“Provincetown” highlights social issues

Shante Johnson, Guest Writer

On Oct. 24-26, An Evening at Provincetown brought the current social problems of
alcohol abuse, drug addiction, and domestic violence to life on stage.
This production took several months, required meetings of the five theatre instructors to
decide on content and the commitment of theatre staff and students.  In preparations for their
performances, the student actors met at least once a week for three hours to practice their
individual plays, and Dr. Larsen, associate professor of theatre history and director for each of
the plays, was at each practice to coordinate and give the students feedback.
For the students, this feedback was essential, but Xavier Nettles, junior theatre arts major,
also values feedback from the audience.
“When you work on stage, you get feedback and [more] feedback, but when you get on
stage [to perform], it’s just you and the vibe you get from the crowd,” Nettles said.
A similar sentiment was shared by Rebecca Whitten, junior theatre arts major.
“The audience gave off plenty of emotions for actors to feed on,” Whitten said.  “There
was laughter, shock, and a lot of clapping throughout the entire production.”
Each of the plays performed in An Evening at Provincetown exhibited at least one social
problem.  “The Long Voyage Home” features a man who refuses to drink because he wishes to
go home.  Eventually, the pressure from his friends and a pretty girl pushes him, and he ends up
drinking, being drugged and getting kidnapped.  This play also shows women being smacked and
verbally degraded.
“Cocaine,” another one of the plays performed, features women in similar situations.  In
it, a woman is forced to sell her body to make money and provide for her boyfriend.  Her
boyfriend questions her ability to make money and repeatedly calls her ideas of suicide crazy and
berates her for it.  Ultimately, she attempts suicide, but is unsuccessful.
Women’s role in society is further commented on in “Trifles.”  The cop in this play talks
down to the women and makes jokes at their expenses.  In the end, the women are victorious as
they solve a crime that the men could not.
Whitten, who played both Freeta in “The Long Voyage Home” and Mrs. Hale in
“Trifles,” explained that the role of women gradually grew within the plays.  In “The Long
Voyage Home,” Whitten was smacked around on stage as Freeta, but by the end of “Trifles,” the
actress emerges as a strong, free-thinking woman.
In all of these plays, the number of women never exceeded three, but this was not a
problem for any of the actors.
“To me, the most important characters were the females, even if they were few,” Whitten
A large portion of the actors are seasoned performers who have participated in 4 or more
plays.  These actors not only perform at Francis Marion University (FMU), but other venues
including the Florence Little Theatre.  This gives them knowledge of their field that they hope
other students will eventually find a greater appreciation for.
“I just love theatre,” Nettles said.  “I’ve been told I am theatrical and it’s cliché, but I
would do this for the rest of my life for free.  I do wish people took the profession more
seriously, though.  People think it’s all easy and mellow, but it’s hard work.  You [audiences] see
in an hour what it took us months to do.”