Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Deadline to apply for 2012 National Critics Institute at O'Neill Theater Center: Friday June 15

The organizers of the annual National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center, tell me that the Connecticut-based summer-only institute has "a bit of scholarship money" for critics, professors, students and writers. Perhaps you are in a directing program or in degree-seeking programs. You may want to do what Charney and I did  — to become a Critic Fellow for two weeks at the O'Neill. Playwrights and scholars are welcome.

If you are interested, please contact Mark Charney at cmark [at] by Friday June 15.

To learn more about the program, visit this link: You may also read the description below the photo....

A Personal Testimony:  Thanks to the New York Times, Company Foundation, I was chosen as a 2003 Critic Fellow at the O'Neill Theater Center. Barring going on a road trip to every single theater city in America, the only other potential solution to my problem seemed to be the O’Neill Critics Institute. At the time, I had begun to face the imperatives of a different question: How is it possible for an American theater critic to possess a truly national outlook — to become one of Robert Brustein’s “repertory critics with a passionate overview” — but whose purview transcended Broadway essentialism?

The O'Neill's Playwrights Conference each year offers staged readings of new writing from around the country led by top directors and actors. One of the unique aspects of the O’Neill Critics Institute is that critics are assigned to new works-in-progress and can, when schedules permit, plumb the mysteries of how plays change as they observe firsthand the process of putting them on their feet.

The glimpse into the backstage life is just part of the O’Neill program, though. This two-week boot camp, created by the late Ernest Schier, is primarily designed to improve a critic’s copy. It’s not just about writing on deadline — it’s about writing the overnight review. The faculty (which, my year, included Newsday’s Linda Winer) gives critiques of what has been written while everyone sits on benches under the copper beech trees that line the estate’s rustic campus.

The theater's campus overlooks the Long Island Sound in Waterford Beach Park. I spent a lot of time on that beach. On some lazy afternoon days, I closed my eyes, dreaming that I might hear the sound of a foghorn.
The beach at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT.

Waterford, CT — The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is now accepting applications for its 2012 National Critics Institute (NCI) to be held July 2-16, 2012. Applicants may submit through Friday, June 15, 2012.

A two-week intensive, the National Critics Institute offers writers, professional or amateur, complete immersion in the life of professional theater. NCI runs concurrently with the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference and National Music Theater Conference and provides Critic Fellows a unique opportunity to observe the growth of new American Theater while sharpening their own skills as writers. 

Selected applicants can expect a rigorous exploration of their work. Critic Fellows see a production every night and their copy—a review of the show, an interview with a playwright, a feature about an actor or director—is due early the next morning. Copy is then usually read aloud and discussed by the group under the direction of a seasoned theater writer or editor.

With feedback from professionals like Linda Winer (Newsday) and Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), applicants will receive frank, objective criticism of their work and learn the latest trends in theatre journalism, from blogging and tweeting to web publishing.

"We don't come to the O'Neill to tell the playwrights what's wrong with their scripts," says NCI director Dan Sullivan, who reviewed theater for the Los Angeles Times for twenty years. "This is about our process as writers — the place where we exercise our right to fail. It's a tough two weeks, not a vacation at the beach. We like to call it a boot camp for critics. For critics with experience it's a re-boot. There's no other program like it."

Although primarily designed for working writers, NCI also welcomes theater educators. The program has included professors associated with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for years. CEU credits are available. Cost of the session is $1,800. This includes private room, meals, tuition and tickets to National Playwrights Conference, National Music Theater Conference, Goodspeed Opera House and Ivoryton Playhouse. Limited financial aid is available for qualified candidates.

If you are interested, please contact Mark Charney at cmark [at] by Friday June 15.

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