The Federal Theater Project

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Millions of people across the country roamed the streets in search of jobs, hoping to find some way to get the money they needed to feed their families. The Great Depression in the United States during the 1930s affected not only those who worked in jobs requiring physical labor, but those involved with theatre and the arts as well. The Federal Theatre Project was one of the Works Progress Administration (WPA)'s projects that was created to help deal with the economic turmoil caused by the Great Depression. Thousands of artists, whether it was in the form of writing, music, or performing arts, were put out of work. The Federal Arts projects were created to reinstate jobs for unemployed artists as well as create displays of art for the public. "The Federal Theatre Project, directed by the former head of the Vassar College Experimental Theatre, Hallie Flanagan, was the most important, the most controversial, and hence, the shortest-lived of the Federal One Projects" (Gerdes, 155). Though the Federal Theatre Project caused a large amount of controversy among people in America, it was very important because during its short life it supplied jobs for many people working in the arts and it brought free theatre to America.

By 1935, there were almost fifteen million unemployed people in the United States, about forty thousand of those being people who were formerly employed in theatre. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps was created to give urban men jobs doing hard physical labor such as building roads or buildings. The WPA created the Federal One Projects, or Federal Arts Projects, in order to create job opportunities for those involved with art instead of physical work. The Federal Theatre Project was one of the larger of the pro...

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...ts have been brought to millions of American citizens of the economic system generally described as ‘underprivileged'" (Burg, 296). Though it was very short-lived, the Federal Theatre Project was helpful to thousands of Americans during the 1930s. To those involved in theatre, it was able to give the unemployed jobs and for those who were not involved in theatre, it was a wonderful form of public entertainment that helped boost American morale during the Great Depression. The Negro Theatre Project gave black Americans an equal opportunity in theatre as well. Though Living Newspapers caused conflicts, they were still a good way to combine the powers of entertainment and enlightenment for the public. Even if it was a very controversial project, the Federal Theatre Project had a large impact on society in the 1930s and was the most important of the Federal Arts Projects.

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