Thursday, May 08, 2008

Provincetown Playhouse History, II

Here's more information and history from Gail. The following was contained in an email that Gail cc'd me on that she sent to Gary Garrison, Executive Director of the Dramatists Guild.

That Pulitzer Prize of Paul Green's that is on your wall for IN ABRAHAM'S BOSOM premiered at the Provincetown Playhouse in 1926 directed by Jasper Deeter, an actor and director with the Provincetown Players. The all star African American cast of Rose McClendon, Frank Wilson, Jules Bledsoe, Abbie Mitchell, and Stanley Green returned with Jasper to Hedgerow Theatre which he founded in 1923, and saved the theatre financially. Hedgerow just celebrated its 85th Birthday.

Other playwrights at the Provincetown Playhouse that premiered their work under the Provincetown Players include Djuna Barnes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edmund Wilson, Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, Lawrence Vail (married to Peggy Guggenheim), Susan Glaspell who also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931 for ALISON'S HOUSE, Neith Boyce, George Cram Cook, John Reed, Wilbur Daniel Steele, Louise Bryant, Floyd Dell, Alfred Kreymborg, Saxe Cummins, Michael Gold, Harry Kemp, Grace Potter, Rita Wellman, Lewis Beach, Edna Ferber, Lawrence Langer, Evelyn Scott, Stark York, E.E. Cummings to name a few. All were involved in the intellectual life of their times.

Eugene O'Neill premiered 17 of his plays at the Provincetown Playhouse, with O'Neill revivals also done during the days of the Provincetown Players, and Experimental Theatre Inc. at the Provincetown Playhouse until 1929. 11 of Susan Glaspell's plays were premiered at the Provincetown Playhouse with several revivals. Edna St. Vincent Millay's play ARIA DA CAPO premiered there. The entire Millay family was involved with the Provincetown Players. Norma Millay, Founder of Steepletop, the Millay Colony for the Arts played the most roles with the Provincetown Players. Charlie Chaplin, and Paul Robeson performed on the stage for the Provincetown Players. Helen Hayes first theatre experience was when her Mother took her to a rehearsal of O'Neill's THE HAIRY APE at the Provincetown Playhouse. Bette Davis acted there in 1925. In later years, Edward Albee premiered his plays there. A young group headed by Doyle Warren produced plays at the Provincetown Playhouse when the theatre was owned by Norman Buckbinder.

NYU did not protect the historic dome on stage at the Provincetown Playhouse. It collapsed during their renovation of the theatre. The dome from the German Theatre was built by George Cram Cook for O'Neill's play THE EMPEROR - JONES! (that is the real title as he wrote it) to give the small stage scope. With the arson fire in the 1980's at Hedgerow Theatre, the last dome in America was at the Provincetown Playhouse. The building had been a stable. On a hitching post that remained, John Reed etched HERE PEGASUS WAS HITCHED.

Charles Gilpin was the first African American dramatic actor cast by the Provincetown Players in THE EMPEROR - JONES! Mary Blair kissed Paul Robeson in ALL GOD CHILLUN GOT WINGS by O'Neill. The theatre, and Blair received death threats. Ludwig Lewinson wrote in 1921 about Susan Glaspell's play INHERITORS, "The major event of the theatre season is happening on MacDougal Street where Susan Glaspell has added to the wealth of her craft and her country."

The original Provincetown Plays began in the summer of 1915, and 1916 in Provincetown, MA. at Lewis Wharf owned by Mary Heaton Vorse. They moved to a brownstone in New York on MacDougal, then in 1918 to the present Provincetown Playhouse site.The official name was The Playwright's Theatre. After George Cram Cook and Susan Glaspell left for Greece in 1922, the group was taken over by Eugene O'Neill, James Light, and Kenneth MacGowan. Cook and Glaspell made them take another name hence The Experimental Theatre Inc. at the Provincetown Playhouse.

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