BWW Exclusive: Seven Off-Broadway Premieres for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
Hailed as the launchpad of the American theater, the two-time Tony Award-winning Eugene O'Neill Theater Center is responsible for developing more than 1,100 new works for the stage. Each summer, the O'Neill is home to a series of national conferences ushering in new voices in playwriting, musical theater, cabaret, puppetry, and criticism. NTI's Theatermakers Summer Intensive provides young artists the opportunity to train alongside these professional conferences and see new American plays before they hit the big stage. Plays developed during summers at the O'Neill now abound off-Broadway, as major New York theaters premiere work from the National Playwrights Conference (NPC).
Founded in 1964, the National Playwrights Conference pioneered the staged reading and continues to select plays through an open submission process (more than 1,300 scripts were received for the eight spots in the 2015 season). Since 2011 the conference has workshopped 30 new plays, seven of which are premiering this season and next at acclaimed off-Broadway venues: I'M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD by Halley Feiffer (NPC '14) at Atlantic Theater; THE NETHER by Jen Haley (NPC '11) at MCC Theater; BRIGHT HALF LIFE by Tanya Barfield (NPC '14) at Women's Project Theater; LOST LAKE by David Auburn (NPC '13) at Manhattan Theatre Club; and three at Roundabout Theatre Company, LITTLE CHILDREN DREAM OF GOD by Jeff Augustin (NPC '13), SIGNIFICANT OTHER by Josh Harmon (NPC '13), and UGLY LIES THE BONE by Lindsey Ferrentino (NPC '14).
"It's a remarkable and unprecedented time for new work and especially for artists and projects coming through the National Playwrights Conference" says Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg. "I could not be prouder that these incredible new works and talented writers are receiving the praise and attention they rightly deserve."
She references the major awards recently bestowed upon O'Neill writers: Jen Haley was awarded the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize; Lindsey Ferrentino was awarded a special citation from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation and was Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist; Kia Corthron (NPC '00 and NTI faculty) was awarded the 2014 Windham Campbell Prize; and Samuel D. Hunter (NPC '04, '13, 2014 writer-in-residence and NTI faculty) was named a MacArthur Fellow in Playwriting.
Wendy also notes "the National Theater Institute is unlike any theatrical training program for many reasons, one of which being the unparalleled access to new work and living writers. Integrating NTI into the National Playwrights Conference allows people of multiple generations the ability to learn from each other."
This sentiment is echoed by Halley Feiffer (NPC '14) who says that during the development process of her play I'M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD, "the Theatermaker students were my sounding board. I really used them in the rehearsal room all the time...I was super-impressed with how hard they worked."
And, as a playwright and actress, she uniquely relates to the interdisciplinary demands of NTI's training noting, "I've always wanted to be an actor and I've always wanted to be a writer. [NTI's programs are] amazing, because they encourage you to do everything. Everyone collaborates with each other and that experience is invaluable."
Watch below to learn more about the off-Broadway premiere of Halley's play:
The O'Neill experience was also invaluable to playwright Samuel D. Hunter who says that he "learned more in a month at the O'Neill than in three years of graduate school." Now, as a member of the Theatermakers faculty, Sam works with students on developing their voice, making a life in the theater, and strengthening the director-playwright relationship.
Watch below for more about Sam's first experience as a writer at the O'Neill:
NTI's Theatermakers Summer Intensive is a credit-earning program for young artists seeking a six-week collaborative theater experience with a particular focus in Acting, Playwriting, or Directing. The Theatermakers' classes, workshops, observerships, and weekly public presentations fully immerse students in the creation of theater 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. By the end of the summer, the student ensemble is part of a vast network of industry professionals and has written, directed, and performed their own work as part of the O'Neill's summer season.
In 2014, one of these original works resonated strongly with Halley Feiffer who recalls "the Monday the Theatermakers did their Radio Plays I was blown away by the quality of the productions. It was better than most of the stuff I see off-Broadway. It was an incredible, moving, weird, upsetting, and highly-theatrical evening. I was so glad that I could witness it."
Witness if for yourself. Apply to NTI's Theatermakers Summer Intensive and work alongside the development of the eight new plays. Learn more and apply by visiting www.NationalTheaterInstitute.org and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (@NTIRiskFailRisk). The application deadline for summer and fall programs is March 20. Early applications are encouraged!
Learn more about the off-Broadway productions of O'Neill projects:
UGLY LIES THE BONE
Lindsey Ferrentino, NPC '14
Roundabout Theatre Company
Theatermakers 2014 work with NTI Artistic Director Rachel Jett
Theatermakers 2014 before presenting their original radio plays
The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
Scenic research and inspiration for Halley Feiffer's I'M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD. Photo by A. Vincent Scarano.
Rehearsal for Lindsey Ferrentino's play UGLY LIES THE BONE as Theatermaker student (far left) reads stage directions
Playwright Lindsey Ferrentino discusses an idealized staging of her new play at a dream design session at the National Playwrights Conference. Photo by A. Vincent Scarano.
NPC Artistic Director chats with playwright David Auburn in the O'Neill's Barn Theater.
National Playwright Conference reading in the O'Neill's Edith Oliver Theater
O'Neill playwrights, Summer 2014