- Located on the harbor side of the far end of Cape Cod, Provincetown marks the spot where the Mayflower Pilgrims first made landfall before putting in at Plymouth Rock. Before the 20th century, Provincetown was primarily a fishing port, sending out fleets of whalers and other commercial fishing vessels. Numerous wooden wharves were built to support those industries, and it was on one of those wharves that American modernist theatre can be said to have begun. Mary Heaton Vorse was a well-educated woman who spent summers in Provincetown from 1906. Little by little she attracted other creative people from Greenwich Village. By the summer of 1915 a group of writers that included Neith Boyce and her husband Hutchins Hapgood, George Cram Cook and his wife Susan Glaspell, and others were reading and performing their own plays on the Hapgoods' veranda overlooking the harbor. Needing more space, they moved the productions to a fishhouse at the end of Lewis Wharf, which Vorse owned.The following summer marked the turning point, for a young writer named Eugene O'Neill joined the group and his one-act play Bound East for Cardiff was chosen for production on the wharf. A week before its opening, a fire destroyed one of the three buildings on the wharf, but the fishhouse survived. On 18 July 1916, with fog rolling in and water lapping beneath the floor, the playwriting talent that would galvanize the American stage made its debut. The excitement of that work impelled the group to organize themselves as the Provincetown Players in order to continue producing new plays in Greenwich Village in New York City in the fall. O'Neill spent nine summers in Provincetown and wrote many of his early plays there. Lewis Wharf collapsed in 1922, but other venues in Provincetown attracted successive theatre groups. Among them were Provincetown Theatre on Whalers' Wharf (from 1919), the Barnstormers (intermittently after 1922), the Wharf Theatre (1923-1940), Provincetown Playhouse on the Wharf (1941-1977). Tennessee Williams* began summering in Provincetown in 1940. A new playhouse, the Provinc-etown Theatre, opened in 2003 and serves as home for both Prov-incetown Theatre Company and Provincetown Repertory Theatre. Leona Rust Egan has chronicled much of the history of theatre in Provincetown in various publications.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.