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Furious improvisation : how the WPA and a cast of thousands made high art out of
Susan Quinn
Adult Nonfiction PN2270.F43 Q56 2008

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Quinn (Marie Curie) does a superb job of recounting the rise and fall of the Federal Theatre Project, a wing of FDR's WPA meant to employ playwrights and actors while providing diversion and inspiration for Depression-ravaged Americans. Quinn shows how, under the management of the irrepressible Hallie Flanagan, the left-leaning FTP facilitated such controversial masterpieces as Triple-A Plowed Under and The Cradle Will Rock while unintentionally setting the stage for the House Un-American Activities Committee and much of the red-baiting and blacklisting of the 1940s and '50s. The Daily Worker applauded FTP projects such as a dramatization of Sinclair Lewis's antifascist novel, It Can't Happen Here. Among the actors, directors and writers sponsored by the program were John Houseman, Orson Welles, Will Geer and Meyer Levin. Experimentation thrived: Welles oversaw an all-black production of a "voodoo" version of Macbeth that played Broadway and toured nationwide. All of this Quinn describes eloquently and artfully, summoning a not-so-distant time when a nation bled and great artists rushed as healers into the countryside. B&w photos. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

When Hallie Flanagan became the director of the WPA's Federal Theatre Project (FTP), no one imagined that she would use a federal relief program to offer some of the most cutting-edge and inventive theater seen on the American stage. Quinn, author of two outstanding biographies (Marie Curie; A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney), focuses on the Roosevelt administration and the Depression, spotlighting one of the most compelling periods of American theater. Orson Welles, John Houseman, Sinclair Lewis, and others brought to audiences such controversial productions as The Cradle Will Rock and an all-black production of Macbeth for the residents of Harlem. Quinn's well-written narrative is both fascinating and frightening as politics and idealism come to metaphorical blows with the rise of Martin Dies. Under his leadership, the House Un-American Activities Committee made the FTP the first victim of the Red Scare; in 1939, Congress and a reluctant President Roosevelt eliminated funding for the FTP and other WPA programs. Recommended for all large public libraries and all academic libraries. (Index not seen.)--Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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