Our Lady of Provincetown

By Pappas, Denise Doherty | The Mailer Review, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Our Lady of Provincetown


Pappas, Denise Doherty, The Mailer Review


"People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did.

But they will NEVER forget how you made them feel."

--From an anonymous church bulletin, Elyria, Ohio

"Norris will be joining us today" a board member whispered to me as we sat in the deconsecrated auto body shop on Bradford St. This comment was made before my first meeting of the Board of the Provincetown Repertory Theatre the summer of 2002. I had no idea who Norris was, except, of course, that she was THE WIFE of literary lion Norman Mailer. Arriving late, Norris slipped quietly into a folding chair, making greeting gestures to a few.

Instantly, I recognized how everyone in the group--myself included--was excited to see her, to be granted her blessing, her expertise. I saw everyone purposely avoided looking at her for too long, lest we embarrass her and ourselves. She was so elegant and yet so real, a soothing voice coupled with "can do" answers.

That year, the Repertory board's mission was to raise funds to establish a permanent theater in Provincetown. Transforming a car shop into a state of the art theater required many resources. Ever generous with their time and talents, Norris and Norman and Mike Lennon and Gore Vidal entertained us with their town hall performance fundraiser of Don Juan in Hell on Oct. 12, 2002. Post play, there was a large party at the Mailer's East End home. Pinching ourselves, we invitees walked taller, stood straighter, and were at our party best entering their Commercial Street celebration. Norris greeted every single guest as the front door. She had the charm and grace to make each of us feel A-listed: treasured, important, entertained.

With her longtime friend Lynda Sturner, the Artistic Director of the new venue, Norris engineered an inaugural performance for the Bradford Street building's opening night. …

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