by Steve Desroches

   On her first visit to Provincetown some years ago, Tyne Daly was walking along the harbor beach with her friend and fellow actor Gail Strickland when they bumped into another friend, Pulitzer and Tony-Award-winning playwright and actor Michael Cristofer. Daly and Cristofer had worked together throughout their respective careers. Daly starred in the 1978 Cristofer play Black Angel portraying the wife of a Nazi war criminal and the two would co-star in films like The Entertainer as well as reuniting on stage in Mrs. Warren’s Profession and the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. This impromptu reunion on the beach in Provincetown is testament to the idea that creative community is a constant in this town as well as the gravitational pull of the art colony in all its forms. That artistic tide brings Daly back to Provincetown this Labor Day Weekend for a fundraiser for the Provincetown Arts Society in the renovated Kibbe Cook House and longtime home of journalist and writer Mary Heaton Vorse, where Daly and Strickland will join a cast for a reading of Susan Glaspell’s one-act play Trifles.

 As an actor Daly is much celebrated and honored, winning a Tony award for her performance as Mama Rose in the 1990 revival of Gypsy, six Emmy awards for her work on television, with four of them for her work on the mega hit show Cagney and Lacey, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her body of work is a marvel to many. But for Daly it’s the writers that have her in awe. She can’t image the panic induced by the blank page or the blinking cursor. Without writers we’re nothing, says Daly, and she means that beyond just her craft. And at the moment she’s bathing in the words written in Provincetown with a stack of books on her night stand as she studies the Cape tip to better understand its history, community, and culture with titles like Henry Beston’s The Outermost House and Vorse’s Provincetown classic Time and the Town. But she’s also of course enmeshed in the text of Trifles, a one-act play that is considered to be an important piece of American theater as well as a landmark text of first wave feminism. Be it then or now, writers are at the heart of our culture, that’s what makes the Writer’s Guild of American strike, and the concurrent SAG-AFTRA strike so important.

“I’ve been an actor for 62, 63 years, and the first question is always let me see the script,” says Daly from her home in California. “It begins with the words. I’ve lived in Los Angeles a long time, and what is going on here is much like the strikes of the past, which I participated in. It’s about respect. Respect. Respect. Respect. The work of a writer, and actor, is worth more than their bottom line. It’s about respect for workers. Workers they’d like to replace with AI. They’d like to get rid of workers.”

Indeed, corporate greed and technological advancements cannot compete with artistic revolutions, as is evident by the reading of Trifles, a play first performed at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown in August of 1916. The Provincetown Players, founded here in 1915, forever changed the trajectory of American theater by giving it an independent voice. And Glaspell, who founded the theatrical troupe with her husband George Cram Cook, shook the theater world with Trifles, which explored the lives of women and how they are lived in front of men and how women behave amongst themselves. Loosely based on a true story, Trifles features a woman who is accused of murdering her husband while three men – the sheriff, the county attorney, and a neighbor – search the house, Mrs. Peters, the sheriff’s wife and Mrs. Hale, a neighbor, the roles to be read by Daly and Strickland, survey the house for themselves and come up with a narrative based on observations the men ignore, or cannot see as being men they are unfamiliar with the lives of women. The rest of the cast of the reading includes Scott Cunningham, Leland Fowler, and Joe MacDougal and it is directed by Kevin Hourigan. It’s a chance to celebrate together as Daly says her word for the 21st century is “remote.” Everything feels remote. But theater can bring us together.

“This is my dream job,” says Daly. “It’s my dream to bring life to the work of writers. It’s a tough dollar if you know what I mean. I’m just in awe of writers. I can’t imagine doing what they do. But I am a reader and I love the written word. And I hope people come prepared to listen.”

Expanding on her love for the work of writers, Daly will also be reading the poetry of the late Tony Hoagland in an event this Sunday. Daly met Hoagland, a former fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center, at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2008 when she, former United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, and Hoagland all laid in the grass to star gaze in the Rocky Mountains and discuss life. From then on Daly fell in love with Hoagland’s, and Ryan’s, work.

“Tony’s work is just wow,” says Daly. “Wow. My goal is to get everyone to leave the reading and go down to the bookstore and buy as many of his books as they can find.”

The Provincetown Arts Society presents a reading of Susan Glaspell’s Trifles at the Mary Heaton Vorse House, 466 Commercial St., Provincetown, on Friday, September 1 and Saturday, September 2. The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($250) are available at provincetownartssociety.org for this fundraiser for the Provincetown Arts Society. Daly will read the poetry of Tony Hoagland at the Vorse House on Sunday, September 3 at 6 p.m. Tickets ($50) are also available at provincetownartssociety.org.

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