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Federal Theatre Project

Online Materials | Special Collections | Educational Resources | Selected Bibliography

dr faustus costume
Costume Design from New York production of Dr. Faustus
(Orson Welles, 1/8/1937 #1060 (front)). Finding Aid Box 1103.
Music Division, Library of Congress

The Federal Theatre Project (FTP) (1935-39), was created to provide work for unemployed actors and other theater professionals. The FTP was administered by the WPA as part of Federal Project Number One-a group of four culturally-oriented work relief projects, which also included the Federal Art Project, the Federal Music Project, and the Federal Writers' Project. The FTP's Director, Hallie Flanagan, was a theater director and educator, who believed that the FTP could serve as a national cultural resource--a national theater--to reach new and diverse audiences and serve as a force for social change. More...

Online Materials

American Treasures: Federal Theatre
A brief online exhibit containing images relating to the Federal Theatre Project.

By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943
This collection consists of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. The collection contains over a hundred posters related to Federal Theatre Project sponsored productions. To find these posters, select Browse by Creators:Federal Theatre Project (U.S.), sponsor and select the "Gallery View" button to view thumbnail images of the search results.

New Deal Stage: Selections from the Federal Theatre Project
This online presentation includes over 13,000 images of items selected from the Federal Theatre Project Collection at the Library of Congress. Featured here are stage and costume designs, still photographs, posters, and scripts for productions of Macbeth and The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus as staged by Orson Welles, and for Power, a topical drama of the period (over 3,000 images). Also included are 68 other playscripts (6,500 images) and 168 documents selected from the Federal Theatre Project Administrative Records (3,700 images).
[Please note: This collection is not currently searchable, although it may be browsed].

Special Collections

Library of Congress

The Federal Theatre Project Collection (Finding Aid), housed in the Library of Congress' Performing Arts Reading Room, contains correspondence, memoranda, play and radio scripts, reports, research studies, manuals, publications, bulletins, forms, lists, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, charts, costume and set designs, blueprints, posters, addressograph plates, photographs, negatives, slides, playbills, and other records documenting the role of the Federal Theatre Project in laying the groundwork during the New Deal years for much innovation in the theater.

Link disclaimerExternal Collections

Educational Resources/Guides

Collection Connections: The New Deal Stage

Today in History (April 8): Works Progress Administration
On April 8, 1935, Congress approved the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Today in History (July 25) Macbeth
A brief feature on Orson Welles production of Macbeth for the Federal Theatre Project.

Selected Bibliography

Bentley, Joanne. Hallie Flanagan: A Life in the American Theatre. 1st ed. New York: Knopf, 1988.

Brown, Lorraine, and John O’Connor, eds. Free, Adult, Uncensored: The Living History of the Federal Theatre Project. Washington: New Republic Books, 1978.

De Hart, Jane Sherron. The Federal Theatre, 1935-1939; Plays, Relief, and Politics. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Flanagan, Hallie. Arena, The History of the Federal Theatre. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940.

Fraden, Rena. Blueprints for a Black Federal Theatre, 1935-1939. Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Melosh, Barbara. Engendering Culture: Manhood and Womanhood in New Deal Public Art and Theater. New Directions in American Art. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

Witham, Barry. The Federal Theatre Project: A Case Study. Cambridge Studies in American Theatre and Drama. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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  April 10, 2013
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