The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT has announced its summer 2003 schedule of events. These will include the O'Neill Puppetry Conference, which brings professional puppet artists and students together in both educational and performance capacities (June 2-June 15); the O'Neill Playwrights Conference (June 23-July 20), in which selected plays receive two staged readings to give their authors a chance to further study and develop their work; the O'Neill Critics Institute (July 8-July 20), a series of workshops designed for theater journalists to improve the quality of their writing; the O'Neill Trust Residency (July 15-19); and the O'Neill Music Theater Conference (July 28-August 10), intended to support composers, lyricists, and librettists in the creation of new music theater works.

The Music Theater Conference will present readings of two musicals, The Nightingale and Sarah, Plain and Tall. The Nightingale is a retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story about a Chinese emperor, a servant girl, and a mechanical nightingale; it features book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, and will run August 2-10. Sarah, Plain and Tall is an adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan's book about a woman who revitalizes a Kansas family too long in mourning, with a book by Julia Jordan, lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and music by Laurence O'Keefe; it will run August 2-9. The creators of both musicals will also participate in a behind-the-scenes discussion titled "Book! Lyrics! Music!" on Tuesday, August 5.

The plays selected for the Playwrights Conference this year include Stephen Belber's A Small, Melodramatic Story (July 4-5), about a woman's search for truth in the face of too much information; Cusi Cram's Fuente (July 4-5), the story of a desolate desert town changed when two of its residents leave; Gina Gionfriddo's After Ashley (July 5-6), about a young man whose mother's death leads his father to fame; Irma Mayorga's Cascarones (July 8-9), a study of a young woman's attempts to reconcile her Mexican-American family's life; Sheri Wilner's Father Joy (July 10-11), which concerns a May-December relationship between a student and her professor, as well as a father's love for his daughter; Sherry Shephard-Massat's Deeds (July 11-12), about a prison inmate who, on Christmas Eve, explores the relationship he had with his brother; Susan Bernfield's Barking Girl (July 12-13), about a woman who must discover the true meaning of motherhood and responsibility; Lisa Dillman's Rock Shore (July 15-16), set in a tuberculosis residency where a glamorous newcomer may change people's lives and outlooks forever; Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's Dark Matters (July 17-18), about a father and son who try to locate their missing mother and find much more than they bargained for; Bill Irwin's Mr. Fox: A Rumination (July 18-19), concerning the life of George L. Fox, America's first celebrity clown; and Dominic Leggett's Smoking Kills (July 19-20), about a radical medical treatment during a war that brings a British soldier and an Iraqi doctor together.

The Playwrights Conference will also help support the work of three writers in residence: Laura Maria Censabella, Christine Jones, and Adam Rapp. Censabella's play Three Italian Women deals with three generations of Italian women and the effect World War II had on their lives; Theatre For One is a new performance space designed by Christine Jones for one actor and one audience member (this piece will not have a public performance); and Rapp's Gompers tells the story of a town devastated by the closing of a steel mill but offered hope by a casino boat, a golden greyhound, and a blue Jesus.

The Playwrights Conference will also include an "All Conference Series" of lunchtime speakers, including playwrights Lee Blessing, Ed Bullins, and Paula Vogel; Ben Cameron, executive director of the Theatre Communications Group; director David Esbjornson; and composer Willy Schwartz. For more information about any or all of the events described above, visit www.theoneill.org or call 860-443-5378.