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The summer staff of the Eugene O'Neill center wrote their own letter about a week ago, calling for living wages, as well as anti-racism training for all, limits on how many hours they can work per week and more. As of two days ago, according to their instagram @eotcsummer21 their conversations with senior staff have yielded:

an increase in pay (from $150/week) to $200/week

(including back pay)

anti-racism training for all staff

hours reduced to 40 hrs per week

a second day off per week

additional staff hired (and more to come) to support staff in the final weeks of programming this summer

laundry stipends

Additionally, the O'Neill has committed to rethinking the apprenticeship program going forward, and have taken down the listing that inspired this letter.

Please go check out their instagram for full details, these folks have done great work in the last few weeks, and I'm excited to see what long-lasting progress can be drawn from this. Congrats @eotcsummer21!!!

Thank you to all for signing and sharing your stories. @eotcsummer21 will be recieving a spreadsheet with all the signatures and comments to share with senior staff at the O'Neill, and hopefully they can build a better way forward.


Sarah Dew

  • Writer's pictureSarah Dew

An Open Letter to the "Launchpad of the American Theater"

Updated: Jul 3, 2021

Dear Eugene O’Neill Theater Center: Launchpad of the American Theater,

I’m writing regarding a recent posting you made on for a Producing Apprentice. I'm posting this publicly, in hopes it will raise awareness of the systemic inequalities perpetuated by the theater industry, and also to urge you to rectify a situation you may have missed.

Your tagline is accurate: Launchpad of the American Theater. Your institute is responsible for supporting and producing some of our country’s greatest works of theater. Additionally, you have a remarkably thorough EDI Statement page inspired by the calls over the last year to make theater a better industry by focusing on building inclusive communities and work environments.

However, in spite of the bold work you claim to be committed to, it appears you’re equally committed to perpetuating a cycle of labor abuse and gatekeeping with your apprenticeship programs and that little has actually been learned from the exposure of systemic oppression throughout 2020.

For a salary of $150 a week, plus housing and “experience”, you are expecting someone to work 8-12 hrs a day, 5-6 days a week. While you don’t require them to have a car, it’s considered a plus to their application if they do. Additionally, you have a note that your apprenticeships are a part of an “On Call” team, a vague point that suggests hours longer and more extensive than you state earlier in the job posting.

This is so far below a living wage, it could almost be read as satire. In spite of your statement on EDI, you’ve made an entry-level position untenable for anyone whose socioeconomic status requires them to earn a substantial salary to survive. Millennials and Gen Z-ers are saddled with more debt than any other generation in the history of America. To accept a job with these expectations and salary would be fiscally irresponsible for anyone except people whose family or other benefactors could support their lifestyle.

Unfortunately, this is the norm in far too many places. Job postings like this are gate keeping an entire industry by only being feasible for upper-middle and upper-class individuals. Our industry is in the midst of a reckoning for its lack of diversity and years of systemic abuse. Positions like this perpetuate a cycle in which only the already rich have access, and those at an economic disadvantage are forced down another career path.

As the Launchpad of the American Theatre, your organization has the power to set the tone for the future of the industry. You have an opportunity to change the narrative around unpaid and low-paid apprenticeships, to offer a living wage and open the gates to the industry so that people from all socio-economic backgrounds can begin their career in theater. The changes you institute now have the potential to shape the future of our industry for the better.


The undersigned members of the theater community

Sign the Open Letter

and counting

Thank you for signing!

Due to a bug, submissions are being updated manually- thank you for your patience!

Anything submitted between July 27 and August 2 will be updated by August 3.

Emma Wiesberg

In solidarity with you all <3

7/27/21, 5:41 PM

Edd Fairman

I earned this exact same amount working as a Production Apprentice in 1997! I cannot belive that wages haven't increased in 24 years. This is criminal.

7/26/21, 6:13 PM

Lena Sands

7/25/21, 4:18 PM

Hannah Manikowski

A working class O’Neill finalist

7/24/21, 10:59 PM

Chase Woolner

7/24/21, 7:17 PM

Ben Murphy

7/24/21, 12:35 PM

Brandon O'Neill

7/23/21, 5:14 PM

Tiffany Underwood Holmes

7/23/21, 1:58 PM

Kimber Lee

7/23/21, 1:01 PM

Becca Parsons

7/23/21, 6:06 AM

Susan Lambert-Hatem

We need our premiere institutions in new works and new voices to lead the way in implementing new policies for real equity and equality

7/23/21, 4:34 AM


I attended NTI and saw first hand the conditions the apprentices worked, all that they were expected to do, the fear at being yelled at or doing something wrong, all for so little pay and almost no time off. It is time for there to be a change in a program that could truly be the “launchpad”

7/23/21, 2:02 AM

Elsa Hiltner

of careers as opposed to the exact thing that turns people off of pursuing theatre.

7/23/21, 1:40 AM

Rebecca Husk

7/22/21, 10:26 PM

Drew Nichols

The conditions described are standard industry practice for these festivals. It needs to be reimagined, and I'd hoped places like the O'Neill would spend the year off doing just that, using the just cause of making theatre work accessible and humane to solicit donations and sell tickets. Before this becomes standard again, I'm glad people are speaking out.

7/22/21, 10:26 PM

Spencer Kohler

7/22/21, 8:46 PM

Emily Fluchel

I was the production manager apprentice for the summer of 2018. I agree wholeheartedly with this letter. One of the best but also the worst summers of my life.

7/22/21, 7:51 PM

Savannah Core

7/22/21, 6:19 PM

Matt Landry-McWilliams

I was manipulated, unthanked and overworked during my time at the O’Neill. I stand with Sarah and all those bravely adding their voices to this important conversation.

7/22/21, 5:50 PM

Tari Owei

7/22/21, 4:18 PM

Lizzie Buchanan

7/22/21, 3:57 PM

Austin Murray

7/22/21, 3:49 PM

Justice Longshore

7/22/21, 3:36 PM

Claire Chenoweth

7/22/21, 2:13 PM

Tlaloc Rivas

Many of us in the professional and academic circles mentor a great # of young artists - and how they will be treated (esp. as underrepresented community members) is just as important as the professional exp. and connections they will receive.

7/22/21, 2:09 PM

Kristina Lew

7/22/21, 1:56 PM

Alana Conti

Past apprentices and I have such a deep love of NTI and it was heartbreaking every day we worked there. This apprenticeship is not livable and the mental and physical wellbeing of us did not matter. NTI and the O’Neill should reach out to the last 3 or 4 years of apprentices and actually listen to what we have to say. There is no way this job can change if they do not listen. And changes cannot be made without hearing from the people that worked as apprentices.

7/22/21, 12:48 PM

Shalee Cole Mauleón

7/22/21, 12:29 PM

Jane Cox

I don't recommend internships at places that pay less than a living wage to young people. I never did an internship myself because I couldn't afford to. If the O'Neill can't afford to pay its interns a living wage, then the theater needs to find less labor intensive ways to make theater. That goes for all theaters everywhere. And everybody, at all levels of theater making and going, needs to try to understand the real costs of making a piece of theater, and make choices accordingly.

7/22/21, 12:18 PM

Raegan Payne

7/22/21, 6:52 AM


7/22/21, 4:17 AM

Agyeiwaa Asante

Less talking about change, more doing

7/22/21, 3:41 AM


I wholeheartedly agree with everyone expressing the need for these positions to pay living wages. I noticed far fewer people mentioning the need for better working conditions though. You can’t just pay people a decent wage and stop there. You also have to allow your workers to have personal lives and take care of their mental health. This “be grateful we gave you this opportunity by agreeing to be on call all the time” nonsense needs to end as well

7/22/21, 3:09 AM

Wenxuan Xue

7/22/21, 2:35 AM


7/22/21, 2:10 AM


7/22/21, 2:01 AM

Morgan Richardson

7/22/21, 1:29 AM

Maggie Snyder

7/22/21, 1:27 AM

Brigid Amos

I'm an NTI alum from way back, and have to express my bewilderment at this whole discussion, because I really don't remember these apprentices during the school year. If the program has grown to the extent that these professionals are needed to run it, then hire them as full time staff. Pay a wage that allows them to live in New London. I understand serving as a volunteer and getting a stipend. I did that in the Bay Area. But I was helping an at risk youth population, and I did not expect it to lead to a professional position. Also, I had way more free time than what I see in this description. If you can't afford to hire people to do real work, then cut back. Better that than taking in apprentices every year, many of whom may have nowhere to go afterward. This to me sounds like a real full time job, so why not actually employ someone?

7/22/21, 12:00 AM

Grace Ward

Loving an institution means demanding better from it. Standing in solidarity and sending love to all of those demanding better from the O'Neill.

7/21/21, 11:43 PM

Tim McCalister

You must be the change that you want to see in the world.

7/21/21, 10:18 PM

Marisela Treviño Orta

7/21/21, 9:29 PM

William Pile

I was never able to economically afford an internship. While work can be a passion, it also needs to make a living. It needs to change if theater is ever going to heal the racial socio-economic disparities that currently exist.

7/21/21, 9:02 PM

Kat Zukaitis

7/21/21, 8:21 PM

Chris Truini

This is way overdue. Solidarity forever.

7/21/21, 8:09 PM

Des'ree Brown

We want real pay for our real work, dreams, and labor.

7/21/21, 7:40 PM

Rosalind Hurwitz

7/21/21, 6:26 PM

Derresha Webb

7/21/21, 5:05 PM

Sarah Mantell

7/21/21, 4:30 PM

Sarah O'Reagan

7/21/21, 3:44 PM

Charly Evon

7/21/21, 3:31 PM

Jennifer Pillaga

7/21/21, 3:31 PM

Zachary Coo