In the pioneering spirit of its namesake, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center discovers, develops, and empowers new work, new voices, and creative risk-taking. By introducing innovative artists, essential to broadening the national cultural landscape, the O’Neill serves as the Launchpad of the American Theater.
DISCOVERY: We commit to the discovery of new and daring voices, vital to the future of American theater, through rigorous and direct outreach in our open submission process, and the curation of our artistic programs.
DIVERSITY: Our community strives to honor the experiences, abilities, heritage, and expression of all artists, faculty, students, and staff. Within our artistry and administration, we pledge to empower a full range of individual identities.
COLLABORATION: We endeavor to provide time and space for artistic collisions, bold risk-taking, and deep reflection by all of our artists.
RISK. FAIL. RISK AGAIN: These words ring out from every rehearsal room, performance space, classroom, office, and individual on the O’Neill’s campus. We encourage artistic impulse and exploration of the exchange between art and audience.
EDUCATION: To be in the theater is to be a student for life. Whether one comes to the O’Neill early or the midst of their career, we work to offer a radically accepting space of mentorship, collaboration, and camaraderie.
COMMUNITY: The O’Neill’s legacy and artistry relies upon its engagement with the robust and vibrant local audiences. We create spaces and programming in support of one another, the Waterford community, and the American theater.
The O’Neill gratefully acknowledges that its campus sits on land stewarded and cared for by the Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot, Eastern Pequot, and Nehantic tribes for generations. We honor and respect these nations, peoples, and their enduring relationship to this land.
HATE HAS NO BUSINESS HERE.
We stand with BLACK LIVES MATTER.
We respect WOMEN.
We stand with our LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY MEMBERS.
We stand with IMMIGRANTS and REFUGEES.
We stand with INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES.
We celebrate PEOPLE OF ALL FAITHS.
We stand with OUR COMMUNITY.
ALL ARE WELCOME.
equity, diversity, & inclusion
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is committed to diversifying the future of the American theater through the stories we tell, the artists telling those stories, the staff supporting our work, and the audiences in our theaters. The O’Neill strives to cultivate a healthy and diverse community that recognizes the value of each individual and helps foster safety, civility, and respect for all people. All participants and employees in any O’Neill program, including students, staff, faculty, guests, and visitors, have the right to be free from racial, sexual and gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence and all other forms of prohibited conduct.
anti-racist action plan
As a prominent theatrical organization that has benefited for many years from the work and lives of Black artists, Indigenous artists, and artists of color, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center recognizes that we have not fully embodied the promise of our institution—equilateral support for all artists. The O’Neill recognizes that as a predominantly white-led organization we have not done enough to promote inclusivity and remove the barriers that reinforce the racial inequities in our industry. Staff, students, artists, and interns who committed their time and lived experiences to the O’Neill have not been adequately served or supported by our organization.
We are deeply grateful to the O’Neill community members who have brought this inadequacy to our attention and continue to share their experiences with us.
From its founding, the O’Neill has long championed Black artists and artists of color, and will continue to, but we can and must do better. Lloyd Richards, the first and longest-serving Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference (1968-1999), set the framework to amplify the voices of some of the most influential Black writers and artists of color in the American theater. The O’Neill holds Lloyd’s contributions to racial equity in the field as an artistic standard and we strive to deepen our commitment to fostering artists and the artistry of the global majority.
Under the new leadership of Executive Director Tiffani Gavin, we will continue to make equitable opportunities our priority. Outlined below are the broad strokes of our Anti-Racist Action Plan. This is an overview of an ever-evolving, values based agenda intended to recognize and support our Black artists, Indigenous artists, artists of color, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Board of Trustees
We are committed to permanently increasing the diversity of our Board of Trustees over the next five years with members who identify as Black, Indigenous, or as a person of color. In service of that goal, we have added five new BIPOC members to our board in the last year alone and continue to pursue greater racial equity within this group. We also recently amended our Board’s bylaws to mandate the creation of an Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Committee that will be tasked with holding the Board specifically, and the O’Neill more broadly, to the commitments laid out in this plan.
Training & Engagement
Since 2018, we have offered staff training, specifically around anti-racism principles and microaggressions, as well as the long reach of racism today in America and the theater. These training sessions are optional for our Black staff and staff of color. For four days in May 2021, the O’Neill invited Equity Quotient to lead a two-day Dismantling Racism Learning Lab, which a majority of staff and board members attended. In the future, we are committed to providing this type of training on an annual basis to ensure full participation throughout the organization.
Alongside the guidance of Arts Engagement Strategist Patrese D. McClain, two volunteer groups composed of staff members formed to track and implement anti-racist practices. The Anti Racism Forum and Anti Racism Task Force meet on a monthly and biweekly basis, respectively. The Anti Racism Forum intentionally fosters internal community by providing a platform for the discussion of anti-racist practices and holding space for difficult but necessary conversations impacting all staff members. The Anti Racism Task Force is dedicated explicitly to implementing institutional antiracist procedures such as departmental audits, producing inclusive programming events such as Plays to Progress, and responding to needs identified in the Anti Racism Forum.
The National Theater Institute is the flagship educational program of the O’Neill, offering semester-long, credit-earning theater training throughout the year. We are continuing to make the Microaggressions, Implicit Biases and Allyship class a core part of our curriculum. We have reimagined the class by adding multiple facilitators for support and providing the opportunity to have breakout groups within the class. We have also offered this training for our faculty members. These endeavors are in addition to the training and staff engagement the O’Neill is leading.
We will continue to bring in a faculty that reflects the variety of voices in this country and are committed to decolonizing our curriculum. We will continue to bring our students to theaters that feature work made by artists from the global majority. NTI will also continue to seek out more opportunities to engage with those artists, and attend theaters that are producing this work.
We continue to prioritize raising major NTI scholarship endowment funds, in addition to our partnership with the Miranda Family Fund, for students of color. The diversity of stories told on stage must reflect the makeup of the nation. This starts with our national training program.
O’Neill Alumni & Staff Affinity Group
This group for O'Neill staff, alumni, and artists was formed in 2019 to create space for BIPOC folx at the O'Neill to have time and space to just be. We hope you will consider joining our Facebook Group as we continue to build community and support.
In the fall of 2020, we launched the Plays to Progress series--a monthly community engagement series that amplified the work of alumni of color and social issues presented within their work. A short excerpt of works created by these artists was performed and followed by a moderated panel discussion with local community leaders and national activists. These presentations were streamed live on social media platforms, including a simulcast streaming with Howlround. Archival recordings of this series can be found on our website.
We are engaging our local community by adding additional public programming to our 2021 season that amplifies Black artists and artists of color whose life and work was impacted by their time in Waterford.
Our offices and staff engage and remain in dialogue with the following resources pertaining to the work of Black and BIPOC individuals advocating for the vision of an Anti-Racist American Theater.
We welcome and embrace feedback, and we will continue to change in response. Please tell us how we can support you as we reflect, amplify, activate, organize, and mobilize. All are welcome to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.