SEPTEMBER 24 - 27, 2020

Sex at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival


by Mae West

Mae West’s first play was shut down for obscenity and got her thrown into jail for ten days. Until then 'Sex' was the best-selling play of the 1926 Broadway season, running ten months. Most of the police waiting to escort Mae to the paddy wagon had already seen the show.
The laws enacted to censor her in New York and Hollywood were used years later to censor Tennessee Williams.

Directed by Michael Raimondi
Produced by Play Your* Part


Sept 24 - 27, 2020

Plan Your Visit

“I believe in censorship. After all, I made a fortune out of it.”
-Mae West

-The New York Times

“The Babe Ruth of stage prosties.”


Mae West, who was five feet tall, stood for a woman’s epicurean pleasure, expressed with wit, not shame, and for no other profit beyond pleasure. Her power can be gauged by the scale of who and what rose up against her: a tsunami of rectitude and hypocrisy, including newspaper publishers, film industry moguls, the Catholic Church, and the New York State legal system.

Sex, Mae West’s first play, written under the pen name Jane Mast, opened on Broadway in 1926. Outrage was immediate, so were sold-out houses. Sex tells the tale of goodtime girl who recognizes she’s not right for swank society. What infuriated moralists was that she didn’t repent or die of consumption. She moved on… with a sailor.  

Mae West’s Sex ran for ten months before the cops shut it down. Police waiting outside the stage door gave her time to finish her performance and change into a demure and photogenic black fur coat and cloche.  Photographers snapped her getting in and out of the paddy wagon, in and out of court, and in about of jail where she was sentenced for ten days and released after eight “for good behavior.”

Through a bit of chicanery – knowingly announcing a wrong date for a vote, the New York State Assembly passed the Wales “Padlock” Law that succeeded in halting further impropriety.  Penalties extended to the owners of offending theaters, who could have their license suspended for a year. No theater-owner dared take the risk. Mae West moved on to Hollywood where the Motion Picture Code stepped up enforcement to censor the films she wrote for herself. Code enforcement would be used for years after to curtail the depiction of a woman’s desire, including the Tennessee Williams films, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Rose Tattoo.

The Festival’s production comes from Seattle’s Play Your* Part under the direction of Michael Raimondi.

Play Your* Part is dedicated to inspiring action through captivating theatre - increasing equity and reducing violence, locally and globally.

Website was developed by terry barth design +