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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Presents Launchpad of the American Theater: The O'Neill Since 1964


The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Presents Launchpad of the American Theater: The O'Neill Since 1964

New Free Exhibition Celebrates the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's 50th Anniversary

April 10, 2014 -- Founded in 1964 at the dawn of the regional theater movement, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT supports the development of new artists and works for theater. Through trial and error, the Center invented the signature "O'Neill Process": a four-week retreat for top theater professionals, culminating in public, staged readings of early draft plays. Over the past half century, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center has shaped the course of American theater, launching the careers of some of the country's most talented artists and most recognizable plays and musicals. To celebrate the O'Neill's 50th anniversary and influence, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will present Launchpad of the American Theater: The O'Neill Since 1964, a new free multimedia exhibition on display in the Vincent Astor Gallery May 17 through September 16, 2014. The exhibition will chart the journey of American theater at the O'Neill from its past to present and future, and explore the creative development of its playwrights, composers, students, puppeteers and performers. 

"The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center has been -- and continues to be -- one of the most influential forces in American theater," said Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleishman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "Here at The Library for the Performing Arts, we see proof of that influence almost every day in our own collections, and in the performances on Broadway and theaters all over the city. But we also see how the O'Neill's impact extends far beyond New York, and resonates throughout the world of theater. This exhibition both celebrates the O'Neill's first 50 years, and shows how exciting the next 50 will surely be." 

Curated by long-time O'Neill collaborator and Tony-nominated set, costume, and puppet designer G.W. Mercier, Launchpad of the American Theater will feature drawings, interviews, videos, photographs, original scripts, recordings, and other artifacts. Highlights include:

  • Original manuscripts from seminal works in American theater such as August Wilson's Fences, and John Guare's House of Blue Leaves
  • Original renderings created as part of the development process for productions including Fences (designer Fred Voelpel), and Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods (designer G.W. Mercier)
  • Video elements showcasing the O'Neill's history and artists including Edwin Wilson's 1988 interview with August Wilson, and remarks from Wendy Wasserstein about the O'Neill helped launch her career
  • Artist correspondence
  • Illustrated journey of the "O'Neill Process," from a playwright or composer’s original submissions to the first performance and beyond
  • Scaled model of O'Neill's idyllic seaside campus
  • Al Hirschfeld's drawing of Eugene O’Neill 
  • Photos of past participants in O'Neill programs including Michael Douglas, Meryl Streep, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Wendy Wasserstein, and John Krasinski
  • Encyclopedic collection of all published plays and musicals developed at the O’Neill
  • The O'Neill’s two Tony Awards: 2010 Regional Theatre Tony Award and the special 1979 Tony Award for Theatrical Excellence
  • A Monte Cristo Award, the O'Neill's prestigious annual honor given to an artist with extraordinary contributions to American theater, and photos of 2014 honoree Meryl Streep and past recipients such as Edward Albee, Zoe Caldwell, Brian Dennehy, Arthur and Barbara Gelb, Neil Simon, and Kevin Spacey
  • Gallery wall featuring personal quotes from members of the O’Neill community describing its impact on their lives and creativity

"The O’Neill is like no other in the American theater," said Preston Whiteway, Executive Director, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. “On behalf of all of the artists that have and will call the O’Neill home, we are incredibly humbled and excited to partner with The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts with this exhibition. We look forward to celebrating our anniversary, but most importantly, celebrating the work that has come through and forever changed the theatrical landscape – in plays, musicals, puppetry, cabaret, criticism and undergraduate education. The O’Neill’s reach is wide, with dozens of programs modeled on the process, most notably the Sundance Institute, and continues to be a major change agent in American theater. I look forward to welcoming everyone to this important exhibition."

In conjunction with the exhibition, The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center will offer three free public programs further exploring the O'Neill's history and influence: 

Thursday, May 29 @ 6pm
50 Years Later: The Developmental Path to Production
Join us for a discussion about the O'Neill's development process with artists and O'Neill leadership past and present. 

Thursday, June 19 @ 6pm
Thanks to the O'Neill
Successful alumni of the O'Neill Center's National Theater Institute come together for a special evening to share memories about how the O'Neill shaped their career and craft. 

Thursday, August 7 @ 6pm
The O’Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater with Jeffrey Sweet
Author, playwright, critic and O’Neill alumnus Jeffrey Sweet discusses his new book The O’Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater, published by Yale University Press. Sweet spent 18 months gathering anecdotes, histories, and results from O’Neill alumni and peers in the field for this book, and describes his experiences mapping one of the most influential theater companies in America.

In addition to The Library for the Performing Arts' exhibition, the O'Neill will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a variety of special programs and events throughout its 2014 season. For more details, visit

Funding for Launchpad of the American Theater is provided by the The Burry Fredrik Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Educational Foundation of America, and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Ms. Annella Young Preble. 

Press Contacts:
For The New York Public Library – Nora Lyons (
For The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center - Jeremy Ladyga (, Alyson Ahrns (, Shawn Purdy (

About The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, Shelby Cullom Davis Museum
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the world's most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts — whether professional or amateur — the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs. For more information please visit

About the O’Neill
Founded in 1964, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is the country’s preeminent organization dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for American theater. In the bold tradition of its namesake Eugene O’Neill – four-time Pulitzer Prize Winner and America’s only playwright to win the Nobel Prize in Literature – the O’Neill has been home to more than 1,100 new works for the stage and to more than 2,500 emerging artists. Scores of projects developed at the O’Neill have gone on to full production at other theaters around the world, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, and major regional theaters.

Recipient of a 2010 Tony Award for Regional Theatre and 1979 Tony Award for Theatrical Excellence, O’Neill programs include the National Playwrights Conference, National Music Theater Conference, National Critics Institute, National Puppetry Conference, Cabaret & Performance Conference, and National Theater Institute (NTI). NTI offers intensive theater training programs for academic credit, including the Moscow Art Theater Semester (MATS), a semester of study abroad, and six-week summer program, Theatermakers.

The O’Neill owns and operates the Monte Cristo Cottage as a museum open to the public. The childhood summer home of Eugene O’Neill, the Cottage is a National Historic Landmark.