The 2014 National Critics Institute Fellows at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Conn. (Photo by A Vincent Scarano)

O’Neill Critics Institute and AT Create Opening for Diverse Writers

TCG’s Rising Leaders of Color Program is seeking arts journalists of color for a fellowship with American Theatre and the Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute.

WATERFORD, CONN., and NEW YORK CITY: The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Critics Institute (NCI), the nation’s only program designed for arts writers and critics to strengthen their skills, has joined with American Theatre magazine and Theatre Communications Group’s Rising Leaders of Color Program (RLC) to address the lack of diversity in the critical talent pool, and to create new opportunities to nurture and grow arts journalists to reflect the increasingly diverse work on U.S. stages.

This year TCG’s year-long RLC program, which identifies and nurtures early-career theatre leaders from diverse backgrounds, has opened applications to young arts journalists and critics of color, alongside the program’s cohort of early-career administrative, creative, and technical theatre staff. In turn the O’Neill’s Critics Institute will invite the arts journalists selected among TCG’s Rising Leaders of Color to be full participants in the institute’s conference and training.

One of the O’Neill’s oldest programs, the Critics Institute convenes concurrently with the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference and the National Music Theater Conference. NCI, helmed by director Chris Jones, critic and columnist at the Chicago Tribune, is a two-week residential workshop, and includes writing workshops in the crafts of reviewing across disciplines; 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 to blogging and other online sites; off-site trips; and many opportunities to network with other critics and creative professionals.

“The National Critics Institute and American Theatre magazine have enjoyed a close relationship these past three years, with most of the talented editorial staff spending time as NCI fellows at the O’Neill,” said Jones in a statement. “We’re thrilled to partner with this essential magazine on the development of the great arts writers of the future.”

“The O’Neill’s mission, at its core, is to provide opportunity and be a launchpad for artists of all stripes,” said O’Neill executive director Preston Whiteway in a statement. “I’m thrilled we can expand our offerings with this partnership. TCG’s Rising Leaders of Color is already making valuable impacts across the field, and I’m looking forward to even more through this partnership with NCI.”

American Theatre magazine, published by TCG, will help to administer the RLC’s arts journalists outside their work with the institute.

“This partnership affirms something that has always been clear to me but may bear repeating: that arts writers and critics and editors are leaders too,” said Rob Weinert-Kendt, editor-in-chief of American Theatre, in a statement. “Joining the resources of the Critics Institute with TCG’s mission of equity, diversity, and inclusion seems like a perfect way to address both the need for critical fellowship and craft development in nurturing young arts writers, and the need for the arts journalism field to make diversity and inclusion conscious priorities.

TCG’s Rising Leaders of Color program, supported by Meyer Memorial Trust and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, focuses on early-career leaders from whichever region each year’s June TCG conference is held. This year’s national conference will be held in Portland, Ore., so candidates for this year’s RLC round will be from Oregon. Succeeding year’s conferences and cohorts will be centered around other U.S. cities. This geographical diversity, says Weinert-Kendt, is nearly as crucial to the program’s long-term impact as racial and ethnic diversity, not only because American Theatre is a national publication with need of correspondents in all 50 states, but because arts journalists working in markets outside the largest U.S. cities are often the ones most in need of encouragement, opportunity, and connection with the national critical community.

The RLC arts journalist will also participate in a year-long curriculum designed to provide professional development and networking opportunities. The online application submission deadline for RLC is May 1, 2017 at 12 p.m. Eastern time.

RLC is a part of TCG’s multi-year, six-point Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative to transform the theatre field into a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse community. Learn more about the Rising Leaders of Color program here, and the EDI Initiative here. Information about applications is here.

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