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Remembering the Provincetown Playhouse

The original Provincetown Playhouse at 133 MacDougal Street. Image via New York Historical Society.

On November 22, 1918, the first performances were staged at the Provincetown Playhouse’s new home at 133 MacDougal Street. Founded in Massachusetts three years prior as the Provincetown Players, the theater company moved its performances to an apartment at 139 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village in 1916. Seeking more space, they leased a 19th-century former stable and bottling plant at 133 MacDougal Street that would be converted into its permanent home. Well, permanent for the next 90 years — until NYU demolished it in 2008.

Demolition of the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments. August 3rd, 2009

Referred to as “the birthplace of modern drama”, the original Players included George Cram Cook, Susan Glaspell, Eugene O’Neill, John Reed, Louise Bryant, Floyd Dell, Ida Rauh, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Djuna Barnes. The Provincetown Playhouse staged the works of some of this country’s most well-known playwrights and talented actors, including Edward Albee, Sam Shepherd, David Mamet, Bette Davis, and Paul Robeson, among others. 

Additionally, the theater was noted for its progressive ethos – it had a large number of women involved in all levels of productions, and boldly staged controversial plays featuring African Americans actors.

In 1940 the building’s upper stories were altered and rebuilt. The theater remained unaltered, but the building was refaced and the façade was redesigned. In the following years, the building was merged with three neighboring buildings to become one apartment building with the theater in the base.

The 1940s-2008 Provincetown Playhouse

Unfortunately, despite vigorous efforts by Village Preservation and others detailed in this report dated June 19, 2008, NYU demolished nearly the entire building later that year in order to build office space for the University’s law school.

While a theater remains in that location with the Provincetown name and facade, virtually nothing else of the original space remains. Click here to read more about our battle to save the Provincetown Playhouse.

Click here to read more about the history of the Provincetown Playhouse.

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