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2016 Tennessee Williams Festival Highlights Playwright’s Genre-busting Dramas

Travel Tips | Jim Werner | September 3, 2016

2016 marks 100 years since Eugene O’Neill began writing ground-breaking plays in Provincetown, considered the birthplace of modern American theater. This year, the 11th Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, September 22–25, 2016, will offer new approaches to staging O’Neill from the perspective of Tennessee Williams’ genre-busting dramas.

The special four-day festival honoring Tennessee Williams has long been one of the highlights of Provincetown’s “Second Summer” when the cool breezes, crisp blue skies and laid-back atmosphere make for one of the finest times to visit. Shops, galleries and restaurants have their doors open to the sidewalks, as vacationers and locals stroll casually throughout town enjoying the natural beauty and charm of this quintessential New England town.

Some of this season’s performances include:

Desire Under the Elms

The story of O’Neill’s 1924 tragedy about a stepson’s passion for his stepmother is set in New England.

The Hairy Ape

A debutante visits the underbelly of her luxury ocean-liner to observe the soot-covered workers as if they were animals.

Marco Millions

A burlesque retelling of the life of Marco Polo casts the 14th century Italian adventurer as an avatar of a Roaring 20’s tycoon.

In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel

A happy hedonist wife has come to the end of her patience with her husband, a forever-experimenting artist. The late 1960s resounds throughout Tokyo Hotel in masterful staccato rhythms, which serve as breaks in the lilt of Williams’ earlier dialog, like a hesitation waltz.

Williams’ A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot with O’Neill’s Welded, Act 2, scene 2

These paired plays explore the two playwrights’ understanding of a good-time girl. Williams introduces us to two ageless goodtime girls out for a good time in a desolate East Saint Louis juke joint. O’Neill’s understanding of a good-time girl was quite different – a scene from Welded stands alone as a moving portrait of unexpected redemption when a footsore young streetwalker teaches an errant young husband how to get through life.

In addition to the staged performances, expect to see the artists of the Festival around town all week – from restaurants, pools and shops to the wharf and bars. Don’t be surprised if you hear barroom standards “Danny Boy” and “Whiskey Johnny,” written in stage directions by O’Neill and Williams, all week long.

Click here for the full program.

Photo of DeDe Deville and Brad Shaw in A Tiny Closet, part of An Otherwise Hopeless Evening courtesy of A Hidden Splendor

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