Ten American and one Russian playwright are spending the month of July in idyllic, beachfront Waterford, CT -- and they're working like crazy all through it. That's because they've been chosen to take part in the 1998 National Playwrights Conference (July 1-Aug. 1), an annual project by the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center.
Assisted by professional directors and dramaturgs, each playwright undergoes an intense process of rehearsals and rewrites, culminating in staged readings before a live audience. Though the Conference isn't supposed to be used as a fishing ground for commercial producers, attention is paid to the prestigious workshop, and such writers as August Wilson (a regular O'Neill Center visitor), John Patrick Shanley and Lee Blessing have participated. In conjunction with the National Playwrights Conference, the concurrent National Critics Institute trains potential theatre critics by having them review the playwrights' efforts.
This year's plays are:
Manhattan Casanova by Jenny Lyn Bader; Five Rooms of Furniture by Dhana-Marie Branton; How I Became An Interesting Person by Will Dunne; The Last Communist Trio by Dmitry Gelfand; The White Black Man by OyamO (Charles Gordon); Extenuating Circumstances by Dan Gurskis; Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire; The Dead Boy by Joe Pintauro; Barefoot Boy With Shoes On by Edwin Sanchez; The Kitchen by Charlie Schulman; Ornithology by Aleksandr Stroganov and Folk Machine by Alexandra Tolk.
Lloyd Richards serves as artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference/New Drama For Media. Former board chairman Steve Wood is in his second year as President of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, switching places with founder George White, who is now chairman.
Other programs during the summer months include the 21st annual National Music Theatre Conference, the National Puppetry Conference, the August Cabaret Symposium and the International Student Program. The National Music Theatre Conference will feature the development of two musicals: Lola, by Craig Safan & Kirby Tepper, about scandalous entertainer Lola Montez; and The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin about a girl who thinks she wants to be white, by Kirsten Childs.
As for the Cabaret Symposium (Aug. 22-29), three works have been chosen for development, including: Marcovicci Sings Noel Coward, featuring Andrea Marcovicci; Say It With Music by Marilyn Lovell and Peter Matz; and Tallulah, a reworked version of Tallulah's Party, starring Tovah Feldshuh. (For the story of Tallulah's rocky road to Off-Broadway last season, please see the news story, "The Party's Over: Tovah's Tallulah Closes Mar. 29.)"
Also expected for the Cabaret Symposium are various artists offering a "Celebration of Ten Years" concert, Aug. 28. Among the participants are Margaret Whiting (Dream), Julie Wilson, Julie Halston and Natalie Gamsu.
The National Critics Institute will hold a 30th Anniversary party to celebrate the tenure of co-founder and current director Ernie Schier. A scholarship fund is being developed in Schier's name to help critics defray the $2,500 cost of the month-long NCI program.
-- By David Lefkowitz