National Critics Institute

June 28 - July 12, 2014


300x225_PICT0007.jpgThe O'Neill's National Critics Institute is designed for theater writers looking to strengthen their skills in an increasingly competitive job market.

Whether you're a beginning blogger or an established journalist, NCI offers you: 

  • Frank, objective feedback on your writing from seasoned professionals (Michael Feingold of the Village Voice, Newsday's Linda Winer.)
  • Practical advice on marketing your work in the age of the internet, from experts like Andy Propst, founder of
  • Total immersion in the backstage life of a working professional theater. NCI runs concurrently with the O'Neill Playwrights Conference and the O'Neill Music Theater Conference—the only American critic’s workshop with such a partnership.
  • The chance to network with other arts writers, especially important today. ("It was a comfort to realize that I'm not alone in this," said one of our graduates.)

At heart, NCI is an intensive writing workshop.  Critic-fellows turn out a piece of copy almost every night—a review of last night's show, a description of an individual actor's performance, an interview with the director.  After breakfast, the copy is read aloud and dissected by the group, under the direction of a seasoned theater writer or editor.  "A boring script?" Example, please.  "A great performance?" Prove it.

"We don't come to the O'Neill to tell the playwrights what's wrong with their scripts," says former NCI Director Dan Sullivan, who reviewed theater for the Los Angeles Times for twenty years.  "This is about our process as writers—the place where we exercise our right to fail."

After lunch, the critic fellows are plunged into the O'Neill's production process.  Says Sullivan: "For two weeks we live and breathe theater. We find out—if we didn't know already, and as a rookie reviewer, I didn't—how a director puts a new play on its feet in four days.  If Edward Albee visits the O'Neill, we sit down with Edward Albee. Our lighting designer may have us hanging lights in the Barn.”

"It's a tough two weeks, not a vacation at the beach. We like to call it a boot camp for critics.  For critics with experience it's a re-boot. There's no other program like it."

300x202_201103181006382211.jpgNCI's 2014 season runs from June 28-July 12.  It will include field trips to other Connecticut theaters, such as the Goodspeed Opera House and the Ivoryton Playhouse.

Critic fellows are housed at nearby Connecticut College but spend most of the day on the O'Neill grounds.  Some classes are held at the Monte Cristo Cottage, Eugene O'Neill's boyhood home and the setting for Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Although primarily designed for working writers NCI also welcomes theater educators.  CEU credits are available. Application deadline is June 1.


Cost of the session is $2,000. This includes private room, meals, tuition and tickets to Playwrights Conference and Music Theater Conference shows.  A $100 deposit is required on acceptance, with full payment due June 15. Some financial aid is available.  For more information call 860/443-5378.  Associate Director Mark Charney is available at .