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.

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.”

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 2005-13


1985 American Buffalo Gip Hoppe David Mamet
1985 Rhinoceros Dan Walker Eugene Ionesco
1986 Entertaining Mr. Sloan Kevin Rice Joe Orton
1986 My Sister in This House Dan Walker Wendy Kesselman
1986 Talking With Cynthia Belgrave Jane Martin
1986 The Foreigner Laurie Swift Larry Shue
1987 A Lie of the Mind Jeff Zinn Sam Shepard
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
1988 Black Comedy and The Actor’s Nightmare Dan Walker Christopher Durang
1988 Glengarry Glenn Ross Gip Hoppe David Mamet
1988 Goose and Tomtom Jeff Zinn David Rabe
1988 On the Verge Tina Ball Eric Overmyer
1989 Brilliant Traces Cynthia Stokes Cindy Lou Johnson
1989 Buried Child Jeff Zinn Sam Shepard
1989 French Gray Nina Schuessler Josef Bush
1989 The Fall of the House of Usher Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
1989 The Memorandum Kevin Rice Vaclav Havel
1989 The Road to Mecca Gip Hoppe Athol Fugard
1989 The World of Lenny Bruce Frank Speiser Frank Speiser
1989 Untamed Love Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
1990 Dealth of a Salesman Jeff Zinn Arthur Miller
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 Terminal Hip Mac Wellman Mac Wellman and Stephen Mellor
1990 The Mystery of Irma Vep Jeff Zinn Charles Ludlam
1990 The Road to Nirvana Jeff Zinn Arthur Kopit
1991 A Visit to the Duplex Planet David Greenberger David Greenberger
1991 And Baby Makes Seven Cynthia Stokes Paula Vogel
1991 Cabaret du Somerville Chandler Travis Chandler Travis
1991 Fool for Love Barry Magnani Sam Shepard
1991 Giggle and Scream David Steven David Steven
1991 Love Letters Christine Toy Johnson A.R. Gurney
1991 The Weight of Water Alan Zadoff  Myra Slotnick
1991 Tales of the Lost Formicans P.J. McKey Constance Congdon
1991 The Mystery of Irma Vep Jeff Zinn Charles Ludlam
1991 The Speed of Darkness Jeff Zinn Steve Tesich
1992 Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun Rand Forester Bradley Rand smith
1992 Dear Liar with Julie Harris & Alvin Epstein Jerome Kilty
1992 Heart of Jade Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
1992 Reckless Alan Zadoff Craig Lucas
1992 Speed the Plow Alan Zadoff David Mamet
1992 The Artificial Jungle Jeff Zinn Charles Ludlam
1992 The Kathy and Mo Show Jeff Zinn Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney
1993 Heart of Jade Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
1993 Prelude to a Kiss Rand Forester Craig Lucas
1993 Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll Rand Forester Eric Bogosian
1993 The Baby Dance Jeff Zinn Jane Anderson
1993 The Baltimore Waltz Jeff Zinn Paula Vogel
1993 The Kathy and Mo Show Jeff Zinn Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney
1993 The Swan David Wheeler Elizabeth Egloff
1994 10,000 Hands Have Touched Me Michael Klein Michael Klein
1994 Are You There Jeff Zinn Frank Speiser
1994 Cosmologies David Wheeler David Rabe
1994 Jimmy Tingle’s Uncommon Sense Larry Arrick Jimmy Tingle
1994 Oleanna Robert Scanlan David Mamet
1994 Savior of the Universe Tim Banker Gip Hoppe
1994 Siberian Summer Kevin Rice Kevin Rice
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
1995 Keely and Du Jerome Davis Jane Martin
1995 The Secretaries Gip Hoppe The Five Lesbian Brothers
1996 All in the Timing Padraic Lillis David Ives
1996 Durang Durang Jeff Zinn Christopher Durang
1996 Jimmy Tingle’s Uncommon Sense Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle
1996 Simpatico Jeff Zinn Sam Shepard
1997 7 Blowjobs Jeff Zinn Mac Wellman
1997 A Life in the Theater Gina Kaufmann David Mamet
1997 Dark Rapture Cathy Hartenstein Eric Overmyer
1997 Future Hollow Jeff Zinn Gip Hoppe
1997 Rush Limbaugh in Night School Tim Banker Charlie Varone
1998 Actorz…with a Z John Kuntz John Kuntz
1998 Nixon’s Nixon Maura Hanlon Russell Lees
1998 Stonewall Jackson’s House Daisy Walker Johnathan Reynolds
1998 The Seagull Jeff Cohen Jeff Cohen
1998 Waiting for Godot Jeff Zinn Samuel Beckett
1999 Killer Joe Jeff Zinn Tracy Letts
1999 Mere Mortals Ed Golden David Ives
1999 Private Eyes Daisy Walker Steven Dietz
1999 Psychopathia Sexualis Jeff Zinn John Patrick Shanley
1999 The God Show Paul Wagner Paul Wagner
2000 Closer Jeff Zinn Patrick Marber
2000 Fuddy Meers Wesley Savick David Lindsay-Abaire
2000 Jimmy Tingle for President Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle
2000 Ruby Tuesday Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
2000 Starfuckers John Kuntz John Kuntz
2000 The Beauty Queen of Leenane Jeff Zinn Martin McDonagh
2001 Cooking with Elvis Jeff Zinn Lee Hall
2001 Horrifying, Absolutely Real, True Disasters Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
2001 Lemonade David Walker Eve Ensler
2001 Women Who Steal Ellen Graham Carter W. Lewis
2002 A New War Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
2002 Driving on the Sidewalk Jeff Zinn Jesse Kellerman
2002 Fully Committed Suzanne Bryan Becky Mode
2002 Nick Tickle, Fairy Tale Detective Stephen Russell Stef DeFerie
2002 Once Upon a Wolf Stephen Russell Stef DeFerie
2002 One Night in the Life of Denise Ivanovich Daisy Walker Kevin Rice
2002 Professional Skepticism Jason Slavick James Rasheed
2002 The Dog Problem Jeff Zinn David Rabe
2002 The Homecoming Elinor Renfield Harold Pinter
2003 A New War Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
2003 Jewbano Larry Arrick Frank Speiser
2003 Live Girls David Wheeler Victoria Stewart
2003 Lobby Hero Sam Weisman Kenneth Lonergan
2003 Proof Jeff Zinn David Auburn
2003 The Art Room Brendan Hughes Billy Aronson
2003 The Colony of the Cats Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2003 The Unexpected Man David Wheeler Yasmina Reza
2003 True West Jeff Zinn Sam Shepard
2004 Cuckooland Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
2004 Gizmo Love Sam Weisman John Kolvenbach
2004 Glitterati John Kuntz John Kuntz
2004 Immoral Imperatives James Glossman Jeffrey Sweet
2004 Private Jokes, Public Places Brendan Hughes Oren Safdie
2004 The Three Sillies Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2004 To My Chagrin Peggy Shaw Peggy Shaw
2005 Bug Jeff Zinn Tracy Letts
2005 Hazard County Daisy Walker Allison Moore
2005 McReele Benny Sato Stephen Belber
2005 Mercy on the Doorstep Gip Hoppe Gip Hoppe
2005 Public Exposure Gip Hoppe Robert Reich
2005 Pugilist Specialist Wesley Savick Adriano Shaplin
2005 The Dream Express Len Jenkins Len Jenkins
2005 The Lovers (The Lover and Ashes to Ashes) Rick Lombardo Harold Pinter
2005 The Very Sad Tale of the Late Mr. Stiltskin Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2006 Candy & Dorothy Kevin Newbury David Johnston
2006 Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun Neal Huff Bradley Rand Smith
2006 Jonathan Katz-Live! Jonathan Katz Johnathan Katz
2006 On an Average Day Jeff Zinn John Kolvenbach
2006 Red Light Winter Rand Forester Adam Rapp
2006 Romance Jim Frangione David Mamet
2006 Shakespeare’s Actresses in America Rebekah Maggor Rebekah Maggor
2006 The Captain’s Doll Jeff Zinn D. H. Lawrence
2006 The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow Brendan Hughes Rolin Jones
2006 Xenia Hedgehog’s Academy of Etiquitte for Naughty Boys and Girls: Nine Convenient and Easy Lessons Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2007 American Buffalo Evan Bergman David Mamet
2007 Daisy Crockett, Frontiersperson! Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2007 Dark Yellow Jef Hall-Flavin Julia Jordan
2007 Hunter Gatherers Gip Hoppe Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
2007 Indian Blood Tom Gladwell A.R. Gurney
2007 Love Song Jeff Zinn John Kolvenbach
2007 Mojo Mark Wilkinson Jez Butterworth
2007 School for Wives (L’Ecole des Femmes) Eric Powell Holm Molière
2007 The Clean House Jeff Zinn Sarah Ruhl
2007 What Then Rand Forester Rinne Groff
2008 Fabuloso John Kolvenbach John Kolvenbach
2008 Fool of the World and the Flying Ship Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2008 Intimate Apparel Jeff Zinn Lynn Nottage
2008 Last Train to Nibroc Stephen Russell Arlene Hutton
2008 Ride Daisy Walker Eric Lane
2008 Sexual Perversity in Chicago Brendan Hughes David Mamet
2008 Shining City Jeff Zinn Conor McPherson
2008 Shortstack Brendan Hughes Rolin Jones
2008 The George Place Gary Shrader David Johnston
2008 The Mistakes Madeline Made Brendan Hughes Elizabeth Meriwether
2008 The Pillowman Jeff Zinn Martin McDonagh
2008 Triumph of Love Jason Bohon Marivaux
2008 What the Butler Saw David Wheeler Joe Orton
2009 Death By Chocolate Mike Dorval Mike Dorval
2009 Laughing Wild Brendan Hughes Christopher Durang
2009 Noises Off John Hancock Michael Frayn
2009 Puss in Boots: The Astonishing Adventures of Ocelott Ugg Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2009 Speech and Debate Brendan Hughes Stephen Karam
2009 The Bald Soprano Brendan Hughes Eugene Ionesco
2009 The Blue Room Richard Hamburger David Hare
2009 The Happy Oyster Spectacular Show David Kennedy David Kennedy
2009 The Little Dog Laughed Daisy Walker Douglas Carter Beane
2009 The Mystery of Irma Vep Todd Olson Charles Ludlam
2010 Born Yesterday Dan Lombardo Garison Kanin
2010 Colorado Brendan Hughes Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
2010 Cyrano Brendan Hughes Jo Reets (adaptation)
2010 Danny Casolaro Died for You Jeff Zinn Dominic Orlando
2010 Daughter of Venus Jeff Zinn Howard Zinn
2010 Dead Ringer Brendan Hughes Gino DiIorio
2010 In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play Jeff Zinn Sarah Ruhl
2010 Robin Hood or Marian of Sherwood Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2010 The Storytelling Ability of a Boy Robert Kropf Carter W. Lewis
2010 Tingle! Starring Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle Jimmy Tingle
2010 Promise John Tillinger James B Murphy II
2011 A Behanding in Spokane Jeff Zinn Martin McDonagh
2011 Bakersfield Mist Jeff Zinn Stephen Sachs
2011 Body Awareness Robert Kropf Annie Baker
2011 Boeing Boeing Dan Lombardo Mark Camoletti
2011 Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes Robert Kropf Yussef El Guindi
2011 Neighborhood3: Requisition of Doom Jesse Jou Jennifer Haley
2011 An Ideal Husband Todd Olson Oscar Wilde
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 Hysteria, or Fragments of an Analysis of an Obsessional Neurosis Todd Olson Terry Johnson
2012 Oblomov Daisy Walker Ivan Goncharv
2012 References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot Dan Lombardo Jose Rivera
2012 Saving Kitty Rand Forester Marisa Smith
2012 Sleeping Beauty (La Belle Au Bois Dormant) Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2012 The Consequences (A Musical) Kel Haney Kyle Jarrow
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
2013 One Slight Hitch Joe Grifasi Lewis Black
2013 Six Characters in Search of an Author Dan Lombardo Luigi Pirandello
2013 The 39 Steps Ted Vitale Patrick Barlow
2013 Utility Monster Dan Lombardo Marina Keegan
2014 The Hound of the Baskervilles Stephen Russell Steven Canny and John Nicholson (adaptation)
2014 The Trials of Gertrude Moody Jef Hall-Flavin Kimberly Burke
2014 I Am A Camera Caitlin Langstaff John Van Druten
2014 The Fabulous Lipitones John Markus John Markus and Mark St. Germain
2014 Period of Adjustment Michael Unger Tennessee Williams
2014 The Surfside Snoops and the Ghost of Great Island Stephen Russell Stephen Russell
2015 Seminar Christine Toy Johnson Theresa Rebeck
2015 Moby-Dick Christopher Ostrom James Armstrong
2015 Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill Stephen Nachamie Lanie Robertson
2015 Time Stands Still Michael Unger Donald Margulies
2015 Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story Jeffry George Stephen Dolginoff
2015 The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship Stephen Russell Stephen Russell