SEPTEMBER 21 - 24, 2017

The Gnadiges Fraulein at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival - photo by Ride Hamilton

The Gnädiges Fräulein

by Tennessee Williams
ABSURDIST DRAMA

Williams’ hilariously bizarre one-act about ragged souls trapped in a cruel, surrealist version of Key West is hard to pronounce – and impossible to forget.
directed by Jef Hall-Flavin

featuring Rachel Hirshorn and Anthea Thompson

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, Texas

Performances

Thursday Sept 21, 8:00 pm – 9:15 pm
Friday Sept 22, 8:00 pm – 9:15 pm
Saturday Sept 23, 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm
Saturday Sept 23, 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm
Sunday Sept 24, 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm
Book a group of 6 or more to get $5 off each ticket! Use code GROUP17.
$35
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Rachel Hirshorn and Anthea Thompson in THE GNÄDIGES FRÄULEIN at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. Photo by Andrea Bilkey

In The Gnädiges Fräulein, Williams leaves behind the poetic realism of his earlier plays. The resulting one-act – which translates from German as “the lovely maiden” – depicts the feral inhabitants of a place called Cocaloony Key. The titular character, a German cabaret star grown old, supports herself by competing for fish with the mythical cocaloony birds that hover threateningly overhead.

This lovely, lunatic play is produced with Texas Tech University, which bravely brought us last year’s Kirche, Küche, Kinder (An Outrage for the Stage). This year’s show, under the direction of the Festival's Executive Director Jef Hall-Flavin, pairs two of the Festival’s most shameless leading ladies: Rachel Hirshorn (Kirche, Küche, Kinder) and Anthea Thompson (Kingdom of Earth).

About the Play

Ryan Mcrary, Rachel Hirshorn, and Anthea Thompson in The Gnädiges Fräulein from Texas Tech University at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. Photo by Andrea Bilkey

Published in 1965, The Gnädiges Fräulein (pronounced “ga-NEH-de-gus FRAH-line”) was first produced as one of two plays under the title Slapstick Tragedy, alongside The Mutilated (produced by the Festival in 2013).

The play depicts the inhabitants of a rooming house in a place called Cocaloony Key. The titular character — now grown old, but still known as the “gracious young woman” — must support herself by competing for fish with the mythical cocaloony birds that hover threateningly overhead. 

In the opening stage directions for The Gnädiges Fräulein, Williams describes the set as “a totally unrealistic arrangement … I mean like Picasso designed it.” It only gets stranger from there. As Williams wrote in his preface to the play for Esquire: “The style of the play is kin to vaudeville, burlesque and slapstick, with a dash of pop art thrown in.”

The style and tone of The Gnädiges Fräulein departs from the poetic realism of earlier Williams plays. Williams has described the style of his plays from the 1960s onwards as “less naturalistic” and part of a new theater “where everything is very free and different.” In 1975, Williams commented that “I’m quite through with the kind of play that established my early and popular reputation. I’m doing a different thing, which is altogether my own.”

Festival Curator David Kaplan sees the show as a doorway into the sensibility of a season in which Tennessee Williams plays will be paired thematically with Shakespeare plays. It is, Kaplan says, “a head-turning play in which Williams sets out strategies for survival, simultaneously poignant and ridiculous.”

About the Production

Anthea Thompson and Rachel Hirshorn in The Gnädiges Fräulein from Texas Tech University at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. Photo by Andrea Bilkey

The Gnädiges Fräulein marks the second co-production between the Festival and TTU following last September’s successful production of the Williams play Kirche, Küche, Kinder (An Outrage for the Stage), which the visiting New York Times reviewed as “superb” and “entrancingly bizarre.”

The Gnädiges Fräulein will feature performers Rachel Hirshorn and Randall Rapstine, both of whom appeared in Kirche, Küche, Kinder, as well as South African actress Anthea Thompson, last seen at the Festival in Kingdom of Earth in 2012 and 2013.

The play, says director Jef Hall-Flavin, is “a refracted view of Key West as a metaphor for a dystopia he calls the 'Disunited Mistakes.' While the subject matter of delicate souls trapped in a cruel world is at the core of many of Williams’ plays, he was blending forms at this point in his career. So, you’ll find the pathos of tragedy as well as farce and slapstick, all rolled into an absurdist drama.” 

“I am decidedly outside my comfort zone, and thrilled to be there,” says Hall-Flavin, who traveled to Lubbock, TX to rehearse the show in June. “All Williams plays are poetic and nonrealistic, but this one is more like something out of a surrealist painting than a poet’s notebook.” It is a nice fit, he adds, for a season that will explore “what happens to a writer later in life when they don’t feel constrained by form.”

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