Tales From the O'Neill: A History of the National Music Theater Conference

By Sophia Saifi
26 Jun 2013

"It’s a tapestry of storytelling elements," Haupt said. "You want to pull that tapestry apart and throw it together as fast or slow as you want without other things being in the way."

Performances are a series of open rehearsals where actors perform with their scripts and music in hand; conjuring up sets and color simply through song and dialogue and using chairs as props.

This year's conference has three plays that consist of Broadcast (the story of radio from 1901 to 1950), The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes (the quest of a man who hates musicals and wakes to find himself stuck in one), and Goddess (a mythical love story set in the jazz bar of a contemporary West African city).

Each of the plays are a testament to the diversity of work that has passed through the NMTC and it is a fact that Haupt is keen to stress.

Goddess could not be more different than Howard Barnes which could not be more different than Broadcast, which is what I love about music theatre," he said. "It is such a spectrum, such a rainbow.”

Across the campus actors are sprawled across porches and huddled over cafeteria tables, pouring over the changes to their scripts, under a tree someone warbles a song, and behind shut doors there is the constant melody of the composer-in-residence banging out tunes on a piano.

There is a sense of safety as art is nurtured and created while surrounded by a perpetual buzz of activity. Haupt remembers the first time she came to the O'Neill.

"I thought that it would be a really nice thing to do for a couple of years but I’m still here," she said. "I'm here because every year is a new year for me. There are always new people and there will always be new projects."

Single tickets to the Music Theatre Conference performances are now on sale to the general public. They can be purchased by calling (860) 443-1238 or visiting theoneill.org.

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center was founded in 1964 and is 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.