National Playwrights Conference

Frequently Asked Questions

We assembled a list of frequently asked questions for your convenience, but should you prefer to ask your questions directly to a member of our literary staff, you are more than welcome. The O'Neill's Literary Office can be reached at or 860.443.5378 x227.

We devote much of our year to this process and are always happy to speak with applicants.
Please click on a question to view the answer.


What’s the process?

The literary office expects that over 1,000 scripts will be considered through Open Submissions for the 2018 National Playwrights Conference (NPC). Each script is guaranteed at least one full read. Of these, approximately 20 - 25% will make it to the semifinalist round where the scripts will be read again and again. All applicants will be notified of their status in early February. About 20% of the semifinalists (about 5% of the total pool of applicants) will make it to our finalist round. The National Playwrights Conference will select anywhere from 5 to 7 plays from the Open Submission Process for the season. Final selections will be made by the middle of April. In addition to the selected conference plays, the O'Neill also recommends the additional 30-60 Finalists to its peers and colleagues via our Finalist list.

Who is reading my play?

The O’Neill has a fantastic team of readers, all of whom are members of the O’Neill family and are familiar with the NPC process. Our readers work all across the country as directors, designers, actors, technicians, educators, and students.  The O’Neill’s literary office closely monitors and manages the reading process, and we have faith in the quality of our readers.

NPC Semifinalist plays are all read by members of the NPC’s Artistic Council or members of the artistic staff. This is an elite group of theater professionals, including playwrights, directors, and dramaturgs. Final selections are made by Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg.

Here is a list of the Artistic Council and Script Readers for the 2017 National Playwrights Conference.

Will I get a response or report on my play?

No. The O’Neill does not provide feedback on any application that enters its Open Submission Process which is not selected for the summer. We believe it is a poor practice to give this type of response blind as it may encourage a writer to change their piece in the hopes of courting us, while at the same time alienating another theater that may like the script perfectly well as it is.

Why do I have to pay $35.00 USD?

The fee goes to support the Open Submission Process at the O’Neill. This is massive undertaking over ten months of the year, which includes over 1,500 applications across all disciplines, with more than 200 content reviewers. The enormity of this process requires that it be self-sustaining.

Am I eligible to apply?

You do not need an agent or other professional representation to apply to any Open Submission Process.  If you are 18 years of age and have the right to work in the United States of America, you are eligible.

Can I bring my family with me?

The O'Neill strives to be a family-friendly campus and works with its writers to accommodate childcare needs.

Do you accept work from international writers?

Yes. We accept, and have developed, work from writers from around the globe. International writers must have the right to work in the United States. The work submitted must be accessible to English-speaking readers.

I’m international; what does “right to work” mean?

“Right to work” simply means that  you must have the right to earn a wage in the United States, as there is payment involved. We cannot help you acquire the proper visa, but we have hosted international playwrights in the past.

Is my work eligible?

NPC has no specific content or style requirements. We do, however, require that the work not have professional production prior to submitting and that the work remain unproduced until August 2018.

Can I submit a work that I have previously submitted?

While we accept work that has been submitted to NPC in previous years, we recommend that you share new work with us each year. If you are submitting a previously submitted work, we do ask that it be significantly revised.  This means that you have spent serious time making changes to the story and telling.

What does “professional production” mean?
  • If your play had a reading or a workshop, or if scripts were still in the actors’ hands, we do not consider that a “professional production.”
  • If you had a production of the play that was produced by a college theater, we do not consider that a “professional production.”
  • If you had a production of the play, but those involved were not compensated, or it was lacking significant theatrical elements -- such as lighting or puppets -- that you would hope to see, we do not consider that a “professional production.”

We consider a “professional production” a production in which all were compensated - even if poorly - and all theatrical elements required by the script were present in production.

Can I submit more than one play?

No and yes. When we say “ONLY ONE play may be submitted by a single writer each year,” we are speaking of the single writer as a unique writing team. You and writing partner A is one unique writing team; and you and writing partner B is another unique writing team. Each team is eligible to submit one work.

I don’t consider it a “musical,” but my play has music in it. Should I submit it to the National Playwrights Conference or the National Music Theater Conference?

Our rule of thumb is this: if the musical elements of your work are something you're interested in developing and potentially revising, it might be a better fit for the National Music Theater Conference. The National Playwrights Conference does not offer musical support for its projects (although you will be provided with a sound designer), but if you are interested in focusing on the text of the project, this might be the place to do that. Applications for the National Music Theater Conference will be accepted from October 23 through November 10, 2017.

What work should I submit?

"I have one play that has a, b, and c qualities and another play that has x, y, and z qualities. Which should I submit?" The O’Neill develops all genres and styles, including one-acts and solo pieces. We encourage you to concern yourself less with what is your strongest writing, and think more about which project you would like to work on for the month of July.

Does my play need to be formatted in any specific way?

No. We recognize that your script may need to be in a unique form to best communicate your ideas.

However, your play should follow our application guidelines in that your name (and any agent contact) is nowhere on the script, and that it includes a character breakdown in the front. We also require page numbers. See a sample script.

What should my character breakdown look like?

We ask that your character breakdown include the character gender and age (as this will be used for casting purposes if selected). Beyond that, any information you wish to give about the characters’ look or personality is welcome, but not necessary.

Can I attach an author’s note?

So long as it is anonymous, yes.  This should be no more than what you would provide the reader with if this were a publication: simply what needs to be understood before reading.

What should I include in my statement of objectives?

Your statement of objectives, which should be no more than one page, should describe your hopes for the future development of the piece, and especially what you hope to accomplish at NPC. The more clear and specific you are, the better.  This is an opportunity to talk to your readers about what they have just read, so you need not be concerned with a plot summary or worry about giving away any information.

Should my biographical statement be anonymous?

No. The biographical statement is kept internal to the Literary Office and not shared with our reader team. The only things that need to be anonymous are the contents of the pdf you will be submitting: that’s script, character breakdown, and statement of objectives. The biographical statment is not to be included in the script.

How do I make a PDF?

While many word processing applications (Word, Final Draft, Pages, etc) now offer the option to “Save as PDF” or “Print as PDF,” you can also use FREE PDF CONVERT or any similar web program.

How do I pay?

You can PAY HERE or you can mail a check to Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, ATTN: National Playwrights Conference, 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford, CT 06385. Check MUST be made out to Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, with "NPC: TITLE OF PLAY" in the memo line.

Where else should I submit my play?

The O'Neill does not keep an updated list of additional submission opportunities. We recommend that you consult the resources available through the New Play Exchange, the Dramatists Guild Resource Directory, the Playwrights' Center, and the Play Submissions Helper.