“With his deep knowledge of the history of performance—not only in theatre but in dance, music, and visual art—he not only shows us how to view A production but how to place its director, its author, and its performers in the ongoing continuum of dramatic art,” the magazine said in a short post that went up following the announcement. “His reviews are not simply reviews; they are provocative contributions to the discourse on theatre, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America.”
For decades, Als has been a highly visible public intellectual. Recently, he curated and wrote the catalogue for “Alice Neel, Uptown,” which is on view at David Zwirner’s West 19th Street gallery until April 22 (and is highly recommended). Als talked about the show with Interview magazine here. He is a frequent speaker and moderator on New York’s lecture circuit—here’s an ARTnews recap of his talk on Diane Arbus at the New Museum in September 2015.
In addition to his theater criticism, Als writes art criticism for a variety of publications. A piece from July 2016 issue of The New York Review of Books surveyed Agnes Martin‘s retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York and a biography of the artist. His Instagram is also a joy—here’s a fun picture of Wallace Shawn.
Als’s award marks the first time a theater critic has won the award for criticism since 1978. Last year, the award went to Emily Nussbaum, television critic at The New Yorker.