The Who, What, How, and Why of WHAT

Pre-Historic WHAT
For a time, the Outermost Cape Performance Company appeared in theatrical productions at the Catholic Church in Wellfleet. Gip Hoppe, Dick Morrill, Kevin Rice, Dan Walker, Vicki Shepard and Laurie Swift worked as OCPC until they lost both their performance space and their acronym, which some thought stood for either a confederation of Soviet states or a compulsive disorder.

1985
The group, understanding that theater is, in fact, a compulsive disorder, changed its name to WHAT. The company moved into the paint can and kitchen appliance-strewn rooms next to Uncle Frank’s on the harbor beach. The actor/carpenters knocked down walls and put on their first show. Actor Bobby Rosser recalls, “I come from New York, and when I first came to Cape Cod, I saw an ad that this place called WHAT was doing Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. I thought, ‘How dare some small theater company presume they can do Rhinoceros?’ So I went to see the show. At first, I couldn’t find the theater. When I did find it, I took one look at the building and thought, ‘Maybe I better go home.’ But I didn’t. I bought a ticket and was floored by what I saw. The only problem was that there was a cutout of a window on the set, and every time a car went by, the headlights flashed in our eyes.”

1987
Jeff Zinn sees the first play of the season, Greater Tuna. Zinn joins the company and directs the last play of the season, Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind. He had made his off-Broadway debut as “Danny” in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity In Chicago, and his Broadway debut in The Suicide with Derek Jacobi. Zinn made his film debut as John Travolta’s legs in the iconic opening scene of Saturday Night Fever (you could look it up).

1990s
Actor Jerome Davis recalls, “I spent three of the most wonderful summers of my life in Wellfleet in the early nineties. The energy and enthusiasm of the people at WHAT was combustible. Jeff’s drive and political awareness, Gip’s humor and his passion for his subjects… and all the wonderful ‘regulars’ at that little gray box of a theater on the harbor make it a place that I return to often in memory.”
WHAT produces several World Premieres by playwrights Gip Hoppe, David Rabe, Michael Klein, Kevin Rice, Frank Speiser, and The Five Lesbian Brothers. New England Premieres included plays by John Patrick Shanley, Paula Vogel, Sam Shepard, Mac Wellman, and Tracy Letts.

2001
WHAT receives the prestigious Eliot Norton Award for “Establishing a Beachhead for Serious Theatre on Cape Cod.”
Jeff Zinn announces a Capital Campaign for “a permanent home for Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and a year-round cultural center in Wellfleet.”
The company offers New England Premieres by Carter L. Lewis, Eve Ensler, and Lee Hall, and a World Premiere by Gip Hoppe.

2003
WHAT receives an Eliot Norton Award for “Outstanding Production by a Small Visiting Company,” when Gip Hoppe’s A New War is transferred to Boston.

2004
Stephen Russell, an actor with the company since 1987, begins WHAT for Kids, writing and directing hits like, The Three Sillies, The Very Sad Tale of the Late Mr. Stiltskin, Xenia Hedgehog’s Academy of Etiquette for Naughty Boys and Girls in Nine Convenient and Easy Lessons, and Daisy Crockett, Frontiersperson!
Boston Magazine chooses WHAT as “Best Theater” in its annual “Best of Boston” issue. Shrewdly, do not point out the distance between Boston and Wellfleet.

2007
In June, WHAT dedicates its new state-of-the-art, 210-seat theater with three gala opening nights. Jeff Zinn directs the first play, Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House.
On Saturday, June 23, a gala opening night features a cheering ovation for Julie Harris as she kneels onstage, kisses her hand, and slaps the floor to dedicate the Julie Harris Stage.

2008
The WHAT Award for Outstanding Artistic Contributions to the Theater is given to playwright John Kolvenbach on opening night of the world premiere of his new play, Fabuloso. Stephen Russell writes and directs a WHAT for Kids hit, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, based on a Russian fairy tale. WHAT experiments with combining live theater and filmmaking. Jeff Zinn filmed chilling and comic sequences for Martin McDonagh’s Pillowman. Brendan Hughes used video to make it appear that actors Robert Kropf and Brenda Withers walked offstage and directly into Wellfleet Harbor.

-Dan Lombardo, WHAT Dramaturg

Year

Production Name Director Playwright

1985

Rhinoceros Dan Walker Eugene Ionesco

1985

American Buffalo Gip Hoppe David Mamet

1986

The Foreigner Laurie Swift Larry Shue

1986

Talking With Cynthia Belgrave Jane Martin

1986

My Sister in This House Dan Walker Wendy Kesselman

1986

Entertaining Mr. Sloan Kevin Rice Joe Orton

1987

Greater Tuna Ed Howard Jaston Williams and Joe Sears

1987

Orphans Gip Hoppe Lyle Kessler

1987

The Lady’s Not for Burning Dan Walker Christopher Frye

1987

A Lie of the Mind Jeff Zinn Sam Sheppard

1988

On the Verge Tina Ball Eric Overmyer

1988

Goose and Tomtom Jeff Zinn David Rabe

1988

Black Comedy and The Actor’s Nightmare Dan Walker Christopher Durang

1988

Glengarry Glenn Ross Gip Hoppe David Mamet

1989

The Road to Mecca Gip Hoppe Athol Fugard

1989

Brilliant Traces Cynthia Stokes Cindy Lou Johnson

1989

Buried Child Jeff Zinn Sam Sheppard

1989

French Gray Nina Schuessler Josef Bush

1989

The World of Lenny Bruce Frank Speiser Frank Speiser

1989

The Memorandum Kevin Rice Vaclav Havel

1989

The Fall of the House of Usher Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

1989

Untamed Love Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

1990

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune Maura Hanlon Terrence McNally

1990

In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe Cynthia Stokes Eric Overmyer

1990

Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends Levi Lee Levi Lee

1990

The Road to Nirvana Jeff Zinn Arthur Kopit

1990

Terminal Hip Mac Wellman Mac Wellman and Stephen Mellor

1990

The Mystery of Irma Vep Jeff Zinn Charles Ludlam

1990

Dealth of a Salesman Jeff Zinn Arthur Miller

1991

The Mystery of Irma Vep Jeff Zinn Charles Ludlam

1991

And Baby Makes Seven Cynthia Stokes Paula Vogel

1991

Giggle and Scream David Steven David Steven

1991

Rapport Alan Zadoff

1991

The Speed of Darkness Jeff Zinn Steve Tesich

1991

Fool for Love Barry Magnani Sam Sheppard

1991

Tales of the Lost Formicans P.J. McKey Constance Congdon

1991

A Visit to the Duplex Planet David Greenberger David Greenberger

1991

Cabaret du Somerville Chandler Travis Chandler Travis

1991

Love Letters A.R. Gurney

1992

Speed the Plow Alan Zadoff David Mamet

1992

Reckless Alan Zadoff Craig Lucas

1992

The Artificial Jungle Jeff Zinn Charles Ludlam

1992

Heart of Jade Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

1992

The Kathy and Mo Show Jeff Zinn Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney

1992

Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun Rand Forester Bradley Rand smith

1992

Dear Liar Jerome Kilty

1993

Heart of Jade Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

1993

The Baby Dance Jeff Zinn Jane Anderson

1993

The Swan David Wheeler Elizabeth Egloff

1993

Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll Rand Forester Eric Bogosian

1993

The Kathy and Mo Show Jeff Zinn Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney

1993

Prelude to a Kiss Rand Forester Craig Lucas

1993

The Baltimore Waltz Jeff Zinn Paula Vogel

1994

Jimmy Tingle’s Uncommon Sense Larry Arrick Jimmy Tingle

1994

10,000 Hands Have Touched Me Michael Klein Michael Klein

1994

Savior of the Universe Tim Banker Gip Hoppe

1994

Oleanna Robert Scanlan David Mamet

1994

Cosmologies David Wheeler David Rabe

1994

Siberian Summer Kevin Rice Kevin Rice

1994

Are You There Jeff Zinn Frank Speiser

1995

Keely and Du Jerome Davis Jane Martin

1995

The Secretaries Gip Hoppe The Five Lesbian Brothers

1995

Fires in the Mirror Rand Forester Anna Deavere Smith

1995

Four Dogs and a Bone Jeff Zinn John Patrick Shanley

1995

Hot ‘N’ Throbbing Gina Kaufmann Paula Vogel

1996

Durang Durang Jeff Zinn Christopher Durang

1996

All in the Timing Padraic Lillis David Ives

1996

Jimmy Tingle’s Uncommon Sense Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle

1996

Simpatico Jeff Zinn Sam Sheppard

1997

A Life in the Theater Gina Kaufmann David Mamet

1997

Dark Rapture Cathy Hartenstein Eric Overmyer

1997

Rush Limbaugh in Night School Tim Banker Charlie Varone

1997

Future Hollow Jeff Zinn Gip Hoppe

1997

7 Blowjobs Jeff Zinn Mac Wellman

1998

The Seagull Jeff Cohen Jeff Cohen

1998

Actorz…with a Z John Kuntz John Kuntz

1998

Stonewall Jackson’s House Daisy Walker Johnathan Reynolds

1998

Waiting for Godot Jeff Zinn Samuel Beckett

1998

Nixon’s Nixon Maura Hanlon Russell Lees

1999

Private Eyes Daisy Walker Steven Dietz

1999

Psychopathia Sexualis Jeff Zinn John Patrick Shanley

1999

Mere Mortals Ed Golden David Ives

1999

The God Show Paul Wagner

1999

Killer Joe Jeff Zinn Tracy Letts

2000

The Beauty Queen of Leenane Jeff Zinn Martin McDonagh

2000

Ruby Tuesday Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

2000

Jimmy Tingle for President Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle

2000

Starfuckers John Kuntz John Kuntz

2000

Fuddy Meers Wesley Savick David Lindsay-Abaire

2000

Closer Jeff Zinn Patrick Marber

2001

Women Who Steal Ellen Graham Carter W. Lewis

2001

Lemonade David Walker Eve Ensler

2001

Cooking with Elvis Jeff Zinn Lee Hall

2001

Horrifying, Absolutely Real, True Disasters Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

2002

The Homecoming Elinor Renfield Harold Pinter

2002

Professional Skepticism Jason Slavick James Rasheed

2002

Fully Committed Suzanne Bryan Becky Mode

2002

The Dog Problem Jeff Zinn David Rabe

2002

Driving on the Sidewalk Jeff Zinn Jesse Kellerman

2002

One Night in the Life of Denise Ivanovich Daisy Walker Kevin Rice

2002

A New War Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

2002

Once Upon a Wolf Stephen Russell Stef DeFerie

2002

Nick Tickle, Fairy Tale Detective Stephen Russell Stef DeFerie

2003

A New War Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

2003

The Unexpected Man David Wheeler Yasmina Reza

2003

The Art Room Brendan Hughes Billy Aronson

2003

Live Girls David Wheeler Victoria Stewart

2003

Jewbano Larry Arrick Frank Speiser

2003

Proof Jeff Zinn David Auburn

2003

Lobby Hero Sam Weisman Kenneth Lonergan

2003

True West Jeff Zinn Sam Sheppard

2003

The Colony of the Cats Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2004

Cuckooland Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

2004

To My Chagrin Peggy Shaw Peggy Shaw

2004

Glitterati John Kuntz John Kuntz

2004

Gizmo Love Sam Weisman John Kolvenbach

2004

Immoral Imperatives James Glossman Jeffrey Sweet

2004

Private Jokes, Public Places Brendan Hughes Oren Safdie

2004

The Three Sillies Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2005

Public Exposure Gip Hoppe Robert Reich

2005

Pugilist Specialist Wesley Savick Adriano Shaplin

2005

The Lovers (The Lover and Ashes to Ashes) Rick Lombardo Harold Pinter

2005

Hazard County Daisy Walker Allison Moore

2005

Bug Jeff Zinn Tracy Letts

2005

The Dream Express Len Jenkins Len Jenkins

2005

McReele Benny Sato Stephen Belber

2005

The Very Sad Tale of the Late Mr. Stiltskin Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2005

Mercy on the Doorstep Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe

2006

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow Brendan Hughes Rolin Jones

2006

Candy & Dorothy Kevin Newbury David Johnston

2006

Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun Neal Huff Bradley Rand Smith

2006

Red Light Winter Rand Forester Adam Rapp

2006

Shakespeare’s Actresses in America Rebekah Maggor Rebekah Maggor

2006

On an Average Day Jeff Zinn John Kolvenbach

2006

Romance Jim Frangione David Mamet

2006

The Captain’s Doll Jeff Zinn D. H. Lawrence

2006

Jonathan Katz-Live! Jonathan Katz Johnathan Katz

2006

Xenia Hedgehog’s Academy of Etiquitte for Naughty Boys and Girls: Nine Convenient and Easy Lessons Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2007

Mojo Mark Wilkinson Jez Butterworth

2007

The Clean House Jeff Zinn Sarah Ruhl

2007

Dark Yellow Jef Hall-Flavin Julia Jordan

2007

Hunter Gatherers Gip Hoppe Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

2007

School for Wives (L’Ecole des Femmes) Eric Powell Holm Molière

2007

Daisy Crockett, Frontiersperson! Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2007

What Then Rand Forester Rinne Groff

2007

American Buffalo Evan Bergman David Mamet

2007

Indian Blood Tom Gladwell A.R. Gurney

2007

Love Song Jeff Zinn John Kolvenbach

2008

Last Train to Nibroc Stephen Russell Arlene Hutton

2008

Intimate Apparel Jeff Zinn Lynn Nottage

2008

What the Butler Saw David Wheeler Joe Orton

2008

The Pillowman Jeff Zinn Martin McDonagh

2008

Fabuloso John Kolvenbach John Kolvenbach

2008

The George Place Gary Shrader David Johnston

2008

Triumph of Love Jason Bohon Marivaux

2008

Fool of the World and the Flying Ship Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2008

Ride Daisy Walker Eric Lane

2008

Shortstack Brendan Hughes Rolin Jones

2008

The Mistakes Madeline Made Brendan Hughes Elizabeth Meriwether

2008

Sexual Perversity in Chicago Brendan Hughes David Mamet

2008

Shining City Jeff Zinn Conor McPherson

2009

The Mystery of Irma Vep Todd Olson Charles Ludlam

2009

Noises Off John Hancock Michael Frayn

2009

The Little Dog Laughed Daisy Walker Douglas Carter Beane

2009

The Blue Room Richard Hamburger David Hare

2009

The Happy Oyster Spectacular Show David Kennedy David Kennedy

2009

The Bald Soprano Brendan Hughes Eugene Ionesco

2009

Laughing Wild Brendan Hughes Christopher Durang

2009

Speech and Debate Brendan Hughes Stephen Karam

2009

Death By Chocolate Mike Dorval Mike Dorval

2009

Puss in Boots: The Astonishing Adventures of Ocelott Ugg Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2010

Daughter of Venus Jeff Zinn Howard Zinn

2010

Born Yesterday Dan Lombardo Garison Kanin

2010

Tingle! Starring Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle

2010

In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play Jeff Zinn Sarah Ruhl

2010

Danny Casolaro Died for You Jeff Zinn Dominic Orlando

2010

Colorado Brendan Hughes Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

2010

Cyrano Brendan Hughes Jo Reets (adaptation)

2010

Dead Ringer Brendan Hughes Gino Dilorio

2010

The Storytelling Ability of a Boy Robert Kropf Carter W. Lewis

2010

Robin Hood or Marian of Sherwood Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2011

Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes Robert Kropf Yussef El Guindi

2011

Boeing Boeing Dan Lombardo Marc Camoletti

2011

Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband Todd Olson Daniel Morris (adaptation)

2011

Bakersfield Mist Jeff Zinn Stephen Sachs

2011

Body Awareness Robert Kropf Annie Baker

2011

A Behanding in Spokane Jeff Zinn Martin McDonagh

2011

Neighborhood3: Requisition of Doom Jesse Jou Jennifer Haley

2011

The Betrothed Jesse Jou Dipika Guha

2011

The Ding Dongs, or What is the Penalty in Portugal? Jeffrey Withers Brenda Withers

2011

The Very Sad Tale of the Late Mr. Stiltskin Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2012

References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot Dan Lombardo Jose Rivera

2012

The Consequences (A Musical) Kel Haney Nathan Leigh and Kyle Jarrow

2012

Saving Kitty Rand Forester Marisa Smith

2012

Hysteria, or Fragments of an Analysis of an Obsessional Neurosis Todd Olson Terry Johnson

2012

Oblomov Daisy Walker Kevin Rice

2012

Sleeping Beauty (La Belle Au Bois Dormant) Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2013

The 39 Steps Ted Vitale Parody of Alfred Hitchcock

2013

Utility Monster Dan Lombardo Marina Keegan

2013

Six Characters in Search of an Author Dan Lombardo Matt Foss (adaptation)

2013

One Slight Hitch Joe Grifasi Lewis Black

2013

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Elizabeth Falk Tennessee Williams

2013

Daisy Crockett, Frontiersperson! Or Be Sure You’re Right Then Go Ahead! Stephen Russell Stephen Russell

2014

The Hound of the Baskervilles Stephen Russell Steven Canny and John Nicholson (adaptation)