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Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a…
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Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art…

by Susan Quinn

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A history of the Federal Theatre Project of the 1930s. As with most funding of the arts, this project was viewed as wasteful and not producing anything of merit. It was also charged with being overrun with Communists, a common charge against federal projects throughout the 20th century. While costing only about 1% of the WPA budget, this program became the target for Congress to get a wedge into the New Deal. The fact that much of the theatre was experimental didn't help the project. The most prominent criticism of the program, however, was the integration of black and white actors and a black and white audience sitting together. In this pre-Civil Rights world, they didn't even find it necessary to blanket much of the racism, though Communism did seem to be a popular stand in for racism, since the conclusions drawn by Congress seem to be that the integration proves the Communism. A well written book, easy to read, and important. It isn't just a slice of history; much of what is discussed in here continues to be repeated today in efforts to censor art, and in efforts to cut funding for anything that benefits the less wealthy. ( )
  Devil_llama | Sep 30, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802716989, Hardcover)

A vivid portrait of the turbulent 1930s and the Roosevelt administration as seen through the WPA’s Federal Theater Project.
Under the direction of a five-foot redheaded firecracker, Hallie Flanagan, the Federal Theater Project managed to turn a WPA relief program into a platform for some of the most inventive and cutting-edge theater of its time. This daring experiment by the U.S. government in support of the arts electrified audiences with exciting, controversial productions. Plays like Voodoo Macbeth and The Cradle Will Rock stirred up politicians by defying segregation and putting the spotlight on social injustice, and the FT P starred some of the greatest figures in twentieth-century American arts—including Orson Welles, John Houseman, and Sinclair Lewis. Susan Quinn brings to life the politics of this desperate era when FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the chain-smoking idealist Harry Hopkins furiously improvised programs to get millions of hungry, unemployed people back to work. Quinn’s compelling story of politics and idealism reaches a dramatic climax with the rise of Martin Dies and the House Un-American Activities Committee, which turned the FTP into the first victim of a Red scare that would roil the nation for the next twenty years.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The Federal Theater Project managed to turn a WPA relief program into a platform for some of the most inventive and cutting-edge theater of its time. This daring experiment in government support of the arts electrified audiences with exciting, controversial productions. Its plays stirred up politicians by putting the spotlight on social injustice, and starred some of the greatest figures in twentieth-century American arts, including Orson Welles, John Houseman, and Sinclair Lewis. Susan Quinn brings to life the politics of this desperate era when FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and chain-smoking idealist Harry Hopkins furiously improvised programs to get millions of hungry, unemployed people back to work. Quinn's compelling story of politics and idealism reaches a climax with the rise of Martin Dies and the House Un-American Activities Committee, which turned the FTP into the first victim of a Red scare that would roil the nation for the next twenty years.--From publisher description.… (more)

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