The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival is taking place September 22nd - 25th, 2016. Click for full details!
|Seaside cottage in Provincetown, MA|
|The 2014 Provincetown Tennessee |
Williams Theater Festival poster
|PTown has no shortage of quaint restaurants|
Williams’ scholar and festival curator David Kaplan wrote an engaging and eloquent essay revealing the devotion, complexities, professional admiration (and jealousies) between Williams and these three friends. Kaplan’s intelligent piece delivered context for the festival selections and fortunately for us, more of his insightful writing can be found through his book Tennessee Williams in Provincetown and Tenn at One Hundred: The Reputation of Tennessee Williams.
|The Crown and Anchor Box Office|
|Provincetown at Dusk - View from the patio of Local 186|
|Photo courtesy of the TW Tribute|
Although the festival is well-attended by theater scholars and theater lovers, it is also attended by many people who simply found themselves here through a roundabout connection. One couple learned of the festival through an online forum wholly unrelated to theater (dogs, actually) and through their budding friendship with this festival staff member they first attended the fest for the five years ago and returned every year since.
Another woman was a high school teacher who knew the festival founder and comes out annually. The “Dinner with Friends” was attended by a number of people visiting from Mississippi including Brenda Caradine who produces the Tennessee Williams Tribute in Columbus, MS. It was a genuine pleasure to chat with Ms. Caradine and to learn more about the wonderful work she’s done to strengthen the connection between Tennessee Williams’ history and his birthplace while preserving his artistic legacy.
|The Town Hall hosted Vieux Carre|
|One of several Boatslip settings for "In the Summer House"|
|Another setting from" In the Summer House" with a view|
|Creve Coeur was cleverly staged in a Bradford St. residence|
The open layout of the home, with its central living room, small kitchenette, side rooms, and staircase all served the play’s needs and the audience’s immersion into the story. The audience was arranged on two sides of the action so although there were moments with limited sightlines it was never distracting or prolonged. The staging of the play took full advantage of the flexibility of being in a home including frying chicken during the first act.
|The Creve Coeur venue enabled actors to cook during the show|
My festival wrapped up sitting in at the Beatnik Jam held at the Gifford House parlor and lounge. The casual setting—the audience perched on sofa arms, seated on stairs, standing around the perimeter—was a nice way to close my time. Various people, including actors I’d seen in shows earlier that day, read snippets of wisdom or observation from the likes of Capote, Vidal, and Purdy.
|Provincetown is captivating at night|
This festival is an educational and enriching experience even if you are simply looking to have a unique and memorable visit to Provincetown and have an open mind to try something new. Certainly you could attend for just a day or two but, like me, you may leave feeling you’ve cheated yourself out of so much more. Circle your calendar for the end of September next year and prepare yourself for an outstanding few days.
- Book your tickets or passes early as some venues have limited capacity and sell out sooner.
- Tickets are required for nearly every event on the calendar so I found myself returning to the Crown and Anchor box office on several occasions. They have a large schedule posted out front to help you see every activity available to you and they are there to answer any questions you have. Although it can’t be emphasized enough that tickets should be bought in advance for the festival through their website (several shows were sold out), the inevitable spontaneous add-ons do present themselves and the box office is the best (fee-free) place to buy anything extra or to make changes to your tickets/itinerary.
- The website is incredibly helpful for advance planning—from travel links to hotel/inn suggestions. There is plenty of information to demystify things, especially if you are coming in from out of town.
- PTWT Festival produces a beautiful program which is an essential tool for navigating the festival. Not only does it offer venue maps, performance schedules, thoughtful essays, and features about each production in the festival, but it even goes so far as to offer a handful of restaurants that are convenient to each festival venue—critical if you’ve left yourself limited time between shows. The program is the bible to guide you in how to plan and map your time.
- Folks who are planning a trip should consider purchasing a Festival Pass. The Flex Pass ($175) allows you to create your own experience with six tickets at your disposal along with entry to the opening and closing night parties. The Study Pass ($125) is ideal for full-time students and includes up to 10 tickets (!). The all-access pass is called, naturally, the Carte Blanche ($600-$800) which includes a dozen tickets (may use up to 2 tickets per show), VIP seating reserved at every performance, invitations to the cocktail party, gallery wine tasting, an invite to the private donor brunch, a $300 tax deductible donation and other goodies.
- The Williams 101 absolutely must make it on your list. Ideally, try to attend one before you kick off your lineup of performances. It will really provide wonderful context for the whole festival.
- The Dinner with Friends event at the Crown and Anchor on opening night (Thursday) is also a real treat. Come hungry and be prepared to meet friendly, interesting people. Tickets must be bought in advance for this, with extra savings if you have a festival pass.
- If you love to socialize, there were free “mixers” every afternoon where people could gather for apps, a drink, meet other festival goers. These are wonderfully fun, energetic gatherings.
- Consider building in a little time for reflection. I found myself seeking quiet time to digest the performance I’d just seen and consider the work. Williams’ plays are filled with fascinating, complicated characters and the material can be heart-wrenching and certainly thought-provoking.
- On one occasion I booked two shows back to back and had a limited amount of time to get from one venue to another. Easily walkable if I had 15 minutes, with such a narrow window, I pre-arranged a cab (Pride Taxi) to pick me up when the first show ended. This was immensely helpful and I do not recommend counting on taxis to always be hanging around. Pre-arranging was easy and Pride was very friendly, prompt, and reliable when I needed them.
- Don’t be intimidated. If you’ve never imagined going to a theater festival, I insist that you consider this new experience and jump in. You’ll be amazed what you come away with.
- Seek out the unconventional spaces and new interpretations (dances inspired by one-act plays, for example). This festival will expand your understanding of Williams and how theater can be presented.
- Provincetown is a very charming place. If you can, leave yourself a little time for boutique shopping, gallery visits, a memorable meal, and a lazy coffee on a porch.
- A car is not necessary at all if you are staying in Provincetown. If you are flying into Logan, it’s a snap to shuttle to the ferry which takes you right to where you need to be.
- There are no shortages of traditional Inns and lovely Bed & Breakfasts in Provincetown. I can recommend the Carpe Diem Guesthouse highly. I knew I would be packing in so much on my short stay I knew I wouldn’t have the pleasure of enjoying the wonderful amenities that Carpe Diem offers but it’s worth a strong consideration.
- I stayed very affordably through AirBnB.com in a walkable 10 minutes away from Commercial Street. Even late at night, Provincetown was very safe for walking back to my apartment solo.
- You could stay more affordably a few towns away but the convenience of staying right in Provincetown and opting to walk everywhere is really worth the few extra dollars.