SEPTEMBER 24 - 27, 2020

The Demolition Downtown at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

The Demolition Downtown

by Tennessee Williams

A suburban family shuts themselves up as explosions rock the city. Can the revolution be ignored?

Directed by Brenna Geffers


Thursday Sept 24, 7:30 pm on the Jersey Shore

For more information about attending this event, please email

“Act as if nothing had happened….Don’t say ‘seized.’ Say ‘took over.’”
-Tennessee Williams’ The Demolition Downtown


As explosions in the city rock the house in the suburbs where Mr. and Mrs. Lane live, the television goes blank and gives off a crackling sound when they try to watch the news. Their two young daughters are home; a new government has converted schools to barracks. Mr. and Mrs. Lane mention these things fleetingly, if at all. Their sentences break off. They correct each for polite ways to talk about – or rather, avoid talking about – what’s happening.

The newspapers have stopped delivery, the radios have stopped broadcasting. Or to be precise: been stopped.

At the time the play was published in the June 1971 issue of Esquire magazine, news of the on-going war in South-East Asia was censored in America, in Viet Nam, in Russia, and in China according to different criteria: the need to boost morale by censoring news of defeat, or the censoring done to hide international support and collaboration.

Silencing group knowledge is an aspect of seizing power. In this play and many others, Williams called attention to another aspect of censorship, the polite circumlocutions in private conversations. Emphasizing conformity,  the names of the characters rhyme. The Lanes, their neighbors the Kanes and the Paynes, president Stane (who has “surrendered to the, uh, new regime”), and the old Hugh Wayne who has been ordered to the Municipal Abattoir “An abattoir is a sort of a slaughter pen.” Mr. Lane explains to Mr. Kane, added the Lanes had only the barest acquaintance with Wane.  The Municipal Abattoir is title and subject of another earlier play by Williams, whose roots go back to the conformity of the Nazi wartime propaganda and American factory-lines.

The Festival’s production of The Demolition Downtown is presented by Philadelphia-based DieCast ensemble, directed by Brenna Geffers.

Die-Cast is a collective dedicated to breaking open the relationship between audience and art by creating work for unique and non-theatrical spaces. Founded by Brenna Geffers and Thom Weaver, Die-Cast concentrates on the power of the ensemble in space. 

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