SEPTEMBER 24 - 27, 2020

The Municipal Abattoir at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

The Municipal Abattoir

by Tennessee Williams
A THRILLER performed in PROVINCETOWN, MA

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

Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

Performances

Sept 24 - 27, 2020

Plan Your Visit

“Condemned for interfering.”
-Tennessee Williams’ The Municipal Abattoir

“Your hearts belong to the state!”
-Tennessee Williams’ Acts of Love

“For the good of the state!”
-Tennessee Williams’ poem “The Death Embrace”

 


An abattoir is a slaughterhouse. Like the more recognizable word abate, the French abattoir derives from a Latin root: bat, the English beat, as in to beat down. Williams connected this to factory work, where mindless repetition beat down the soul. The Municipal Abattoir of his imagination is a state-run slaughterhouse, where good citizens when summoned, go willingly to be killed.

Williams' play positions a government clerk on route to the abattoir, summoned there for asking a question: did a squirrel – or was it a chipmunk? – running on a treadmill in a shop window, ever get a break?  Perhaps the clerk has been summoned to the abattoir because he sent an appeal to the government when his daughter was drafted into the Municipal Whorehouse.

Appeals and questions are traitorous and ultimately stifled in the world of William’ play, as they were around the world when the idea of a Municipal Abattoir first occurred to Williams in the 1930s. Germany, Russia, Japan, and America required the discipline of citizens suppressing themselves for the greater good as they prepared for the inevitable second World War. After the narrator of Williams’ Glass Menagerie scribbles a poem on a shoebox lid he will be fired; he has interrupted the shoe factory’s efficiency.  The ruthless efficiency of a state-run crematorium is the subject of Williams’ 1940 poem “The Death Embrace” spun off from Acts of Love, his 1930’s play with chorus and Spanish dancers in which guards say to factory-workers “Your hearts are doing the goose-step!”

Williams continued working on The Municipal Abattoir through the 1960s, when self-denunciations and public executions fueled the Cultural Revolution in Maoist China. Viva! shouts the abattoir-bound municipal clerk as the procession of a military dictator passes by. Viva la muerte! shouts a woman in black in Acts of Love. "Assassination is the extreme form of censorship," George Bernard Shaw tried to say as part of his 1909 Statement of Evidence to the Joint-Committee on Stage Plays: Censorship and Theatre Licensing. Shaw was not allowed to submit his statement.

The Festival’s production of The Municipal Abattoir is staged by Festival Curator David Kaplan.

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