BONNIE GOLDBERG 7/17/08

    The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, neslted in the lovely rolling hills of Waterford, is a “theater laboratory” for new plays and musicals, as well as a testing ground for innovations in puppetry, cabaret performance and critical review.  For the past forty-four years, the O’Neill has been offering a unique, crative atmosphere for new works to be mounted, much like nurturing baby chicks in embryonic stages, giving them their first downy feathers and helping them literally to “fly.”  If you haven’t taken advantage of this gem in our own woods, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
    Each winter play submissions that number over six hundred and musical selections of over one hundred and twenty-five are sent in for consideration,  These new plays are read by a panel of experts in the field and whittled down to forty, and then the forty are narrowed down to eight.
For musicals, this year four were selected.
    The final choices for plays are “The Near East” by Alex Lewin, abouot an American archaelogist’s encounter with an Arab activist, “Box Americana” by Jason Grote, about two female emplyees at Wal-Mart and their trials with the corporate world, “Smudge” by Rachel Axler, a dark comedy about parenthood, “Magnolia” by Regina Taylor, about the tensions in 1963 Atlanta surrounding desegregation, “Thunder Above, Deeps Below” by A. Rey Pamatmat about a trio of homeless friends making their way from Chicago to San Francisco, “The Legend of Minnie Willet” by Ann Marie Healy, about small town women and their sexual adventures, “Without You,” by Ursula Rani Sarma, about wishes and sacrifices in the name of love and “Italian Sojourn” by Neena Beber about an American exchange student who flees across Italy after her roommate is murdered.
    The National Playwrights Conference is overseen by Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director, and includes a creative team of actors, designers, playwrights, directors and dramaturgs from all over the country who present these fledgling works for the first time to the public. as play readings.
    According to Ms. Goldberg, this year’s plays “look into the soul of our national consciousness and represent the future of American theatrical storytelling.”
    Since 1978, Paulette Haupt has been the co-founder and Artistic Director of the National Music Theater Conference.  This summer a record four musicals will be explored:  “Myth” by John Mercurio about three Greek myths set in present day New York, “In Transit” by Kristin Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russell M. Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth about the lives of New York subway riders as they travel “between stations,” “Max Understood” by Nancy Carlin and Michael Rasbury about a seven year old autistic boy’s journey to communicate and “Iron Curtain” by Susan DiLallo, Peter Mills and Stephen Weiner about two songwriters kidnapped by the KGB and brought to Russia to write communist propaganda musicals.
    To Paulette Haupt, the National Music Theater Conference “offers the playwright, lyricist and composer the opportunity to go into the wilderness of their intuition without any fear of failure.”  Ms. Haupt will be honored on Saturday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the O’Neill with a summer gala celebration, “Musicals Under the Stars.”  For more information, contact Suzanne Hendrix at 860-443-5378, ext. 217 or online at
    The National Critics Institute is directed by Dan Sullivan and is geared to educate critics and improve their opinion writing process with hands-on, deadline driven assignments, using the materials, in this case all the new plays and musicals, that abound on campus.
    The Cabaret and Performance Conference, led by Michael Bush, was established in 2005 and examines cabaret as an art form with “a unique environment for extraordinary professional music and theater artists to create new kinds of Cabaret Theater experiences.”  This year’s theme is “You and the Night and the Music” and will include ten “wildly diverse” evenings, beginning with an admission -free Open House Preview Evening on Wednesday, July 30, continuing every night until August 9.
    Come watch the newest chicks hatch in the O’Neill’s creative incubator.  Call the box office at 860-443-1238 or go online to for times and dates and prices.  The Theater Center is easily located off exit 75 of I-95.  Discover for yourself this theatrical  diamond hidden in the peaceful and pictuesque hills of Waterford.

This preview originally appeared in the Middletown Press on July 17.

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