Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sun Sets on Harbor Stage & Other WHAT Sparks

When summer guests arrive at Chez Sven, I always do orientation. One of the things I say is, “Wellfleet has great theater. You might want to look into seeing a show. Tickets cost around $25. WHAT prides itself on ‘edgy drama’ ...” This description never fails to pique the interest of guests from Britain, who smile politely, unwilling to believe a seaside resort could really have theater of the caliber they are used to in London. But, since Wellfleet does not offer all that many activities for tourists in summer, they usually take me at my word and return delighted to have enjoyed off-Broadway-worthy performances.

For years, W.H.A.T. (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater) slept in the off-season. But recently, with the recession and new mortgage bills to pay, the new Julie Harris Stage became busier in winter, with opera broadcast on the big screen and a sweet little selection of independent films, as well as Yule For Fuel in December. Then, last August, Jeff Zinn, its founder, suddenly left. I have a lot of respect for what Jeff accomplished and was sorry to see him go, whatever the reasons. He did put Wellfleet on the theatergoers map, a fact we should all remember.

This fall it was possible to find last-minute seats through Twitter.

For the last couple months WHAT has been acting like a dormant volcano, releasing steam from time to time, when in the past the sparks only flew in summer. The latest puff brings news Wellfleet lawyer Bruce Bierhans has been named CEO. (Read this report in the Barnstable Patriot.) Bruce has already proved his competence working with Outer Cape Health Services and Prez. Hall. (When does this man sleep? He also maintains a full schedule as a trial lawyer and even takes time to read this blog!)

WHAT began modestly, by the harbor.
Expansion created the magnificent Julie Harris Stage on Route 6 and a summer program for kids in a tent nearby. Now come more sparks, word that the harbor venue will be eliminated since the landlord wants to recover the space. (Did someone say rent increase?) I can imagine how nostalgic many old-time theatergoers feel about this decision, but frankly, the peanut-gallery type seating left much to be desired. Elimination of the harbor stage presents a way of cutting costs. What will happen to the sign on the roof of the building? Can this Wellfleet landmark please be saved somehow?

Do you attend plays at WHAT in summer? What play did you enjoy the most?