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TBA Online: News & Features: April 2016

Bay Area Theatre Writer Lily Janiak Named Next SF Chronicle Critic

Friday, April 29, 2016   (0 Comments)
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New San Francisco Chronicle theatre reviewer Lily Janiak. Photo: Lois Tema

We here at Theatre Bay Area recently got the wonderful news that Bay Area theatre writer, Lily Janiak, had been selected to succeed Rob Hurwitt as the San Francisco Chronicle’s lead theatre critic. That this venerable journalistic publication chose, as its voice in and for the theatre world, a writer who is female, under 40 years old, and—despite a national pool of possible candidates—local to the Bay Area indicates that it may be pursuing a new direction for its theatre coverage. 

Among those who are excited by this decision is Janiak herself. She says, “My legs have been made of Jello since I got the news. I look forward to being able to walk again.”

Janiak, a Yale grad and SF State MFA alum, brings to her new position both journalistic acumen and an acute awareness of issues facing the theatre field. Formerly a TBA employee, she was the brains behind a number of its stories that married specific local theatre and theatre-making practices with broader social impact. In addition to her work at TBA, which does not publish reviews, Janiak reviewed shows for the SF Weekly and HowlRound.

“I love writing about theatre: It’s my art,” she said. “I love the process of opening myself to a play and then wrestling my impressions of it into an honest argument. I relish the search for that perfect description and the constant education that requires—mastering new vocabularies, introducing myself to new schools of thought.”

Other than regaining control of her legs, what does Janiak look forward to in her new role? “One of the most precious gifts you can give someone is to take them seriously,” she says. and I can’t wait to do that every night as a critic—to use the Chron to give San Francisco a friendly jab in the ribs and say: You are hella missing out if you don’t check out the abundant wild, urgent, joyful theatre that’s happening right in front of you.”

We heartily congratulate Lily, and are eager to see how she will put her stamp on Bay Area theatre.

Read Rob Weinert-Kendt’s interview with Janiak for American Theatre here.