Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
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The Hammond Mansion in 2017
|Address||305 Great Neck Road|
|Area||40 acres (16 ha)|
|Architectural style||Federal, Gothic Revival, et al.|
|NRHP reference #||05001044|
|Added to NRHP||September 21, 2005|
The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit theater company founded in 1964 by George C. White. The O'Neill is the recipient of two Tony Awards, the 1979 Special Award and the 2010 Regional Theatre Award, and the 2015 National Medal of Arts presented on September 22, 2016 by President Obama. The O'Neill is a multi-disciplinary institution that has had a transformative effect on American theater. The O'Neill pioneered play development and stage readings as a tool for new plays and musicals, and is also home to the National Theater Institute (est. 1970), an intensive study-away semester for undergraduates. Its major theater conferences include the National Playwrights Conference (est. 1965); the National Critics Conference (est. 1968), the National Musical Theater Conference (est. 1978), the National Puppetry Conference (est. 1990), and the Cabaret & Performance Conference (est. 2005). The Monte Cristo Cottage, Eugene O'Neill's childhood home in New London, Connecticut, was purchased and restored by the O'Neill in the 1970s and is maintained as a museum. The theater's campus, overlooking Long Island Sound in Waterford Beach Park, has four major performance spaces: two indoor and two outdoor. The O'Neill is led by Executive Director Preston Whiteway.
Also known as Walnut Grove and Hammond Estate, the estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 21, 2005, for its architectural significance, and its associations with Revolutionary War Colonel William North and Edward Crowninshield Hammond, a wealthy industrialist.
National Playwrights Conference
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The National Playwrights Conference (NPC) is one of the premiere play developmental programs in America. Since its founding in 1965, NPC has developed over 600 new plays for the stage, launching the careers of many notable writers, including August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, Adam Rapp, John Patrick Shanley, Lee Blessing, John Guare, Gina Gionfriddo, and hundreds more. Each year, the Conference accepts nearly 1000 scripts under an open-submissions policy. A team of over 125 readers made up of theater professionals, dramaturgs, college department chairs, and past participants help to read the scripts and select the most promising. Of the 8 plays developed in each of the past 5 years, at least 7 are from the open-submissions process, with one writer typically being invited to participate.
NPC offers writers a four-week residency at the O'Neill's campus, with strong dramaturgical and professional support. Professional actors, directors, designers, and technicians assist the writer in creating and shaping the play, culminating in two, script-in-hand readings for an audience. Sets, costumes, lights, sounds, and other design elements are only suggested with simple props and cues, to allow the writer the time and space necessary, should they wish to adapt or rewrite the script. First and foremost, NPC is focused on the writer and adapts to serve his or her needs in the development of the play.
The National Playwrights Conference has served as a model for several other developmental programs, including the Sundance Institute, Actors Theater of Louisville's Humana Festival; Ojai Festival; the Shelykova Institute in Russia, and more.
Lloyd Richards was the first Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference, appointed in 1969 by the O'Neill's founder, George C. White. Richards was one of the first African-Americans to lead a major theater program in the United States and ten years later was named Dean of the Yale School of Drama. He continued to hold both positions before retiring from Yale in 1991 and the O'Neill in 1999. The program was then led by Jim Houghton (2000–2003), J Ranelli (2003–2004), and Richard Kuranda (2004–2005).
Wendy C. Goldberg is the current Artistic Director.
National Theater Institute
The National Theater Institute is home to six credit-earning programs: the National Theater Institute (NTI), NTI Advanced Directing, NTI Advanced Playwriting, the Moscow Art Theatre Semester (MATS), Theatermakers, and the National Music Theater Institute (NMTI).
NTI offers many theater study abroad training programs for students.
The National Theater Institute (NTI) is the O'Neill Center's credit-bearing 14-week intensive theater program for college-age students. Accredited by Connecticut College, NTI offers a comprehensive training curriculum, with classes in acting, directing, design, movement, playwriting, voice, singing, mask work, stage combat, yoga, tai chi, etc. Classes are held seven days a week from 9 am to 10 pm, with a 7:30 am warm-up six days a week. International components include two-week seminars at London/Stratford-upon-Avon to train with Complicite or St. Petersburg, Russia to train at the St. Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy.
The NTI Advanced Directing Semester allows emerging and experienced directing students to concentrate solely on sharpening their craft. The main emphasis is on practical training through table-work, in-class exercises, and intensive rehearsals; classes in directing theory and historical foundations; presentations of classical and contemporary scenes; and a final work-in-progress performance.
The Advanced Playwriting 14-week study away program is offered only in the spring, at the O'Neill. This program is a unique opportunity to focus for an entire semester on the craft of writing and developing new plays. There is also a focus on professional training and development to learn about the business of the business, producing one's own work, agents, graduate schools, and submitting to new play festivals. Students leave the program with a portfolio of plays they can submit to festivals and a network of professional contacts.
The Moscow Art Theatre Semester (MATS) is the only American undergraduate program where students can train for an entire semester at the Moscow Art Theatre School and work with members of one of the most accomplished theaters in the world. The National Theater Institute has been collaborating with the Moscow Art Theatre for more than 20 years. In this highly competitive 13-week study abroad program offered only in the Fall semester, daily acting classes in the Stanislavsky System, the Michael Chekhov Technique, and movement classes (including Biomechanics and Ballet) are complemented with voice, design, Russian language, and Russian theater history. Students study in the vibrant city of Moscow, visit cultural sites, see theater, and train with master teachers of the Moscow Art Theatre School. Classes are held six days a week, from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Theatermakers is a six-week summer program designed for students who are self-driven and want to sharpen their theater skills as an actor, director, or playwright. The Theatermakers summer intensive has three core components: an intensive regimen of classes and workshops with professional artists; a public presentation of new plays created each week by the Theatermakers; and integration into the National Playwrights and National Music Theater Conferences through observing the rehearsal process and being mentored by the professional artists. A small ensemble of about 18 students (actors, directors, and writers) is admitted into this highly selective program to ensure an intimate class size, focused attention from instructors, and close-knit mentorships with the professional artists.
With its inaugural semester in the fall of 2014, the National Music Theater Institute (NMTI) is an immersion program for students who want to learn about all aspects of creating music theater. Students of NMTI leave both inspired and able to participate in the creation of all aspects of a musical. NMTI is unique; there is no other semester-long, undergraduate training program in America that offers this intensive immersion in all aspects of music theater. All NMTI teachers are professional working artists hired to share that experience with the students. Students come to NMTI to delve deeply into the craft of music theater and experience a conservatory-like schedule (7:30am to 10pm, seven days a week, for 14 weeks). In addition to daily classes and workshops, students stage a variety of performances starting with short scenes each week and culminating with an evening-length, work-in-progress production open to the public. The students also have a two-week residency in New York City to see theater and train with professionals in a singular series of NMTI workshops and master classes.
The motto of NTI is "RISK, FAIL, RISK AGAIN."
National Critics Institute
The National Critics Institute (NCI) was designed for theater writers looking to strengthen their skills. This program offers participants objective feedback from professionals, advice on marketing works, and a chance to get to know and appreciate other writers. This program lasts for two weeks, and includes trips to Connecticut theaters, such as the Goodspeed Opera House and the Ivoryton Playhouse. While most classes are on the grounds of the O’Neill, some classes are held at the Monte Cristo Cottage, Eugene O’Neill's boyhood home, which is located in New London. The cost for the session is $2,500, and includes a private room, meals, tuition, and tickets to both the Playwrights Conference and Music Theater shows.
National Puppetry Conference
The National Puppetry Conference (NPC) was established in 1990 by Jane Henson, George Latshaw, Richard Termine, Bobbie Nidzgorski, Bart P. Roccoberton Jr., Jim Rose and Margo Rose. The NPC is sponsored by the Rose Endowment for Puppetry. The conference lasts for eight days, during which time participants work with renowned puppet artists as well as each other. Participants can explore different performance styles and techniques during workshops, rehearsals, and master classes. Newcomers and experienced puppeteers alike attend this conference. Participants attend a three-day course before the conference, which focuses on the main aspects that comprise puppetry: creating a narrative, building the puppet, and training the performer.
Young Playwrights Festival
The Young Playwrights Festival is an event dedicated especially to middle school and high school aged students. Participants must be between the ages of 12 and 18 in order to submit a play. In order to be considered for the festival, participants must submit an original play that is ten to fifteen pages in length, and they must be available for the entire duration of the Festival.
National Music Theater Conference
The mission of the National Music Theater Conference (NMTC) is to provide a challenging and supportive environment in which new and established artists alike can take risks to improve their work. This conference takes place every summer, and it includes several playwrights, lyricists and composers trying to create fresh, unique work. Open submission begins in the fall. Several professionals review the submissions before making the final selections. During the conference, the O’Neill provides a staff of directors and musicians to assist the artists in refining their work. Alexander Gemignani is the Artistic Director.
The following is a list of plays, musicals, and performance pieces first developed at the O'Neill that have gone on to further success.
- National Playwrights Conference
- "I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard" – Halley Feiffer (2014)
- "The Nether" – Jennifer Haley (2011), Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2012
- The Receptionist – Adam Bock (2006)
- Fuddy Meers – David Lindsay-Abaire (1998)
- Trueblinka – Adam Rapp (1997)
- Seven Guitars – August Wilson (1994)
- The Piano Lesson – August Wilson (1986)
- Joe Turner's Come and Gone – August Wilson (1984)
- Fences – August Wilson (1983)
- Danny and the Deep Blue Sea – John Patrick Shanley (1982)
- Ma Rainey's Black Bottom – August Wilson (1982)
- Agnes of God – John Pielmeier (1979)
- FOB – David Henry Hwang (1979)
- Bent – Martin Sherman (1978)
- Uncommon Women and Others – Wendy Wasserstein (1977)
- A History of the American Film – Christopher Durang (1976)
- Madmen and Specialists – Wole Soyinka (1970)
- House of Blue Leaves – John Guare (1966)
- National Musical Theater Conference
- Tales of the City (2009)
- In the Heights (2005), Tony Award, (2008)
- Avenue Q (2002), Tony Award, (2004)
- The Wild Party (1997)
- Nine (1979), Tony Award, Best Musical, 1982
- Cabaret & Performance Conference
- National Critics Conference
Notable O'Neill alumni
- National Theater Institute
- Emily Bergl
- Adam Bock (The Receptionist)
- Gordon Clapp (NYPD Blue)
- Jack Coleman (Heroes)
- Michael Douglas
- Rachel Dratch (SNL)
- Chris Elliott (SNL)
- Michael Emerson
- Jennifer Garner
- Paul Hodes (US Congressman, NH)
- Kristina Klebe
- John Krasinski (The Office)
- Jeremy Piven (Entourage)
- Michael "Soy Bomb" Portnoy
- Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother)
- Kate Robin (Six Feet Under)
- Sam Robards
- Mark Teschner
- Rebecca Taichman
- Elizabeth Olsen
- Adam Shulman
- Cynthia Wade
- Britain Simons
- Conference Playwrights
- Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
- Edward Albee
- Lee Blessing
- Julia Cho
- Kia Corthron
- Joe DiPietro
- Christopher Durang
- Jacob Aaron Estes
- Rebecca Gilman
- Gina Gionfriddo
- John Guare
- Willy Holtzman
- Israel Horovitz
- Samuel D. Hunter
- David Henry Hwang
- David Lindsay-Abaire
- Adam Rapp
- John Patrick Shanley
- Sam Shepard
- Regina Taylor
- Wendy Wasserstein
- August Wilson
- Lanford Wilson
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