Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Traces its History, Impact Dec 17

When: December 17th, 2015
Where: 4 to 5PM  Lyman Allyn Museum
          5PM Talk back and reception at Connecticut College
What: Tracing the History & Impact of the O'Neill
Panelists: George C. White (Founder), Tom Viertel (Broadway Producer & O'Neill Chairman), and Jeffrey Sweet (Author), Preston Whiteway (Executive Director)

This panel will explore the writing Of The O’Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater, published in 2014 by the Yale University Press and the development of the exhibit “Launchpad of the American Theater: the O’Neill since 1964.”   Jeffrey Sweet will discuss the eighteen-month process of collecting anecdotes, oral histories, and outcomes from O’Neill alumni and peers in the field, and the challenges of mapping one of the most influential theater companies in America. Founder George C. White and Chairman of the Board Tom Viertel will share their stories and lead discussions on the era’s historical and societal context that influenced the O’Neill’s evolution.

George C. White founded the O’Neill in 1964, at the dawn of the regional theater movement. At the time, no opportunities existed for playwrights to experiment before their plays premiered on Broadway.  The O’Neill piloted the play development process, where playwrights and artists could risk and fail in a safe environment, free from criticism. While now commonplace, the idea of workshopping a play before a full production began with the O’Neill’s first National Playwrights Conference.

The O’Neill also became a safe haven for international artists. During the Cold War, White initiated dialogues and implemented Soviet-American arts exchanges while the rest of the country avoided the association. These cross-cultural relationships continue to this day with the Moscow Arts Theatre semester of the National Theater Institute, the Baltic Playwrights Conference, and regular cultural exchanges.