National Critics Institute

Frequently Asked Questions


How do I apply?

The application process is easy. Basically, you will be asked for a biographical sketch, to identify your strengths and challenges as a writer, for two samples of your writing, and one letter of endorsement, all done online. Please visit the Submission Info page for all details about applying.

How are choices made?

We choose writers and journalists both who illustrate promise and who are mid career, looking to revitalize their perspectives and experience. We appreciate writers and thinkers who understand what they want to learn from the program, and/or have a profession that asks them to write critically, analytically. Do not shy away based on lack of experience. Our Critic Fellows share a few basic characteristics—they have a passion for critical writing, an affection for analytical thought, and a love of art forms.

How much does the program cost?

The entire Institute—all mentors, instruction, theatre tickets, rooms, and food included—is only $2,000. This does not include your transportation to and from New London.

Are there scholarships?

Yes, very good scholarships for qualified journalists, in many cases up to the full costs of the program.

What happens during the Institute?

You meet regularly with Chris Jones and a host of qualified mentors who will teach you the myriad skills of criticism—theatre, film, dance, and food. You write daily, and in round table, discuss each other’s writing in a collaborative, non-competitive atmosphere. You meet usually in the morning and afternoon, leaving time for lunch, dinner, and evening activities—from attending plays to critiquing dance—along with mentors who comment upon your material and lead exciting discussions of contemporary, critical topics.

What sort of plays will I see?

You’ll see several plays and musicals in development at the O’Neill, and many from surrounding theatres such as Goodspeed, Ivoryton Playhouse, and Trinity Rep. Tickets are included in the tuition, as is the food at a variety of terrific restaurants you will review.

What are the living accommodations?

You will be living in new dormitories right on campus with air-conditioning and easy access to your workshops, the beautiful ocean nearby, your cafeteria, and many of the shows.

Do I need a computer?

Yes, by all means. Bring a trustworthy computer, one that is mobile and reliable.

Will I have the opportunity to meet others at the Institute?

We encourage you both to spend time at the local pub—where all of the summer institute participants gather nightly—and to share meals with folks who both run the institute and others who are visiting, from playwrights to directors, from producers to musical theatre artists.  We also intersect with other institutes—Wendy Goldberg and the National Playwrights Conference; Paulette Haupt and the National Music Theater Conference; and Preston Whiteway, the Executive Director of the O’Neill. Past guests include Michael Douglas, Adam Rapp, Lee Blessing, and Sam Hunter.

Do I have any time off?

Usually, we take off on a day and a half somewhere around the mid point, and dependent on our schedule to enjoy the area.

Are there publishing opportunities?

The plays we see at the O’Neill are readings, in process, and we use them as a jumping board for critical exploration. They are not reviewable. But the other plays that we see off campus offer potential, and possibly interviews and other topics that will be discussed in workshops.

Will I need a car?

You will be living directly on campus, but the O’Neill does offer rides into town for items you may need. Many Critic Fellows feel a car is helpful should they want to visit nearby towns on their day off or have frequent meals off campus. Know, however, that we often see shows and eat off campus, so a car is not necessary.

Can I receive mail while I’m there?

Yes, the address is c/o National Critics Institute, 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford, CT 06385

Will I have phone service?

Yes, but limited. The O’Neill has very little reception. Verizon is best, but only in select areas.

Are the two weeks all work?

You work hard and you learn much in an honest, critical, but supportive atmosphere coordinated by critic, author, and award winning-professor Dr. Jones. But no. We want you to enjoy the time in Connecticut. We encourage you to meet other artists, to go to the pub nightly, and to visit the beach regularly. There is time to write, but also time to interact with the fellow institute attendees.

If you have any further questions, please address them to Mark Charney, Associate Director of the Institute and Past Critic Fellow at