In mid-September, the Playwrights Conference at the Center and its then artistic director, James Houghton, set off a firestorm of protest when it was revealed that the long-standing open submission policy would end due to a growing debt and a lack of staff to handle the numerous plays submitted every year. The move was not welcomed by the playwriting community, angering unknown and famous playwrights alike, who viewed the Conference as the last artistic democracy in the American playwriting scene.
Houghton subsequently resigned in October, citing exclusion from the board's reorganization plans to consolidate leadership.
“The play selection process has always been a varied one," said Ranelli in a statement. "The range of sources has included nomination, invitation and open submission. The suspension of open submission was less an artistic decision than an administrative accommodation to economic and organizational circumstances. Thanks to the support of the playwrights – many of whom have offered to read scripts and recruit readers – and due to some significant changes in the Waterford organization, we can have this limited open period for the 2004 Conference and promise a wider window for 2005 and beyond.”
The open submissions process this year will run alongside the nomination process which has been in place since September, meaning that plays from both processes will be considered for the 2004 Conference. The open process will not affect the eligibility or status of plays submitted through the nomination process, and is intended to allow “unconnected” playwrights access to this year’s Conference. For more detailed guidelines, writers may visit the O’Neill website at www.TheONeill.org or call 860.443.5378 x 229 to have guidelines mailed to them.
Ranelli, who took part in the first days of the O’Neill Center, has since directed more than 50 projects at the Waterford, Connecticut, venue as well as regionally at The Actors Studio, The American Place Theatre, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Cleveland Play House, Guthrie II, Hartford Stage, The Kennedy Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Mark Taper Forum, The New Repertory Project, Roundabout Theater Company and the National Theatre of the Deaf. On Broadway, he directed the original plays Herzl and Einstein and the Polar Bear. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center was founded in 1964 and based in Waterford, CT. Programs at the Center include the Puppetry Conference, Playwrights Conference, Critics Institute, Music Theater Conference and the National Theater Institute. The Monte Cristo Cottage, O'Neill's childhood home, is also owned and operated by the group.
For more information on the O'Neill Center, visit the website at www.TheONeill.org or call (860) 443 5378.