Every week this summer, starting in June, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford has added a pearl of pleasure to a long necklace of entertaining gems. The unique jeweled creation began with an International Puppet Conference, for eight days, where participants were encouraged to explore the power of puppetry with passion and hands on participation.
Workshops on marionettes and music, creation and communication, marked the sessions that resulted in two live performances, featuring the acclaimed work of Richard Bradshaw and Art Grueneberger. Hot on the heels of their wooden feet, the Eugene O’Neill, on eleven sprawling acres, devoted itself to a double decker of delight with a National Music Conference and National Playwrights Conference back to back for the month of July. Under the banner of the musicals were a trio of offerings, selected from 285 submissions.The finalists in the musical theater category included “The Museum of Broken Relationships” with book by David H. Bell and music and lyrics by Daniel Green, about a couple Kristen and Pierce brought together by a lost wedding ring and a traveling art exhibit. “GIRL Shakes Loose,” with book and lyrics by Zakiyyah Alexander and music and lyrics by Imani Uzuri deals with the journey of a single, jobless black Girl with lots of qualifications who starts a three city odyssey from the Big Apple with the goal of growing up. “Darling Grenadine” with book, music and lyrics by Daniel Zaitchik circles around a semi-successful composer, Harry, and his myriad of relationships with the people and pets in his world. Artistic Director Paulette Haupt oversees these exciting new musical developments.Also packing the perimeters of July are the eight National Playwrights Conference selections, Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg and her team of volunteer readers culled from over 1500 submissions. The winners include “Running On Fire” by Aurin Squire about a college student who jogs his way straight into a crime scene, innocently setting off sparks of controversy and conflict. Mike Lew has penned “Teenage Dick,” with more than a passing nod to the Bard, a humorous riff that encompasses revenge as our hero determines to pay back his high school bullies.Get out those Iphones to capture the text messages that travel to and from in “The Burdens” by Matt Schatz, a quirky dark comedy about communication and the dangers of technology gone mad. Kathryn Walat takes a close look at “Small Town Values” as high school sweethearts Jane and John and best friends Jane and Maryjane confront Emma and strange things start to happen.Two families separated by eight thousand miles, one in New Mexico and one in Pakistan, encounter differences and similarities in “Against the Hillside” by Sylvia Khoury. What prompts a highly successful travel agent Laura to use the company outing to take her own life? Kate Tarker tackles the hard questions in “Laura and the Sea.”As a stranger in a new place, Dusty takes on a tough job in a tough bar, forging a life in “Girls in Cars Underwater” by Tegan McLeod, until her balance is threatened and everything she has created starts to topple. How do you maintain your youthful idealism as an intern in Washington D. C.? Watch Jack and Jill, 20-somethings, handle the pressure in “Up the Hill” by Keith Huff.From June 20 to July 25, on Monday evenings, the O’Neill interns The Theatermakers, provided all the work in progress they have been perfecting all that previous week at 7 p.m. for free on campus.At 6 p.m., on Saturday, July 23, the O’Neill will host its Summer Gala, celebrating the music of its alumni Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the songwriters of “Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q,” “In Transit” and “Frozen.” For tickets, contact Chris Lagana at firstname.lastname@example.org.August comes in like firecrackers with the Cabaret and Performance Conference, under the Artistic Direction of John McDaniel, from the 3rd to the 13th. Wednesday, August 3 is Opening Ceremony (free) with a smattering of many of the remarkable performers on tap. The music of Paul Simon will be showcased in the new show created by Brad Simmons on Thursday, August 4, followed by An Evening with Norm Lewis! on Friday, featuring songs and stories from this gifted and acclaimed showstopper.Saturday, August 6 finds Molly Pope at the microphone, fresh from her new status as winner of the 2016 Bistro award and 2016 MAC award. A combination plate of goodies, Barb Jungr and Lennie Watts, will headline Sunday, August 7 for their first star turn together. Tuesday, August 9 will welcome Melissa Manchester and her high powered presence to the stage for a solo concert not to be missed. The music of those iconic Beach Boys will be “Fun, Fun, Fun” thanks to the creativity of the Cabaret Junior Fellows on August 10 and again on the 11th, when they continue to strut their stuff.Watch for the 5-time Female Vocalist of the Year, Karen Mason, to do her unique thing on Friday, August 12, while the conference comes to a smashing conclusion on Saturday the 13th with a Grand Finale by many of the star spangled participants.For tickets, call the box office at 860-443-1238 or online at www.theoneill.org. Relax and enjoy a drink at Blue Gene’s Pub, before or after a performance. The O’Neill is located at 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford, exit 75 off I-95.Don’t let the summer schedule escape you without coming once, twice or three times to this jewel of a theatrical necklace.