O’Neill: ‘Open Submissions’ for 2011 Playwrights Confab


The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is putting out the word that open submissions are being accepted for the 2011 Playwrights Conference. We here at the CFR are happy, of course, to help spread the message and publish part of the press release that went out on this a few days ago.

Longtime readers may remember that I expressed great affection and admiration and, yes, a bit of criticism of the O’Neill earlier this year, at the time it was announced that the organization, ensconced in scenic Waterford, CT, would receive the 2010 Regional Theatre Tony Award. It wasn’t a secret then, and certainly it’s no secret now, that there are good, strong, fair, talented playwrights out there, salted and peppered across the land, who do not believe, despite the O’Neill’s sustained suggestions to the contrary, that the “open submissions” process is really open.

I’m re-raising this topic not to rip open old wounds — indeed, I’m no position to arbitrate the matter, or to advance or contradict anyone’s narrative with anything approaching finality: the O’Neill has its definition of the matter and those in the community of American playwrights who take issue with it have theirs.

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if the wise administration of the O’Neill took the concerns, questions and criticisms of its “open submission” policy seriously enough to hold and, in fact, to publicize an industry-wide forum on the topic? I’m not bucking for a gripe session (even if some griping will be inevitable). I’m not aiming for a festival of exclusion (the forum would need to be open to all theatrical practitioners to be fair). I’m aiming for something one often discovers within the plays that are work on at the O’Neill itself: real, and rich, dialogue.

As a final note, I wish to acknowledge that I never wrote part II of the summary of the last couple days of this year’s American Theatre Critics Conference, which was held in New London and featured various excursions to the O’Neill, a site that those who know me will remember me calling a “place of magic.” Had I not needed to focus on personal health issues in my family, I’d have written in that final summary about a panel that took place at the O’Neill that featured a representative of every area of theatrical practice — an actor, director, playwright, designer, etc. The subject of the panel was the role of the critic. Well, other than the usual quibbles with the alarming idea that an unbiased eye can be a teaching tool, a fairer group of professionals has rarely been assembled. I was particularly taken by the comments of the artistic director of the Playwrights Conference, Wendy C. Goldberg.

Well, if there were such a panel covering what “open submissions” means, Goldberg should definitely moderate it. Here is hoping she’ll do so.

And here is the excerpted release:

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has announced the start of its Open Submission Process for projects to be considered for development during the 2011 National Playwrights Conference. Plays from applicants for the National Playwrights Conference will be accepted from Mon., Sept. 20 through Fri., Oct. 22, 2010. Early submissions are strongly encouraged.The National Playwrights Conference, led by Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg, supports playwrights during the creation and development of new play projects. The authors of selected works will be awarded a residency for the entire month of July 2011, within which there will be a professional rehearsal process and two script-in-hand public readings. A stipend, housing, meals, and transportation are provided for each writer selected for this month-long residency. Any play of any length or genre is eligible; however, to be included in the conference, the work must remain unproduced through July 31, 2011.

Open Submissions is a key element of the National Playwrights Conference mission to develop diverse voices and new works for the American Stage, requiring neither agent submission nor previous experience. The O’Neill typically receives 800 scripts for consideration. The plays are sent to readers across the country. The work is read blindly and this anonymity allows the O’Neill’s volunteer readers to focus on each writer’s voice and story, rather than a recognizable name or previous accomplishment. The O’Neill takes its mission for the discovery of new work and artists to heart. The leadership team at the O’Neill and the National Playwrights Conference is committed to the Open Submissions policy. This means that the majority of plays developed will be drawn from this pool each summer. Invitations or collaborations will be in the minority, but will always be a part of the mix, as they help launch conversations with a larger national field.

The submission fee is $35 dollars and covers the costs of the process itself. In an effort to reduce the overall cost of applying, NPC will also accept electronic submissions this year. This offers the playwright the chance to save time and money on paper copies and postage. We believe a paperless process is also the responsible choice for the environment. We will continue to accept applications through our standard hard copy application process, as well. Click here for an application. Please direct any questions about the conference to Martin Kettling, Literary Manager, at (860) 443-5378 ext. 227 or email litoffice@theoneill.org.