The O'Neill announced the appointment of Chris Jones, longtime chicago area theater critic & columnist as Director of the O’Neill’s National Critics Institute (NCI), effective immediately.     

Chris JonesFew figures in criticism command such respect as Chris Jones,” remarks Executive Director Preston Whiteway. “At the intersection of fifty years of new play development at the O’Neill and a fast-paced media age, Chris stands to chart a path for a new generation of theater writers. I am thrilled to welcome him to the O’Neill family, as he ushers in a new era of the National Critics Institute.”

A “boot camp for theater writers,” NCI is an intensive two-week workshop, designed for arts journalists, bloggers, and critics looking to strengthen their skills in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced industry. The Institute convenes annually at the O’Neill’s Waterford campus alongside the National Playwrights Conference and National Music Theater Conference.

Selected after a national search, Dr. Jones is a familiar voice to millions. Aside from his hundreds of reviews and columns a year for the Tribune, he appears weekly on Chicago’s CBS-2 news and on WGN Radio. His critical work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and American Theatre Magazine. Prior to his post at the Tribune, he wrote for many years for Variety and Daily Variety, where he was known for his coverage of the Broadway road. He has twice served on the drama committee for the Pulitzer Prize, is frequently heard on NPR, the BBC, and CBC, and teaches as an adjunct professor at DePaul University.

I’m thrilled to be associated with a program, run with such care by the remarkable Dan Sullivan, that has trained so many great arts writers and critics," says Dr. Jones. "I hope to expand the scope of the program to include all kinds of arts criticism and entertainment reporting (everything from theater to movies to food), reflecting the reality of the range now required of writers who specialize in culture, entertainment and the arts. But the honored traditions of the O’Neill will remain.” 

Dr. Jones succeeds Dan Sullivan, a co-founder of NCI, who served as Director from 1999 to 2013. Mr. Sullivan, a former critic for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, will continue with NCI as a faculty member. Mark Charney will also continue as Associate Director of the program.

The 2014 National Critics Institute will convene June 28 to July 12. NCI, founded in 1968 to offer training and professional development for theater critics, is unique in that it runs alongside the professional new work, playwrights, and artists who are also under development as part of the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference and National Music Theater Conference. Offering a window into artistic creation and development, critic fellows at NCI gain necessary tools for their craft, and artsits gain a deeper understanding of the role, responsibilities, and value of informed criticism.

For more information about the Institute and to apply for the 2014 session, visit