"Provincetown was the birthplace of American theatre. That sounds great on paper, but no one has really taken up that battle cry," Quinn told Playbill.com. Now in its fifth year, Afterglow has invited a wide array of artists, including original co-founder John Cameron Mitchell, Justin Vivian Bond, Bridget Everett, James Lecesne, Joseph Keckler, Amber Martin, Dan Fishback and Molly Pope, to pack their bags and head to the tip of Cape Cod to get inspired and work on daring new material.
"The festival has expanded to 17 shows in 7 days," said Cox. "Not only are we bringing people to Provincetown, we are working to bring our brand of artists to Boston and even making forays into Europe. Our goal is to stamp the town's name on these things to hit the fact home that the modern American stage was Provincetown."
Cox's concern is that while Provincetown's fine arts heritage has remained intact – the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown welcomes visual artists and writers year-round – the town's theatrical mission has become seasonally focused, catering to summer tourists keen to see comedians and high-profile stars from Broadway in concert.
This lucrative summer programming is what allows Afterglow to present its daring and under-the-radar performers at the Crown and Anchor in mid-September, but its week-long season is brief.
"It's not like it was 50 years ago, where you can just wash ashore and say, 'Hi! Is there a stage I can work out this play on?' Today, people are like, 'No, no no! Audra McDonald's using it!,'" Cox laughed. "But we want to contribute to the town culturally and commercially." While the focus has been on small-scale, solo plays, "we couldn't start with a cast of thousands," Cox explained. Afterglow is grooming itself to expand into a larger, year-round operation. There's already a dream of hanging the "Glow Theatre" shingle permanently in Provincetown, and Cox has tapped Tony Kushner and Doug Wright to sign on as advisors.
The key will be major fundraising and donors willing to support a theatrical institution that will provide a residency where playwrights and theatre artists can create, perfect and stage new works before they go out into the world. "In the dead of winter I think this could be the theatre equivalent of Park City, UT, or like one big Donmar Warehouse," he said.
"I get letters from all over from people who want to be part of it, but we have to be able to afford to get them here. That's the thing, we cover all the costs. We pay to get them here, to house them, to feed them. This is meant to elevate their spirit, too. The artists come first. I raise money for this, we treat you like gold, so you can spend the days creating and interacting with other artists," Cox said.
Cox invokes an era when Provincetown was a mecca for Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams to premiere their plays. "They were radical," Cox reflected, mentioning that just a few years ago John Cameron Mitchell was testing out material for his Hedwig sequel in the same town. "The spirit of Provincetown, theatrically, is progressive and modern. So in order to really and truly take that on, you have to be continually creating new works."
Before it fades into the sunset, Afterglow still has a host of offerings in store. You can catch Molly Pope, Matt Ray and Morgan Bassichis (Sept. 18), Nora Burns (Sept. 19) and Fauxnique (Sept. 20).