by Steve Desroches
Alice Ripley offers a huge congratulations to Provincetown. The Tony-Award-winning actress just returned from an audition, and her mind is swirling with creative energy fueled by the passion for live performance and the theater. She’s performed on some of the biggest and most important stages in America, from the Booth Theatre, where she starred in the Broadway production of Next to Normal, nabbing her a Tony, to the Richard Rogers Theatre, where she and Emily Skinner wowed audiences as the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in Side Show, earing a shared Tony nomination, and Radio City Music Hall, which seats over 6,000 people. But Broadway is built on a foundation of smaller stages across the country, including the Art House, where Ripley will be this weekend presenting her Broadway meets rock and roll show Ripley Prescription: Songs To Heal A Soul. So when she heard that the two stages at the Art House will not only be saved, but that by 2020 the venue will be enhanced as a performance space, she was thrilled.
“You invest in what you think is important about Provincetown,” says Ripley. “I approve. It’s worth investing in and it’s worth saving and expanding on. That level of theater, the black box, intimate and small, is vitally important.”
Her affection for Provincetown and its role in the arts goes beyond just the stages at the Art House, as she sees the town itself as a veritable performing arts festival, allowing performers of all stripes and achievements an opportunity to take chances. The town’s art and theater legacy is palpable, she says. And its heritage is not just worthy of preservation for entertainment’s sake, but because it helps contribute to a much larger cause. It can be too easy to take for granted Provincetown’s continued influence in the arts. The loss of a stage anywhere is always sad, but in Provincetown, it’s devastating, and the effects are felt beyond just the Cape’s tip, as is evident by the fact that the news about the Art House continues to circulate throughout New York’s theater community and beyond.
Ripley is no stranger to Provincetown, having performed at the Art House several times before. Having a place like Provincetown is invaluable, says Ripley, as audiences here are so supportive, allowing artists to take risks. This Labor Day Weekend Ripley’s show features her singing and playing drums accompanied by Brad Simmons on piano as she performs songs from Broadway shows like Sunset Boulevard, Next to Normal, and The Who’s Tommy, as well as covers of Rufus Wainwright and Fleetwood Mac tunes and a few originals, too. She’s felt the Provincetown magic, saying it’s a town that feels so “happy,” which she surmises comes from the town’s culture of allowing people to be themselves. It’s a place she visits when she can, even when not performing, as her good friend from back at West Carrollton High School outside of Dayton, Ohio, David Heckert has a home here.
“He was one of my first boyfriends,” says Ripley. “Now he’s married to a wonderful man named Fred.”
Ripley’s ties to Provincetown go beyond childhood friends as the pipeline between here and New York, opened up by Charles Hawthorne when he founded the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899, and then expanded by the Provincetown Players about 15 years later, flows to this day. She was reminded of this symbiotic relationship about five or six years ago as she was walking down Commercial Street and bumped into Lea DeLaria, her pal from the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show, in which Ripley played Janet and DeLaria Eddie and Dr. Scott. Shortly thereafter, Michael Greif, the director of the Broadway productions of Rent, Grey Gardens, Next to Normal, and Dear Evan Hansen, rode by on his bicycle, stopping for a chat. It’s all evidence that the New York theatrical community is here in Provincetown, not only influencing the town, but vice versa.
Be it as an actor on the stages of Broadway, on Netflix in the sitcom #GIRLBOSS, or as a singer-songwriter, Ripley is universally celebrated for her talents and depth of performance. As she speaks, her love of the theater scatters into pure joy. No matter the stage and no matter the town, Ripley finds “theater people” the same wherever she goes, and that’s a good thing, she says. It’s what makes the theater so important, as from the actors to the crew to the audiences, everyone there is united by a love for the theater and performance. It’s that intense energy that penetrates the heart, whether you’re sitting in the Art House or the New Amsterdam Theatre. It’s also what feeds an actor and gives them a safe space to be vulnerable and dive deep inside to fully realize a character and create the magic people come to feel is a shared experience, when done right.
“Taking responsibility for where you are, for yourself, and saying, ‘what can I do with this,’” says Ripley about life as an artist. “Making something beautiful out of something ugly, as long as it’s beautiful to you. It’s the expression that matters. Everything I do comes from the inside out. It’s worth the examination into what it takes to create.”
Alice Ripley presents Ripley Prescription: Songs To Heal A Soul at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., Provincetown, on Saturday, September 1 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, September 2 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets ($50/$75/$100) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.