Fifteen playwrights will be spending the month of July in idyllic beachfront Waterford, CT -- and they'll be working like crazy all through it. That's because they've been chosen to take part in the 1997 National Playwrights Conference (June 29-July 26), 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 allowed 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:
The Eye Of The Storm by Hilary Bell; Strangers' Ground by Eric Brogger; Disgruntled Employees by Kevin Crowley; Love And Drowning by Will Dunne; Mean Creek by Jacob Estes; La Llorona by Elise Forier; The End Of The Road by Robert Kerr; The Feast Of The Flying Cow by Jeni Mahoney; The Second Generation by Joshua Metzger; Dreams The Silent Dead by Jeffrey Miller; The Nut House by Nina Bunche Pierce; Trueblinka by Adam Rapp (yup -- brother of Rent's Anthony Rapp); Angel On My Shoulder by Michele Raper Rittenhouse; No Comment by Ilya Ognev; Monday?...Don't Say It's Monday! by Karl Sundby.
Lloyd Richards serves as artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference/New Drama For Media. Former board chairman Steve Wood is in his first year as President of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, switching places with founder George White, who is now chairman.
Opening the Center's 20th annual Music Theatre Conference will be Barbara Cook, giving a special concert June 20. Musicals to be developed at the MTC (July 27-Aug. 10) are Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, based on a 1928, jazz-age poem by Joseph Mancure March; and Richard Cory, another poetry-inspired piece. Composer/librettist Ed Dixon is adapting A.R. Gurney's play on the suicidal Cory, which was first inspired by Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem of the same name. Since Gurney asked Dixon to do the adaptation from play to musical, both Gurney and Dixon will be at the O'Neill for the show's workshop. Also on tap for the O'Neill Center's busy summer is the annual National Puppetry Conference (June 11-22), established in 1991 to encourage puppeteers and develop new works utilizing their craft. Richard Termine, a designer on TV's "Sesame Street," serves as artistic director of the conference. This year's guest artist will be Theodora Skipitares, a multi media director who has worked consistently Off-Broadway (Radiant City, Under The Knife). During her tenure at the O'Neill, Skipitaris will work with a dozen fellow craftspeople to develop Hogarth's Lives, an out-door, site-specific work based on the life of 18th century satirist, William Hogarth.
In other O'Neill news, the 1996 Playwrights Award winners will be awarded June 29 at the Waterford, CT-based center.
Here are the winners:
Herbert & Patricia Brodkin Scholarship Award: Lee Blessing, Going To St. Ives. The award goes to support a playwright "with a responsible concern for the current struggle of human beings to survive and progress in a world created by the creator and reshaped by man."
Charles MacArthur Fellowship: Peter Sagal, Most Wanted. The award goes to playwrights whose work best exemplifies "the comic, irreverent spirit of Charles MacArthur." (Helen Hayes founded the award for her late husband.)
Eric Kocher Playwrights Award: Catherine Filloux, Eyes Of The Heart. The award goes to playwrights whose work shows "unusual depth and originality and whose concerns reflect an international perspective."
The Edith Oliver Fellowship: Kira Obolensky, The Adventures Of Herculina. The award is given to a playwright at the previous year's Conference whose work best displays the style of former New Yorker critic (and O'Neill Center regular) Edith Oliver. Oliver's writing was known for "a caustic wit that deflates the ego but does not unduly damage the human spirit."
In other O'Neill news, Will Dunne's Hotel Desperado will be translated and performed in Russia as part of the "Russian Cultural Exchange" between NPC and the nations of the former Soviet Union.
Other programs during the summer months include the National Music Theatre Conference, the August Cabaret Symposium and the International Student Program.
--By David Lefkowitz