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Photographic Print from New York production of Macbeth, 1936

[Detail] Photographic Print from New York production of Macbeth, 1936

5) Advertising

The playbills and posters from the Federal Theatre Project provide insights into how the theatres advertised their productions and their patrons. The playbill from the Hartford production of Macbeth features a full-page ad promoting the selling power of “Times Want Ads” while the Atlanta production of Dr. Faustus includes spots for a loan company, a sign painter, and an exterminator. The playbill for the New York production of Dr. Faustus, on the other hand, features ads for other productions such as The Show Off and Power, and for WPA publications such as the Federal Theatre Magazine, and the Almanac for New Yorkers, which was written by the Federal Writers’ Project.

  • How much of the program does the FTP reserve for advertisements?
  • How do the ads compare to the rest of the content in the playbills?
  • Why might the playbills advertise other FTP productions?

Theatrical posters from Federal Theatre Project productions of Power in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco embrace the technological influences of modernism with angular lines, bright colors, and allusions to machinery. These pieces can be compared to the works featured in the Poster Gallery that accompany Carol Strickland’s discussion of the Federal Art Project in her article “Posters for the People” (one of four illustrated articles in this collection’s Special Presentation). Additional images are available by browsing Theatrical productions in the Subject Index of the Posters: WPA Posters collection.

  • What types of colors, fonts, and images are used in these posters?
  • How do the Power posters compare to the pieces in the Poster Gallery?
  • How do they compare to other theatrical posters?
  • Why is it effective to advertise Power with modernist techniques?
  • What techniques were used to advertise other Federal Theatre productions?