Justin Vivian Bond (photo: Michael Doucette)
Festival reclaims P’town’s Bohemian roots with the best of ‘downtown’ artists, like John Cameron Mitchell and Starsky + Cox, from September 11-16. In the words of performer Justin Vivian Bond, "Dare to suck."
By John O'Connell
“From the time of Eugene O’Neill and the Provincetown Players up through the 1970s, Provincetown remained synonymous with experimental, progressive stage work,” asserts Quinn Cox, founder of the Afterglow Festival. “As a theater professional, I have a goal of helping Provincetown reclaim its birthright as the birthplace of modern American theater.”
The second Afterglow Festival will be held this September 11 through 16, just after the crowds have left the seaside town and many of the “uptown” acts on Commercial Street have closed for the season. While summer is still in full force at the tip of the Cape, the lack of crowds offers space for creative energy to flow.
“I had approached a few venues in Provincetown to suggest shows by this performer friend or that; and I was surprised to learn that people booking acts were unaware of the resource of talent, mostly based in New York, who ... are internationally renowned and celebrated, playing great houses and festivals all over the world.” Cox wasn’t alone in his frustration. “Over brunch at home with Stella Starsky (the other half of Cox’s performance team Starsky + Cox), John Cameron Mitchell, designer Todd Thomas, and Del Marquis, from the Scissor Sisters, we got to talking... [We] decided we should start a festival for the coming summer.”
And so the Afterglow Festival of Live Performance Arts was born. Performance Arts is a broad term covering any live performance that brings together artist and audience—dance, music, clowning, burlesque, cabaret, spoken word, performance art, mime, juggling. Cox describes the acts that make up the festival as having “talent, a unique perspective, and a desire to create something new—expanding the form of live performance in [its] various forms. The quick answer is that they are considered ‘alternative’ or that they are ‘downtown artists’ but that’s not really accurate.” While some of the experimental pieces ultimately don’t work, Cox lives by the words of Justin Vivian Bond: “Dare to suck.”
Cox is backed by some pretty major national players, such as artists Taylor Mac—writer and performer in next season’s The Lily’s Revenge at ART, Mx. Bond, and the legendary John Cameron Mitchell. “My relationships with John and Taylor and Justin Vivian go back many years and I wanted them to be on the advisory board of Afterglow because they’ve all been inspirations to me personally and professionally,” says Cox. “Our first meeting about Afterglow, when we came up with the festival’s name, consisted of the four of us, musing about all possibilities. They, along with our other advisors, are indeed our Muses.” In addition, Mitchell and Bond will bring their inspirations to the stage in this year’s festival.
The festival’s first year was a resounding success. Boasts Cox, “We have in our first year put Provincetown on the map of international live performance festivals. We hope to expand this vision to make Provincetown a mini-Edinburgh, where artists and audiences flock each year. I feel it my mission to make Provincetown a thriving international destination ... a place that not only hosts but generates important stage performers and their works.” This year’s roster includes Amber Martin, Bridget Everett, Dan Fishback, Joseph Keckler, Cole Escola, Erin Markey, Jay Brannan, “love, connie”, Heloise and the Savoir Faire, and THESWIMMINGPOOLS.
“I moved here two weeks after the first Afterglow Festival,” says Cox. “I live in a bungalow ... who’s first inhabitant was Eugene O’Neill. I don’t think things like that are just coincidence.” [x]
The author is solely responsible for the content.