Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

NATIONAL CRITICS INSTITUTE at O'Neill Theater Center Honors Mark Charney

NATIONAL CRITICS INSTITUTE at O'Neill Theater Center Honors Mark Charney

The National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford bid farewell to Mark Charney July 12 who is stepping down as associate director of the National Critics Institute. Friends and colleagues gathered as O'Neill Executive Director Preston Whiteway shared remarks and comments sent in by well-wishers who have been connected with the program over the years.

Charney receive a brick outside of Eugene's Pub. He shared the following thoughts:

As I say goodbye to my 18 years at the O'Neill Theatre Center, I look back with love and appreciation to all the artists who welcomed me each year. I started in 2002 as a Critic Fellow and then continued as a (very old) intern of sorts, working with Helene Goldfarb and Dan Sullivan. The pay wasn't much-ok, I lost money (just ask my wife)-but the experience was invaluable. I learned what it meant to be an artist /journalist with integrity from Dan, Helene, and the guests at the time, intent on teaching criticism but also improving the world around them by commenting brilliantly on it.

Marla Shaffer would greet me each year with a big "Welcome Home!" And during the Jim Houghton years, we'd gather together each week more than once, introducing all of the new folks and sharing guest artists, ideologies and communal strategies. I will always remember a three-hour conversation with August Wilson, an interview with Lee Blessing, and big drinks with Chris Noth. Readings by Adam Rapp. Workshops with Paula Vogel. John Patrick Shanley. Brian Dennehy. Doing a liquor shot with Michael Douglas.

But it wasn't about the stars. Not really.

The real joy was and has always been the critic fellows. Sure, some were eccentric, some disappointed, and some downright rude/weird/aggressive. But, by in large, most were exceptionally bright, curious, and interested in understanding and representing the world of art around them. They shared their insecurities, their hopes, their aspirations, their talent, and under the steady hands of Dan and Helene, they learned more than they thought possible. And under the current leadership of Chris Jones, they not only explore theater and film but also nod towards dance and food as well, while enjoying jaunts to the Berkshires, Jacob's Pillow, and Williamstown. And, best of all, they currently live in the new cottages on campus, quite an improvement from the "monastery-like" dorms of Connecticut College.

The institute began to integrate the critics more fully as the years went by, and the conversations had in Blue Gene's were among my favorite-so much about life inspired by the developmental process, so expertly led by Paulette Haupt for musical theatre and Houghton for plays, as many as 18 a summer. Theatre happened every night but Monday in those days.

During times of financial crisis, compromises were made, numbers of plays to be developed shortened, and the many days between readings compressed, but the spirit held strong. Members of NCI were discovering the next important voices, especially critical ones, in an atmosphere that encouraged honesty, integrity, and acceptance of diverse opinions and behaviors.

Advocacy for the arts above all.

With the exception of a few board members, as I retire from the O'Neill, my 18 years makes me one of the folks presently here the longest (nothing compared to earlier records of those who have already been retired). Change is inevitable, and much of it has been good, all of it muddied by the lens of nostalgia that often circumvents an honest examination of the present. And my send off was just lovely, surrounded by friends who also know and love the O'Neill.

I leave the O'Neill with love and appreciation for all it taught me, and the myriad voices to which it introduced me, especially since community was seen as a contributing factor to the understanding of the creation of art. The professional critic mentors will always represent strength, goodness, commitment, challenge, and love. And all of the critic fellows, for 18 years-the reason we were there-encourage me to trust in a future made bright by their willingness to learn, their flexibility, and their love for their art. This group was an especially good one, a perfect group for a sendoff.

The world of criticism, indeed, in very good hands.

Thanks O'Neill Theater Institute for continuing to support the National Critics Institute. I look forward to supporting NCI as it continues to train voices to best represent the future.

-- Mark Charney

BEETLEJUICE, FUNNY GIRL, and More Set For The Bushnell 2023-2024 Broadway Series Photo
The Bushnell announced the seven musicals that will comprise its 2023-2024 Broadway Series season. Learn more about the full lineup here!

Connecticut Ballet Will Present All-New Production of COPPELIA Photo
Connecticut Ballet celebrates the close of its 42nd season with a sparkling production of the beloved classic Coppélia. Directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Brett Raphael, this enchanting story of a young woman's adventures in a magical toy workshop will come to life with all-new costumes and sets.

Shubert Theatre New Haven Presents JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, April 21-23 Photo
Following critically acclaimed, sold-out engagements in the UK, the reimagined 50th Anniversary tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR comes to Shubert Theatre in New Haven April 21–23, 2023.

LATE NITE CATECHISM Comes To Warner Theatre, June 11 Photo
The Warner Theatre will welcome LATE NITE CATECHISM to the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre on Sunday, June 11 at 3 pm! Tickets go on sale to Warner Supporters Tuesday, March 28 at 10 am, and to the general public Friday, March 31 at 10 am.

From This Author - Lauren Yarger

Lauren is a theater producer (Gracewell Productions), a playwright (member of The Dramatists Guild of America) and a theater critic -- The Connecticut Arts Connection ( a... (read more about this author)

October 24, 2022

CT Chapter LPTW Presents Panel on 'Rebuilding Theater with Greater Relevance' and Presents Ivoryton Playhouse with 'Seal of Approval' for Promoting Theater Women at WOmen Playwrights Fest Oct. 29

THE LITTLE SISTERS OF LITTLETON Comes To Palace Theater, WaterburyTHE LITTLE SISTERS OF LITTLETON Comes To Palace Theater, Waterbury
October 11, 2021

Dorothy Lyman, Sachi Parker, Don Striano featured in THE LITTLE SISTERS OF LITTLETON, kicking off Gracewell Productions' Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater, Waterbury

THE MAGIC OF STAGED READINGS at Westport Country PlayhouseTHE MAGIC OF STAGED READINGS at Westport Country Playhouse
October 7, 2021

Producers speak about staging readings in the age of Covid at CT Chapter's first in-person get-together of the season.

Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women Host PERIOD PIECE Creators For DiscussionConnecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women Host PERIOD PIECE Creators For Discussion
March 30, 2021

A discussion with Creator Susan Cinoman, Producers Tracey Knight Narang, Terry Nardozzi and Playwright Cheryl Davis in discussion about the upcoming Period Piece project.

League of Professional Theatre Women Celebrates Women's History Month At Hartford Stage & MoreLeague of Professional Theatre Women Celebrates Women's History Month At Hartford Stage & More
March 11, 2021

Hartford Stage Women are Part of a New Slate of Theater Leaders in Connecticut and talk about making history.