Theater and Identity in Provincetown

Provincetown, MA is a town on Cape Cod that has been a safe haven for LGBTQ people since the early 20th century. Queer transplants to the city, called “washed-ashores,” have had a large presence in the Provincetown Theater, which traces its roots back to 1915. During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, gay men flocked to Provincetown seeking safety and community in a time when they were persecuted and attacked, and the United States government ignored their deaths. David Matias moved to Provincetown in 1988. While there, he wrote, directed, and starred in numerous productions at the Provincetown Theater Company. His plays include Driving Through the Past (1993), Power in Play (1993), and Unto Thee (n.d.). He also directed and starred in many productions, including Nova Niño and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

His works are notable for their diverse styles of playwriting. Driving Through the Past, an unfinished work, features more natural-sounding dialogue. Unto Thee takes a postmodern approach, while Power in Play experiments with ambiguity by featuring two possible endings. Although these plays differ stylistically, they share many of the same themes.

This section will explore these three plays in depth as key examples of Matias’s oeuvre and the themes therein. In these works, Matias explores themes of family ties, sexuality, illness, religion, war, identity, and death with unflinching bravery and compassion. While we hesitate to draw direct autobiographical connections to his writings, his own experiences with AIDS no doubt informed his empathetic treatment of the subject.