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The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center has shined through the decades

Some can't imagine summer without a show at the O'Neill. Others couldn't tell you where it is or what it does.

So let's start there: What exactly is the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center?

Put simply: a bastion of theater. It helps develop new work and nurture emerging talent.

And it has since 1964.

George C. White founded the center, and it blossomed into a hugely influential place in the theater world. Its National Playwrights Conference became a Mecca under the leadership of Lloyd Richards.

The O'Neill's script-in-hand workshops have become a model for theaters everywhere. During time at the center, writers get a chance to explore and revise their work, spending six days in rehearsals and seeing two public readings.

The center's focus expanded beyond plays. Now it boasts the Music Theater Conference, Puppetry Conference, National Theater Institute, Critics Institute and the Monte Cristo Cottage. All in all, more than 1,000 new works have been developed at there.

The O'Neill, by the way, is at 305 Great Neck Road in Waterford, overlooking the Sound. It was named after Nobel-winning dramatist Eugene O'Neill, who spent his boyhood summers in New London.

The O'Neill actually won a special Tony Award for Theatrical Excellence in 1979, but the one it will be given this year is for outstanding regional theater. It's awarded based on the recommendation of the American Theatre Critics' Association.

Now the O'Neill has a new generation of leaders. Preston Whiteway is executive director and Wendy Goldberg leads the playwrights conference, but the focus remains the same: encouraging new talent and new work.

How to see an O'Neill show:

It's easy to go see a performance at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

Visit www.theoneill.org to scope out the full summer schedule and to buy tickets, or call the box office at 860-443-1238.

The center is located next to Waterford town beach, at 305 Great Neck Road in Waterford.

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