Princeton Theater Professor Honored with George Jean Nathan Award for his book Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance
(Princeton, NJ) Brian Eugenio Herrera, assistant professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University, has received the prestigious George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for his book, Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance, which examines Latino representation and Latino artists in American theater and culture.
The Nathan Award, administered by Cornell University’s Department of English, has been given annually since 1959 for “the best piece of drama criticism during the theatrical year.” Named for prominent and influential theater critic George Jean Nathan, the award realizes his “object and desire to encourage and assist in developing the art of drama criticism and the stimulation of intelligent playgoing.” Awardees are selected by a majority vote of the heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton, and Yale universities. The award carries a $10,000 prize and is considered one of the most generous and distinguished in the American theater.
In considering Herrera’s book for the 2014-15 award, the Nathan Committee took particular note of Herrera’s analysis of the success and impact of the 1957 musical West Side Story.
“I still can’t imagine my name among that august list of Nathan honorees,” notes Herrera. “It’s humbling, really. But I am just so unapologetically proud that this year’s Nathan award recognizes a Latino writer writing about the long history of Latina/o performance in this country.”
Herrera joined the Princeton faculty in 2012. His work examines the formation of gender, sexual and racial identities in and through U.S. popular performance and has been published in many journals, including Theatre Journal, Modern Drama, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, and TDR: The Drama Review. He is particularly interested in how the labor of performers moves among industries, disciplines, and media in ways that document not only the general importance of performance within American life, but also the particular work that performers are asked to do in times of cultural, demographic, and political upheaval. Herrera recently authored The Latina/o Theatre Commons 2013 National Convening: A Narrative Report (HowlRound, 2015), a detailed narrative account of the first national gathering of Latina/o theatermakers since the 1980s.
His scholarly work has also been recognized by the Ford Foundation, the Smithsonian Institute, and the John Randolph & Dora Haynes Foundation. Last year Herrera received a Donald D. Harrington Faculty Fellowship, a research fellowship awarded by the University of Texas at Austin.
From 2007 to 2012, Herrera taught undergraduate and graduate courses in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of New Mexico, where he was recognized four times by The Project For New Mexico Graduates of Color as an Outstanding Faculty Member. He holds degrees from Brown University, the University of New Mexico and Yale University, where he earned his Ph.D. in American Studies. At Princeton, Herrera teaches the undergraduate courses “Casting: History, Theory, Practice,” “Autobiographical Storytelling,” “Playing Against Type,” “Queer Boyhoods,” “History of American Popular Entertainments,” and “21st Century Latina/o Drama.”
A performer as well as a scholar and an educator, Herrera’s autobiographical solo show entitled I Was the Voice of Democracy has been performed in more than a dozen states since 2010, as well as in Beruit and Abu Dabhi and broadcast on public radio. In 2013, he launched two new storywork shows, Boy Like That and Touch Tones.
He is currently at work on two other book projects: Starring Miss Virginia Calhoun and Casting: A History.
The 2014-15 Nathan Award was also given to Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones. In 2011 the Nathan Award went to Jill Dolan, Princeton’s Dean of the College, Professor of Theater and Annan Professor of English, for her blog, “The Feminist Spectator.”
“Brian’s work has had a huge impact on the Princeton theater community in his few years with us,” notes Tim Vasen, Director of Princeton’s Program in Theater. “I’m thrilled to see that the profession values him as much as we do here, and that he follows in Dean Jill Dolan’s footsteps, being the second Program in Theater faculty member to win the Nathan.”
George Jean Nathan (1882-1958) established the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism in his will. He graduated in 1904 from Cornell and was editor of the Cornell Daily Sun and the humor magazine The Cornell Widow. He went on to write for and co-edit (with H.L. Mencken) two influential magazines, The Smart Set and The American Mercury, and to publish 34 books on the theater. He is also known as the inspiration for Addison DeWitt, the critic played by George Sanders in the film All About Eve.