10:59PM

Rich rewards of the O'Neill

The rewards of this year’s ATCA convention based around the activities at the O’Neill Center are almost too numerous to name. Aside from the trying accommodations at the Radisson Hotel in New London, I and my wife LucyAnn, who teaches in the theater department at Drew University, had a fine time re-connecting and chatting with ATCA members from all over our country who share our passion and our dedication to the theater arts.

What we feel most grateful for is the opportunity each year to be a guest at a different hub of theatrical activity, most of which we wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to visit. As my work as president of the Outer Critics Circle and as a critic who attends more than 200 plays a year keeps me virtually glued to the stages in New York and New Jersey, I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to get out of town and to see the often extraordinary work being developed and presented at the various regional theaters.

As for my experience at the O’Neill, I have some qualms about the direction it seems to have taken to be more accessible to producers and promoters. This could be seen in the musical and two plays that we attended, all three of which were notable for their discernable commercial potential. It’s hard for me to imagine that out of 800 or so admissions read and selected that what we saw represented the kind of creative, challenging, innovative, and possibly untraditionally structured dramatic literature that one would like to think might comprise the bulk of the product put into the development process. This approach seems to be the antithesis of the founders’ intentions.

As I respect the request not to review the readings we saw, I will only say that all three had the benefit of being performed by first-rate actors who, almost miraculously, created characters who lived and breathed in the most difficult of conditions. P.S. We both cherish the side trip to the Goodspeed Opera and the tour of its awesome facilities, as well as seeing the charming musical Carnival. I am especially thankful that we discovered Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock. But I am mostly thankful to Chris Rawson who went to extraordinary lengths to make every day of the conference eventful, informative and enjoyable.

— Simon Saltzman