TENNESSEE WILLIAMS & Censorship
September 24-27, 2020
Under the motto “If we can, we will,” the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival announces its 15th Season: Tennessee Williams & Censorship.
Rising to the challenge of presenting live theater this year, the companies invited to perform in Provincetown have agreed to stay home and perform in place. These productions will be shown live and outdoors around the country during the four days of the festival, each working with state and local guidelines to shape the possibilities of holding live events safely and responsibly September 24 through 27, 2020.
The 2020 Festival locations are Seattle, Washington; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York; Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; Marfa, Texas; and some special outdoor performances, if possible, in Provincetown, Massachusetts itself. Specific performance dates, times, and venues in the various locations will be announced later on the Festival’s website.
Provincetown specifics may be the last announced. The town’s balanced situation as a tourist destination with a high-risk year-round population requires local officials to cautiously determine the best course for public gatherings.
“If we can, we will” is the Festival’s motto for 2020, a season of plays related to censorship written by Williams and other writers. The theme is prompted by the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival in Provincetown, or rather it’s departure five weeks later, “leaving Cape Cod’s curling sandspit to spiral into the Devil’s playground,” as Festival Curator David Kaplan says, “and begin the 400-year-old tradition of independent thinking, what the Puritans called ‘flaunting,’ that continues today.”
The Festival’s censorship theme has been in the works for five years, following the invitation by Lisa Giuffre at Provincetown 400 to be part of the town’s commemoration of the Mayflower’s arrival in November of 1620. “In thinking it over, the Mayflower leaving was what defined P’town, and the attempts to find continuity with the puritans was a fantasy. Using the same facts it is possible, and desirable, to create another fantasy that predicts not the Constitution, but the writing of Tennessee Williams and America’s other wayward writers, including the provocations of Mae West, Penny Arcade, and any other future ‘flaunting’ we might imagine.”
Three women fight over a handsome stranger newly arrived in their Mississippi Delta small town. Written by Williams in 1940, 'Battle of Angels' was closed by order of the Boston League of Decency.
'A play about cheap, white trash….Indecent and improper….Lascivious and immoral…' -Boston Police Commissioner Timilty, 1940
An abbreviated presentation
Directed by Jessica Burr
Produced by Blessed Unrest
A black screenwriter has a secret affair with a white movie goddess (alternate title: “The Bitch”). Williams abandoned the project after 75 manuscript pages.
Adapted by Thomas Owen Mitchell, a staged reading of an unfinished short story from the 1940s (published March 2020) dramatizes Williams’ process as he considered drafts of a short story, a play, and a possible film.
Directed by Latrelle Bright and Thomas Owen Mitchell
Performed in association with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Theatre
A suburban family shuts themselves up as explosions rock the city. Can the revolution be ignored?
Directed by Brenna Geffers
Produced by Die-Cast with Texas Tech University
From Nazi Germany to a factory in St. Louis to the Vietnam War, Williams considered the ways in which someone would agree to be destroyed for the good of the state.
Directed by David Kaplan
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
Since her stint at the Sacred Heart Academy for Wayward Girls, Penny Arcade has been unapologetically honest throughout her six-decade career of incisive avant-garde performance.
Her willingness to speak truth to power at the expense of career concerns has made her an international icon of artistic resistance.
Performed by Penny Arcade with her long-time collaborator Steve Zehentner.
Hitler’s thugs blew whistles at the 1927 premiere of this chamber opera. Communists in the audience blew whistles of their own. Kurt Weill wrote the music, Bertolt Brecht wrote the libretto, and Elisabeth Hauptman collected the material from natural disasters and the cycle of capitalism.
Directed by Dennis Monn
Produced by the AllWays Lounge in Exile
Written by Thomas Middleton in 1616 but not published until 1728. Why? English Puritans likely played a part, as some puritans believed plays were “Suckt from the Devilles teate.”
The 2020 spectacle adds to the play’s laundry list of indiscretions with an all-female cast made up of Mayflower women. Puritan women! dressing as men! performing plays! in the woods! — it’s unheard of!
A scene spectacle
Directed by Megan Nussle
Hollywood censors demanded more and more cuts to the film of 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' until Williams and the film’s director wouldn’t agree to any more edits. What the censors insisted on removing?: Stella’s open desire for Stanley.
Festival favorite and Williams scholar Jeremy Lawrence passes on author Sam Staggs’ revelatory 'When Blanche Met Brando' in this lecture/demo with film.
Naughty Jacobean ballads, Mae West’s “blue” lyrics, Kurt Weill’s provocative tunes — Minnesota piano virtuoso and jazz composer George Maurer hosts this collection.
Audience participation is invited. Kathleen Turner dropped in unexpectedly to sing at Maurer’s “Songs My Grandmother Taught Me” during the 2019 Festival…. Who might be there this year?
Click here for our 2019 Festival magazine, featuring essays and show descriptions.