† Wharf at 83 Commercial Street

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




5 thoughts on “† Wharf at 83 Commercial Street

  1. The building to the left of the theater 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.

  2. Get this David. The group after Mary Bicknell left called themselves not sure exactly when The Wharf Theatre. The famous world renown speech coach and teacher Edith Skinner’s Sister was a part of that group in the 1930’s. In 1935 she handed the Wharf Theatre over to her Sister Edith Skinner and her husband. Edith had not yet published her famous book on Voice For The Theatre. She and her husband ran the Theatre in Provincetown until 1939 then the theatre was destroyed.

    A real find that Edith Skinner was in Provincetown and ran a Theatre with her husband Before she became famous and taught at Carnegie Mellon and Julliard. How about That for Theatre In Provincetown!! Claim That history David Drake and the Provincetown Theater!

    I never could understand why Leona got the name of the Wharf Players Theatre wrong. Now I know as the second Theatre group at that site changed the name to The Wharf Theatre Not Realizing that it was the name that the group that was to be known as the Provincetown Players used in 1915 and 1916. They called Lewis Wharf where they started before moving to New York The Wharf Theatre.

    The Skinner group further and Edith’s Sister earlier distortion by not knowing the history of the Provincetown Players once again made confusing the real facts that are not known or understood about the Proven ncetown Players by using the same term The Wharf Theatre.

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