Provincetown Playhouse

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The Provincetown Playhouse is an historic theatre at 133 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village New York City. It is named for the Provincetown Players, who converted the former bottling plant into a theater in 1918. The original players were Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Djuna Barnes. Paul Robeson performed at the theatre. E. E. Cummings had his plays performed in the building. Bette Davis made her New York stage debut in the facility.[1]

The theater was originally located at 139 MacDougal when it opened in 1916; it moved to its current space in 1918. The building was extensively renovated in 1940.[2] There has been controversy over whether the site deserves to have landmark status. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on April 29, 2008 said that the site did not have the "historical and architectural integrity required for individual New York City landmark designation."[3] Also in 2008 the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation found the building eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, in response to a request from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP).

The same year, New York University proposed to demolish the entire building and rebuild a facility for its law school, as well as a new theater.[4] In the face of community opposition, NYU agreed to preserve just six percent of the old building: the walls containing the small theater in the southern corner of the building. However, during construction, behind construction barriers and invisible from the street, NYU tore down parts of the walls they promised to preserve, a fact revealed by GVSHP.[5]

Chronology of the Provincetown Playhouse[edit]

1915-1916 Provincetown Players are formed

1918 The Provincetown Players move into 133 MacDougal Street

1918-1922 The Provincetown Players grow in popularity, garnering 1600 subscribers in the 1920-21 season.

1923-1929 The Provincetown Players are re-branded The Experimental Theatre, Inc.

1924 Paul Robeson’s kiss on the hand of white actress Mary Blair in Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings is reported on the front page of many national newspapers, leading to protests outside the theatre.

1929 The Earth Between, featuring an unknown Bette Davis is the final production associated with The Provincetown Players.

1936-1939 The Federal Theatre Project utilized the Provincetown as a training institute for designers and teachers

1945-1950 The Light Opera Theatre Company produced short runs of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas for returning GI’s, youth, and adult audiences.

1950 The American Young People’s Theatre hosted a series of original productions for young audiences through the fall and holiday season.

1954-1955 The Opera Players and Opera ’55 produced two seasons of new works by up-and-coming composers.

1959 A festival of George Bernard Shaw plays are produced, featuring the American professional premiere of Buoyant Billions.

1960-1961 The double-bill (and American premieres) of Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story and Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape are a huge success, running for 582 performances.

1964 Al Carmines’ Home Movies and Softly Consider the Nearness are transferred to The Provincetown for a modest run after a successful run at The Judson Poet’s Theatre.

1968 John Guare’s Muzeeka and Sam Shepard’s Red Cross have successful runs featuring an unknown Sam Waterston.

1979 Pat Carroll appeared for eighteen months in the award winning one-woman show Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein.

1982 La MaMa ETC’s 20th Anniversary production of Sam Shepard’s The Unseen Hand was paired with Killer’s Head at The Provincetown and played over 100 performances.

1982-1983 David Mamet’s Edmond had its New York premiere at The Provincetown, featuring Patti LuPone as a replacement.

1985-1990 Charles Busch’s wildly successful Vampire Lesbians of Sodom played more than 2,000 performances, making it one of the longest running plays in Off-Broadway history.

1991-1992 The final professional season at The Provincetown featured performances by Tatum O’Neal, (A Terrible Beauty), Cynthia Nixon, and Lisa Gay Hamilton and direction by Terry Kinney, co-founder of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Servy-n-Bernice 4ever)

1998–Present NYU Steinhardt’s Programs in Educational Theatre and Vocal Performance host a variety of programming for the NYU students and the wider community including theatrical, musical, and opera productions, concerts, storytelling, Looking for Shakespeare, and New Plays for Young Audiences.


  1. ^ "N.Y.U. Plan Threatens Historic Theater.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-01. New York University’s proposal to demolish the historic Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village as part of its planned expansion over the next 25 years is meeting resistance from community leaders and scholars who say the building, where Eugene O’Neill’s plays were first produced, is an important site in American theater history. 
  2. ^ NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; Facilities: Provincetown Playhouse
  3. ^ New York Times, Rebuilt Theater Opening Amid Debate, December 10, 2010
  4. ^ "N.Y.U. would drop curtain on O'Neill's playhouse". The Villager. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "Re: Failure to Maintain Commitments re: Provincetown Playhouse Theater Renovation" (PDF). Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°43′51″N 74°00′00″W / 40.7307°N 74.0000°W / 40.7307; -74.0000