Martin F. Kohn, the longtime backup theatre critic for The Detroit Free Press, has been named chief critic, replacing veteran critic Lawrence DeVine, who retired Oct. 30.
Kohn, 51, is a New York native who began writing for the Free Press, now Michigan's major circulation daily, in 1977. For eight years he was the paper's "Family Fare" writer.
As backup critic, he helped DeVine select nominees for the annual Detroit Free Press Theatre Excellence Awards every spring. It is likely that tradition will continue.
Kohn is known for his friendly reviews, his passion for theatre and his sense of fairness.
* DeVine had been the Free Press critic for 30 years. As the circulation of the chief competitor, The Detroit News, dwindled following a joint operating agreement (JOA), DeVine's (and the Free Press') influence increased in the late 1980s.
The Free Press controls the Sunday arts section in a combined News-Free Press weekend paper. The Detroit News lacks a full-time staff drama critic.
It was estimated that the sixty-something DeVine wrote as many as 4,000 reviews and articles at the Free Press.
DeVine's announcement surprised members of the theatre community, particularly since the 1998-99 season had just begun. DeVine oversaw and largely chose the Detroit Free Press Theatre Excellence Awards every spring, doling out what artists informally call "Larrys." It was the city's only major gathering of resident theatre artists until the Michigan Allied Professional Theatres formed their own awards in 1998.
DeVine received a citation from Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer Sept. 30 at an event to celebrate Arts and Humanities Month.
"Larry DeVine has brought our city honor and recognition," said Mayor Archer, according to the Free Press.
DeVine, an active founding member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a past judge on the Pulitzer Prize panel, is known for his elegant writing style and humorous observations. Last month, MAPT bestowed a media excellence award for his support of resident theatre over the years.
-- By Kenneth Jones