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Voices from the Federal Theatre
Schwartz, Bonnie Nelson.
Adult Nonfiction PN2270.F43 S38 2003

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Schwartz, an accomplished Broadway stage, film and television producer, examines the Federal Theatre, a Depression relief experiment of the Roosevelt administration, and its widespread influence on American arts and culture. Opening with an informative foreword by Robert Brustein, founding director of the Yale Repertory and American Repertory Theatres, the book follows the project's 1935 origins under the directorship of Hallie Flanagan with a series of dramas, musicals and vaudeville, to its 1939 demise, a result of the work of Rep. Martin Dies's congressional House Un-American Activities Committee. Schwartz shares interviews with former Federal Theatre actors, playwrights, directors, designers, producers, variety artists and dancers to present a distilled look at a creative peak in American culture, when the project employed over 13,000 jobless creative people in the arts, producing a continual series of innovative plays and other entertainment throughout the country. The book's strength emerges in these interviews, where Federal Theatre alumni such as actor Norman Lloyd, writer Studs Terkel, director Jules Dassin, producer John Houseman and playwrights Arthur Miller and Woodie King Jr. speak candidly of the cultural climate of that time. The theater project, though supposedly free of political influence, confronted a number of social issues in its productions and opened new horizons for black performers during the Jim Crow era. Although some of the interviews lack substance and depth by not addressing any of the shortcomings that opened the door for the theater's extinction, this is a fine survey of an important, though brief, project in American history. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

From Library Journal:

Spawned by the Works Progress Administration as a means of employing more than 20,000 theater artists during the Great Depression, the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), alive for only four short years, 1935-39, irrevocably changed our ideas about theater and the role of government in art. In collaboration with the Educational Film Center, Schwartz produced the PBS special Who Killed the Federal Theatre?: An Investigation, which airs this fall; this is the print tie-in. The five-part text is made up of oral history-like interviews with 18 individuals who worked in the FTP, including actors, producers, writers, variety artists, and others. There are wonderful reminiscences, insights, and anecdotes from luminaries such as Arthur Miller, John Houseman, Studs Terkel, and Clinton Turner Davis. Introduced by eminent theater scholar and critic Robert Brustein, this book also features delightful production stills, and the hardcover edition will come with the program DVD (not seen). The FTP was the first theater experience to be officially funded and sanctioned by the government, a radical experiment that did for theater what the printing press did for education-it brought people together. As a seminal (and readable!) work on the FTP, this is highly recommended for all performing arts collections.-Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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