Theater Nerd Fantasy Camp — I’m Going to the O’Neill!

Guess what friends? I’m going to the O’Neill this summer!

No, not as a playwright, but still. 

For those of you who don’t know, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center is an amazing institution that nurtures theater of all kinds (puppetry, cabaret, straight plays and musicals) through workshops and staged readings. They also encourage scholarship through the National Critics Institute (NCI). I will continue to be one of the 1,500 playwrights who submits an original plays for consideration each year, but this year I’m going as a critic. 

One of the O'Neill's oldest programs, NCI is a two-week residential workshop and conference led by Chris Jones, the theater reviewer for the Chicago Tribune. The institute convenes concurrently with the National Playwrights Conference and the National Music Theater Conference, which means I’ll be able to meet the amazing writers who crafted the winning entries and see for myself what’s at the leading edge of new work. Hopefully I’ll also meet some really cool and inspiring people. 

According to the website, the program includes “writing workshops in the crafts of reviewing theater, film, performance and food; workshops in storytelling and analysis; workshops in writing more exciting profiles in the field of arts and entertainment; insights into the critical process with a world-class faculty composed of America's leading arts critics; explorations of the relationship of critics with social media; study of best practices when it comes blogging and other online sites; off-site trips, and many opportunities to network with other critics and other creative professionals. We watch shows together, head to the Berkshires together, review restaurants together, and grow together.”

Well, that sounds pretty cool to me. I know two other theater critics who’ve attended the NCI in the past — they both dissolve in waves of sheer bliss on their faces when they talk about it. Plus, it’s in Connecticut, very near the ocean. Frankly, I can’t imagine a better (or more exciting) summer vacation.