Federal Theater Project

FTM

Federal Theater Movement

Parker Burningham

 

The Federal Theater Project was a “New Deal” project in the 1930’s to try to keep theatre and other forms of performance based as well as visual arts in the United States during the great depression.  The government’s main focus in implementing this movement was to employ out of work actors, directors, writers, and other performing artists.  The government did have a second aim that would be a direct cause of employing the out of work artists.  The second aim was to help entertain and motivate poor and out of work families during the hard time that was the great depression.  Though the Federal Theater Project was successful in its two aims for the duration of the great depression, looking back from the perspective of our generation, it was successful in two main things other than the two the government sent out to accomplish.  The Federal Theater Project was successful in starting a larger well known community of African American Theater in the United States, and launching the careers of many great and well known theater artists.

The Federal Theater Project launched the Negro Theater Project.  This program helped to employ African American Actors, writers, directors, and other professions in the theater for African Americans.  The largest section of the movement was in New York City at The Lafayette Theater.  This section of the movement was responsible for over thirty productions including an adaption of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with an all-African American cast.  This production was directed by Orson Welles.  This is just one of the many shows that came as a result of the Federal Theater Project and the Negro Theater Project.  Many other great shows came out of states like Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Seattle, New York, and Chicago.

The Federal Theater Project launched the careers of many of our nation’s greatest writers, directors, actors, and other theater careers.  Some of the large names included Arthur Miller who wrote many great works such as The Crucible, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman.  Orson Welles, who is responsible for many great directing credits and acting accomplishments.  Orson Welles is also most well-known for his War of the Worlds project that came as a result of The Federal Theater Project.

As you can see the Federal Theater Project is responsible for many of our nation’s greatest artists in the theatre.  As well as starting a piece of theatre that had not been notable before this point.  The Federal Theater Movement was cut on June, 30th 1939 due to political debates saying things along the lines of “The Federal Theater Movement is too left-wing for its own good”.   Though it was cut short after a very short run, The Federal Theater Movement did fund many great artists, launched the careers of many great artists, and gave our country more of a base on the launching pad to more notable artistic accomplishments from our country.

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