PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Preston Whiteway, Executive Director of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center

By Sophia Saifi
22 Jul 2013

Wendy C. Goldberg and Preston Whiteway
Question: Did you scream later?

Whiteway: Yes! It was so wonderful to be validated like that by your fellow artists and have the art and work you are doing as an institution valued. It was our second Tony Award, which is also a distinction. Goodspeed is the only other institution to have received two.

As you know, the Regional Theatre Award is recomended to the Tony Award committee by the [American] Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), and the O'Neill having started both the National Critics Institute and ATCA having begun at the O'Neill, there was a wonderful full circle. We were the first developmental theatre to be recognized that way.

Question: Do you have an specific memories of that night?

Whiteway: It was like carrying the golden ticket around from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Everybody was so wonderful. What moved me the most was how many artists came up to say what the O'Neill meant to them. They have such fond memories of their time here.  

Even though you're sleeping in a dorm and there is a cafeteria line, there is something magical about this place and I've found it reminds artists why they got into theatre in the first place. When the O'Neill's name was called out that night, the cheer that went up was one of the loudest of the night. It was very humbling.

Question: That sounds fantastic. There is so much exciting stuff happening. You have received a $3 million grant from the state of Connecticut.

Whiteway: Yes, that's part of the a larger campaign to start an undergraduate program in music theatre training.

Question: What do you see in the future for the conferences?

Whiteway: What's wonderful about the inherent mission of this place, the fact that we are constantly, just because of our very nature, on the cutting edge of new theatre, new artistry. For whichever program, it is in our DNA to push the art form forward. In many ways our audience is not just the local community that is coming to see our work, but we are serving the American theatre by launching and bringing new plays to the canon to be performed all over the country and the world.