Policy of open submissions reinstated

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Star alumni from 35 years of the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, including Wendy Wasserstein, Christopher Durang, David Henry Hwang and August Wilson, have volunteered their services to reinstate the open-submission process at the O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn.

The policy, where anyone could submit a play for consideration for the summer conference, was suspended in September because budget cutbacks limited the number of staff who could review submissions. More than 900 scripts were submitted to the 2003 conference, up from 600 in 2001.

The elimination of the open policy by then-conference director James Houghton drew howls of protest from the theater community. His temporary alternative was to have 150 theater professionals throughout the country nominate 250 scripts to be reviewed by the O’Neill selection committee, which would name 12 to 15 finalists.

Shortly after Amy Sullivan was named executive director of the theater center, Houghton resigned in October over communications and reorganization issues. J Ranelli, a founding member of the O’Neill, was named the center’s first resident artistic director, overseeing the playwrights conference.

There’s still no new money to change the policy, but there has been a wave of volunteerism, Ranelli said. Writers from the conference’s 35-year history volunteered to read open-submission plays and to recruit others to read as well. They include John Guare, Lee Blessing, Constance Congdon, David Lindsay-Abaire, Keith Reddin, Israel Horovitz and Joe Pintauro.

Plays already submitted by Houghton’s group of nominators will be included in the scribes’ review process, which will narrow down all scripts to a shortlist this spring before a final selection is announced.

The new deadline for open submissions is Feb. 6. For details, visit www.theoneill.org or call (860) 443-5378, ext. 229.

Ranelli said he expects to announce in a few weeks whether this summer’s conference will be able to return to a four-week schedule in July. Last year, it was cut back to three weeks for budget reasons. The center will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.

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