South African HAMLET, Drum-Fueled 'TEN BLOCKS' and More Set for 2017 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival
These are just a few of the colorful, international shows that make up the 12th annual Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.
This year's Festival presents plays by Tennessee Williams and William Shakespeare: the two great poet playwrights of the English language. The four-day extravaganza presents shows all over town, performed by theater companies from around the world. Audiences will experience Williams and Shakespeare side by side, offering a new understanding of both playwrights.
This year's shows include Hamlet at the Wharf by Cape Town's Abrahamse-Meyer Productions, Ten Blocks on the Camino Real by the National Theatre of Ghana, and a new production of Pericles by DieCast, a Philadelphia ensemble adept at performing in non-theater spaces.
This year's program also includes Abrahamse-Meyer's Sweet Bird of Youth starring South African film and stage star Fiona Ramsay, the 2017 Hotel Plays staged throughout various rooms of the historic Gifford House by the Spectrum Theatre Ensemble from Providence, and a fusion of Shakespeare's clowning and Williams' grotesque humor called Dumb Show and Noise featuring professional clown Jay Stewart.
Rounding out the Festival are a lovely and lunatic staging of the Williams one-act The Gnädiges Fräulein from Texas Tech University, directed by Festival Executive Director Jef Hall-Flavin, and a special Sunday performance of Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra, directed by Festival Curator David Kaplan with an international cast including Robertson Dean, Marcel Meyer, TC Meltem from the National Theater of Turkey, AB Abenyi from the National Theater of Ghana, and the legendary Everett Quinton from New York City's Ridiculous Theatrical Company.
The Festival also features educational classes, parties, donor events, movies and musical events throughout the four-day celebration. Further programming will be announced throughout the summer.
Shakespeare and Williams mastered their craft while living in turbulent times, says Kaplan. "For Shakespeare, the death of his only son in the year the queen of England died; for Williams, the death of his long-time lover in the year the president died."
In these periods of Williams' and Shakespeare's writing, Kaplan says, water recurs as an image of instability: "Both has twenty more years to live, and in that score of years their plays upended conventional ideas of what was farce and what was tragedy in a world for them turned as suddenly unstable as a ship in a storm."
In the scenic, seaside village of Provincetown, Festival Board President Patrick Falco sees a perfect setting for these plays. "Not only do these stories carry us across the centuries," he says, "they come to us from theater groups all across the globe."
"Last year's Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill was our most popular festival ever," Falco adds. "We are delighted to see the festival continue to grow in the heart of this historic arts colony, and to host thousands of visitors and artists that are global and also deeply local."
The program includes:
Plays by William Shakespeare:
Tragedy at Sea
Abrahamse & Meyer Productions / Cape Town, South Africa
directed by Fred Abrahamse
featuring Marcel Meyer
This acclaimed South African production of Shakespeare's most famous play is inspired by records of a performance on board an East India merchant ship over 400 years ago.
In September 1607, the captain of a British ship off the coast of West Africa wrote in his diary: "We had The Tragedy of Hamlet: and in the afternoon, we went together ashore, to see if we could shoot an elephant." The following year, a second performance of Hamlet was held off the east coast of South Africa.
From these footnotes to history, Abrahamse & Meyer Productions has crafted a much-loved production of Hamlet that, in Provincetown, will be performed in a shallow tank of water inside the historic Fisherman's Wharf.
It's a vicious and vivid show that pays homage - from its pool-side design to its quick-changing, all-male cast - to a play that keeps evolving across oceans and centuries.
Hamlet is paired, in repertory, with Tennessee Williams' rarely-seen classic Sweet Bird of Youth.
DieCast / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
directed by Brenna Geffers
featuring Chris Anthony
Shakespeare's thrilling Mediterranean adventure comes to life aboard the Rose Dorothea, a 66-foot fishing schooner, staged by the creators of last year's hit The Hairy Ape.
In a legendary and impure world, the big-hearted hero Pericles is washed clean, and the innocent heroine Marina is beset by horrors. Chris Anthony - who played Yank in The Hairy Ape - will play Gower the narrator, as well as a pirate who rescues Marina from the brink of death, only to sell her to a bordello (spoiler alert: there's a happy ending).
Brenna Geffers' company, DieCast, performs in non-theater spaces, and in Provincetown they will stage Pericles on the deck of the Rose Dorothea, the 66-foot fishing schooner inside the Provincetown Library.
Pericles is thematically paired with the National Theatre of Ghana's production of Ten Blocks on the Camino Real.
A Love for the Ages
TW Festival / Provincetown, Massachusetts
directed by David Kaplan
Actors from around the world gather at Town Hall for one performance that captures this year's biggest ideas and themes.
Who owns the right to tell your story - and how will history remember you as a result? These questions swirl at the heart of Shakespeare's tragic romance in a stripped-down production of the first three acts, directed by Festival Curator David Kaplan with an international cast.
Starring Robertson Dean (from last year's Kirche, Küche, Kinder) as Marc Antony, and Cleopatras from around the world: TC Meltem from the National Theatre of Turkey, AB Abenyi from the National Drama Company of Ghana, and Everett Quinton from New York City's Ridiculous Theatrical Company. A constellation of Festival actors fills out the cast.
In Antony and Cleopatra, the act of history-making is as bold an endeavor as love-making, and more lasting. The play is the key to the Festival's theme: exploring the reconciliation of opposites such as male and female, Rome and Egypt, modernity and tradition, love and death, and the mix of farce and tragedy we live with in America today.
Plays by Tennessee Williams:
National Theatre of Ghana / Accra, Ghana
directed by David Kaplan
This one-act play from 1947, which eventually became Williams' full-length drama Camino Real in 1953, still stands as a thrilling phantasmagoria about a big-hearted hero lost in a ruthless world. It's the story of Kilroy, a boxer with a "heart as big as the head of a baby," who falls in love with a Gypsy's daughter - and remains faithful even after death.
Director David Kaplan created this production with Abibigromma, the national drama company of Ghana. The show has played outdoors in Ghanaian marketplaces, and arrives as part of a multi-city tour in summer 2017 to communities throughout the United States.
In Provincetown, the show performs at the "bas relief," the green park behind Town Hall at the foot of Pilgrim Monument.
Ten Blocks on the Camino Real is thematically paired with DieCast's production of Pericles.
Abrahamse & Meyer Productions / Cape Town, South Africa
in association with the TW Festival
directed by Fred Abrahamse
An ambitious golden boy's dreams run aground on the rocky shores of small-town Mississippi politics in Williams' rarely-seen classic, staged by Festival favorites from South Africa.
Set in the Gulf Coast village of Saint Cloud, where small-town politics are as rotten as any in the state of Denmark, Sweet Bird of Youth tracks the fading dreams of a traveler returning home. Marcel Meyer plays the gigolo Chance Wayne as a mirror to Hamlet: another princely hero who is expected to save the day and does not.
Like Shakespeare's Hamlet, Sweet Bird is a drama of hesitation and inaction that asks: what does it mean to be a king or queen, and what does it mean to be a hero?
Alongside Chance, the former movie star Alexandra Del Lago (traveling incognito as Princess Kosmonopolis)-played here by South African film and stage star Fiona Ramsay - faces her own uncertain future.
This all-new production of Sweet Bird of Youth is paired in repertory with Shakespeare's classic tragedy Hamlet. Both shows are directed by Fred Abrahamse, whose Festival credits include The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, Kingdom of Earth, and Desire Under the Elms.
Texas Tech University / Lubbock, Texas
directed by Jef Hall-Flavin
featuring Rachel Hirshorn and AnThea Thompson
Williams' hilariously bizarre one-act about ragged souls trapped in a cruel, surrealist version of Key West is hard to pronounce - and impossible to forget.
In The Gnädiges Fräulein, Williams leaves behind the poetic realism of his earlier plays. The resulting one-act - which translates from German as "the lovely maiden" - depicts the feral inhabitants of a place called Cocaloony Key. The titular character, a German cabaret star grown old, supports herself by competing for fish with the mythical cocaloony birds that hover threateningly overhead.
This lovely, lunatic play is produced with Texas Tech University, which bravely brought us last year's Kirche, Küche, Kinder (An Outrage for the Stage). This year's show, under the direction of the Festival's Executive Director Jef Hall-Flavin, pairs two of the Festival's most shameless leading ladies: Rachel Hirshorn (Kirche, Küche, Kinder) and AnThea Thompson (Kingdom of Earth).
Plus special events:
Spectrum Theatre Ensemble / Providence, Rhode Island
in association with Trinity Rep
directed by Clay Martin and Erin Cawley
Worlds of hilarity and heartbreak await behind every door...
This year's Hotel Plays combine Shakespeare and Williams under one roof: Provincetown's historic Gifford House. Audiences will travel through the building's many portals, encountering two of Williams' most lyric texts: Mr. Paradise and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen... Waiting down the hall will be scenes from Cymbeline and The Comedy of Errors, set by Shakespeare in inns.
The 2017 Hotel Plays come from Providence, Rhode Island, staged by Trinity Rep's Artistic Leadership and Inclusion Fellow Clay Martin, co-director Erin Cawley, and the Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, made up of theater artists along the autism spectrum.
Stewart Family Entertainment / Brewster, Massachusetts
by Jay Stewart and Mike Smith
Shakespeare's clowning and Williams' grotesque humor fuse together in a fast-paced, slapstick recap of the Festival - from tears to triumphs to storms at sea - performed while speaking nary a word.
In this year's lineup of plays, the boundaries between farce and tragedy melt away. But in this almost-silent dumb show, Shakespeare and Williams' fools and tragic heroes collide in a waterlogged free-for-all featuring Brewster-based clown Jay Stewart, joined by his Idaho-based partner Mike Smith.
Pouring out the slapstick, they will reprise the flow of the Festival, from Hamlet's storm at sea to the fountain of the Camino Real - with few words, and buckets of humor.
with Patricia Navarra and Festival guest artists
With brief, informative backgrounds on each playwright, the discussion will prime your pump for a weekend of theater. Peppered with Festival artists, Williams 101 provides audience members with practical insights into the thematic through-lines of the Festival lineup.
The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival was founded in 2006 in Provincetown - the birthplace of modern American theater - where Williams worked on many of his major plays during the 1940s. The TW Festival is the nation's largest performing arts festival dedicated to celebrating and expanding an understanding of the full breadth of the work of America's great playwright. Each year, theater artists from around the globe perform classic and innovative productions to celebrate Williams' enduring influence in the 21st century, hosted by venues throughout the seaside village. For more details, visit twptown.org and follow the Festival on Facebook.