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2020 Commercial 083

(1927)

Wharf Players Theater.

Theater was taken so very seriously in Provincetown in the early 20th century that schisms arose. Mary Bicknell’s Wharf Theater, founded in 1923, first performed in a movie theater, then moved briefly to Frank Shay’s barn. Both factions — Bicknell’s and Shay’s — sought to dominate at this playhouse. The more conservative Bicknell group tried to get the upper hand by walking off with benches, props and equipment. In 1925, they built their own theater, on what had been known as Myrick Atwood’s Wharf.

“The Wharf Theater was good fun the first two years,” Mary Heaton Vorse wrote. “It had the element of something fresh and new and untried, but the financial burden was too great for Mary Bicknell. … In its day, the most one could say of it was that it produced a number of plays very charmingly.” Bicknell gave it up after two years and each succeeding management “failed to make a success,” Vorse wrote. The thumbnail image is that of a playbill from 1927.


2020 Commercial 083 GallerySand Bar Club, foreground, and Wharf Players Theater in 1935. Windowless structure is presumably the fly loft. Image courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Dowd Collection, Page 2226. (Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 9, Page 1.)


In 1940 — not 1941, as the plaque on the facade states — the theater fell into the harbor. Costumes, scenery and props were scattered along the shoreline.

For a view of Myrick Atwood’s Wharf, please see 83 Commercial Street.

For a view of West End Racing Children’s Community Sailing, please see 83 Commercial Street.

¶ Adapted from Building Provincetown (2015). ¶ Thumbnail image courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Stand-Alone Collection, Page 6096.


Denise Avalon wrote on 24 October: The building to the left of the theater [in the gallery photo] could have been the old Sand Bar Club. The old timers used to sit on a bench and watch the crowds enter into the theater and comment on their “get ups.” Sometimes, the club members hosted big events. I think they used the theater for those. Later. there was a new club nearby — somehow affiliated with the Sand Bar club — called Loafers and Liars. It was across from the residence of John Whorf, who lived at 72 Commercial before moving over to 52 Commercial. Maybe the tall tales of fisherman and artists were not so different.

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