTCA offers no license to insult, ridicule, or denigrate artists or anyone else. It is an expectation that CTCA members engage with other theatre professionals and each other with respect and collegiality.
  • The terms of acceptance of complimentary tickets by an individual critic (be it in exchange for coverage or for the critic’s professional interest in the artists or production) should be clearly understood by the critic and the producing company/its representatives.
  • The critic should attend the entire performance reviewed. If, after due diligence to avoid an early departure is exerted, the critic still must miss a portion of the performance in question, this should be mentioned in the review. If a critic reviews a preview performance, this should be with the company’s permission and should be mentioned in the review.
  • CTCA members should not use biased, harmful, or derogatory language when discussing race, gender, bodies, age, ethnicity or any other area of identity and should strive to be aware of their own assumptions about culture and gender.
  • The work of writing a review may include engaging with source and research material and with the artists making the work, before or after viewing the production.
  • Valuing our roles as documenters of an ephemeral art form, it is incumbent on us to be factually correct.
  • We welcome experimentation in new forms, platforms, and media, and new methods of engagement with live performance.

[1] The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms articulates the following under ensuring “Equality Rights” for all Canadians: 

“Equality rights are at the core of the Charter. They are intended to ensure that everyone is treated with the same respect, dignity and consideration (i.e. without discrimination), regardless of personal characteristics such as race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, residency, marital status or citizenship.”