In November 1637, Anne Hutchinson, pregnant with her 16th child, stood before an assemblage of 40 male judges. She was on trial — at the behest of Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop — for espousing her at-the-time scandalous view that a person could use her intuition to reach God, rather than having to rely on the clergy for divine communication.
For two days, Hutchinson held her own in front of the court, weaving together theological, philosophical, and political arguments to defend herself.
She got a little carried away, though. During her final argument, she told the court about a revelation she had received and prophesized that God would soon destroy the colony of Massachusetts and the lives of its people. They had it coming, she seemed to imply.
At that, Winthrop decided, for the safety of everyone in the colony, Hutchinson and her family must be banished and, as if branding her with a scarlet letter, pointed his finger and deemed her “this American Jezebel.” (The Jezebel of the Bible was reviled as a false prophet.) She was placed under a month-long house arrest before being exiled to Rhode Island.
Well, sorry Johnny boy, but Hutchinson is back. Why, you might ask, has she chosen now — 384 years later — to make her return? She believes it’s high time to “adjust the story Provincetown has chosen to tell about itself” and is serving up historical tours to the curious and dubious alike. Visiting historical sites on and off Commercial Street, she first presents the account that has become popularized, then the heretic’s version.
You can find Hutchinson, portrayed by Brent Thomas, wandering around town with generously applied eyeshadow that looks like ashes retrieved from a colonial hearth. She’ll be in a bonnet and ample corset and, if Covid numbers are low, wearing cherry red lipstick. If they’re high, as in these trying times, she’ll be in a bejeweled face mask.
“I really love historical accuracy, as you can tell from all the sequins,” Hutchinson tells my tour group as she fluffs up her skirt, which looks less like something from the 1600s and more like something that would go with Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
Hutchinson’s tour begins at the Bas Relief Park, right underneath the Pilgrim Monument. She tells us that the park was taken by eminent domain, that is, the instrument through which the government can expropriate private property for public use, with payment. Buildings that used to sit on the park land were demolished.
“What a historically accurate way to celebrate European arrival on these shores: taking land that’s not yours,” says Hutchinson.
She then points up at the phallic obelisk on the hill, rolls her eyes, and deems it “a huge overcompensation.” Hutchinson is skeptical of the motives behind the Pilgrim Monument — the way that it seems to cement Provincetown’s status as a perennially Anglo-American place, when, of course, that’s not the case at all, and this land used to be inhabited by Native Americans. (Five percent of the profits from Hutchinson’s tour go to benefit, among other causes, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.)
Hutchinson’s account is notable not just because of its zingers and dirty jokes but also because of the pointedness of Hutchinson’s politics. She is resolutely anti-capitalist and sees many of Provincetown’s problems — past and present — through this prism. She walks by a mansion on Commercial Street and notes that the shutters are painted “asphyxiation-of-the-working-class purple.”
Hutchinson’s tour, just under an hour long, ends with a discussion of Provincetown’s artistic roots. She speaks admiringly of Mary Heaton Vorse, a journalist who supported the Provincetown Players in the early 20th century, beginning the town’s illustrious theatrical history. As she discusses Vorse’s reporting, she points to a storefront window full of T-shirts expressing different political views, and says, through a disgruntled sigh, “See, everyone has an opinion.”
“That’s why we need journalists (like Vorse) — because they’re like medicine for society,” Hutchinson continues. “They organize everything.” In a way, so does Hutchinson’s investigative tour into Provincetown’s history.
The Week Ahead in Provincetown Drag
The Art House
Ginger Minj, Wed. at 9 p.m., $40
Crown & Anchor
Varla Jean Merman, “Little Prick,” Thurs.-Sat. & Tues.-Wed. at 9 p.m., $49
Dina Martina, “Chariots of Failure,” Thurs.-Sun. & Wed. at 7:30 p.m., $44
Thirsty Burlington, “One Night Only With Cher,” Mon. at 7:30 p.m., $39
Uptown Girls, “Illusions,” Sat.-Mon. at 6 p.m., $39
Ryan Landry’s “Showgirls,” Mon. at 9 p.m., $30 (tickets available for purchase at House of LaRue, 244 Commercial St.)
Drag Brunch, Sun. at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., $15
Paige Turner, “Joy Ride,” Thurs.-Sat. & Wed. at 7:30 p.m., $30-40
Miss Richfield 1981, “40 Years on the Throne,” Thurs.-Sat. & Mon.-Wed. at 9 p.m., $30-40
“The Immaculate Miss Conception,” Tues. at 6 p.m., $30-40
Post Office Café and Cabaret
“The Anita Cocktail Variety Hour,” Fri.-Sat. at 8:30 p.m., $35
Provincetown Brewing Co.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars viewing party with Mackenzie and Austin, Thurs. at 7 p.m.
Red Room at Velvet
Jimmy James, “Love Is in the Air,” Sun. at 8:30 p.m., Tues.-Wed. at 7:30 p.m.