The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has announced that it is now accepting applications for its 2012 National Critics Institute to be held July 2-16, 2012 in Waterford, Connecticut. Deadline for submissions is 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 Michael Feingold (The Village Voice), 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.”
Two members of DC Theatre Scene’s staff have enrolled in previous O’Neill Critics Institute sessions and strongly endorse it.
“The O’Neill Critic’s Institute was one of the finest experiences in my career as a theater critic,” said Jayne Blanchard, longtime principal critic for the Washington Times before she joined DCTS. “I did it in 1994 and made friends that I cherish to this day and I still remember the firm, but supportive, feedback on my reviews from Michael Feingold and Judy Rousuck.
“The most indelible memory I have from that crazed, wonderful month was meeting and working with August Wilson on Seven Guitars. My contribution was modest–I fished out notes August wrote on napkins and other scraps of paper out of trashcans and dumpsters–but to watch him work with director Lloyd Richards, and actor Charles Dutton and to see ‘Seven Guitars’ take shape–it still gives me the shivers to think about it. The coolest thing is when he read my review of ‘Seven Guitars’ and said to me ‘You’re not a critic. You’re a poet.’ Who was I to argue? So we drank coffee and wrote poetry together a few sunny, hot early mornings before the day’s schedule started and for the first time in my life I knew what it was like to be in a state of grace.”
DCTS Senior Reviewer Tim Treanor is also a graduate of the program. “If you are serious about doing theater criticism, I recommend that you apply for this training,” Treanor said. “I took it last year, to my enormous advantage. You will be surrounded by people who care about the craft, and taught by men and women who have made good money practicing it.
“Everything is done with high urgency: every evening you will see a play; afterward you will pound out a review — of a predetermined length — on your laptop; and in the morning it will be critiqued by — well, by critics, your classmates and your teacher. Nor will you just learn print criticism; there is training in arts journalism and broadcast criticism as well. Plus there is plenty of fun: a swell bistro on campus (feel free to critique the drinks); the ocean a quarter-hour’s walk away; and plenty of good Connecticut seafood.
“The place is swaddled in O’Neill history; the campus, for example, was originally owned by the guy O’Neill later characterized as McComber, the mean old father of the lovely Muriel in Ah, Wilderness!, and you will undoubtedly visit the ‘cottage’ which inspired Long Day’s Journey Into Night , which is about twice the size of a normal house. The accommodations are Spartan, if you consider college dormitory life Spartan, but unless you are a snootyface, you will have a good time anyway.”
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. A limited number of scholarships are available to members of American Theatre Critics Association.
More information is available here or call Dan Sullivan at (612)-522-9053.