National Critics Institute

July 1 - 15, 2018

The 2018 National Critics Institute will be accepting applications from March 15 - April 23.


One of the O'Neill's oldest programs, the National Critics Institute is a two-week residential workshop and conference, designed for arts writers and critics looking to strengthen their skills in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced industry. The Institute convenes concurrently with the National Playwrights Conference and the National Music Theater Conference.

Director Chris Jones, critic and columnist at the Chicago Tribune, leads America's leading boot camp for arts writers, offering fellows an intensive course of study for writers of all experience levels, especially for those in mid-career. However, each year a small number of young and aspiring critics join the group.

The 2018 National Critics Institute will be held Sunday, July 1 - Sunday, July 15, 2018.

"My time at the National Critics Institute has without doubt been the most transformative, inspirational, and empowering writing intensive I have ever been fortunate enough to attend. I'm not sure anything like it really exists. To be isolated from the grind of normal life in a cultural oasis with fifteen other brilliant, diverse, and seriously opinionated arts journalists, and to be able to focus solely on writing, is a gift every critic wishes to receive."


For a frank, unofficial, and unvarnished take on NCI,

read this day-by-day diary

 by 2017 fellow TJ Acena, as published in American Theatre.


Our program includes writing workshops in the crafts of reviewing theater, film, performance and food; workshops in storytelling and analysis; workshops in writing more exciting profiles in the field of arts and entertainment; insights into the critical process with a world-class faculty composed of America's leading arts critics; explorations of the relationship of critics with social media; study of best practices when it comes blogging and other online sites; off-site trips, and many opportunities to network with other critics and other creative professionals. We watch shows together, head to the Berkshires together, review restaurants together, and grow together.

The workshop makes unique use of the creative professionals working in and around the O'Neill Center to help writers gain insights into the specialist areas of the arts, and to understand arts journalism from all sides.

"This program is incomparable. And that's not just a word used lightly -- there is nothing to compare. To have talented colleagues, and access to their views along with exposure to and input from major critical writers on a national level, as well as the O'Neill's own specialist experience, is something very precious. We were fortunate to be there and now fortunate to know one another."

As detailed in a profile piece in American Theater Magazine, the range of this historic and prestigious program have expanded to better reflect the needs of the changed profession. This is now the only such major program in America that focuses on arts criticism and reporting, and the faculty that teach here each year are a formidable group. So are the fellows.

In 2016, our roster of 14 fellows included writers and editors from National Public Radio, the Washington Post, as well as the newly minted critic of classical music and theater at the Houston Chronicle, the main organ in one of America's most important cultural cities. We had magazine editors from Philadelphia and Seattle, freelancers and columnists from across America, and our age range went from critics and writers in their twenties to their sixties.

They all have now formed online groups, posting each other's work and encouraging each other in their future. Several of them have found major new jobs as a result, they say, of contacts made during the NCI. They have joined a growing network of alums from the past. Check out what they have done for arts journalism and cultural criticism.  It's astonishing. Also check out what our past fellows have to say about the NCI. 

You will live in the O'Neill's beautiful on-site cottages, drinking in the creative air.  Food, tickets and many other surprises are included in the Institute. We are grateful for the support of foundations that care about the arts and we hope to fully fund many fellows again this year. 

Join us. Everyone has a great time. Did we mention there is a beach?


For further information and/or for advice about applying, contact Associate Director of the Institute Mark Charney at, or the O'Neill Literary Office by phone at 860.443.5378 ext.227 & by email at