Guide to the Federal Theatre Project Collection, 1936-1939 CTC.1979.02

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ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

Repository
ULS Archives & Special Collections
Title
Federal Theatre Project Collection
Creator
Federal Theatre Project (U.S.).
Collection Number
CTC.1979.02
Date
1936-1939
Extent
5.0 linear feet (12 document boxes)
Abstract
The Federal Theatre Project was a New Deal initiative established in 1935 within the Work Projects Administration (WPA). It aimed to provide employment for out-of-work theatre professionals including actors, writers, directors, and designers. Under the dynamic direction of Hallie Flanagan, the project encouraged experimental work in theatres across the country and also staged revivals of European and American classics in regional theatres, attracting large new theatre audiences as a result. The left-leaning political tone of some of the plays drew the attention of the House on Un-American Activities Committee, which prompted an investigation of the Federal Theatre Project that led to its dissolution on July 30, 1939. The Federal Theatre Project Collection includes publications, reports, and programs that reflect the activities of the project between the years of 1936-1939.

Preferred Citation

Federal Theatre Project Collection, 1936-1939, CTC.1979.02, Curtis Theatre Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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History

The Federal Theatre Project was a New Deal initiative established in 1935 within the Work Projects Administration (WPA). Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Administration, the Federal Theatre Project aimed to provide employment for out-of-work theatre professionals including actors, writers, directors, and designers during the Great Depression as well as reinvigorating theatre and providing entertainment for a despondent nation.

Under the dynamic direction of Hallie Flanagan, the project encouraged experimental, uncensored, and unrestricted work in theatres across the country and also staged revivals of European and American classics in regional theatres, attracting large new theatre audiences as a result. The plays often reflected current events and controversial issues such as farm-aid policy, syphilis testing, and housing inequity and were extremely popular with audiences. The left leaning political tone of some of the plays drew the attention of the House on Un-American Activities Committee, which prompted an investigation of the Federal Theatre Project that led to its dissolution on July 30, 1939.

The Federal Theatre Project Collection includes publications, reports, and programs that reflect the activities of the project between the years of 1936-1939. The Federal Theatre Project was the first and only initiative of its’ kind instituted by the Federal Government to execute the production and administration of theatre on a national scale. Consequently, this program introduced European epic theatre to new audiences never before exposed to live performance and was instrumental in creating socially significant and influential works.

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Scope and Content Notes

The Federal Theatre Project Collection consists of various Federal Theatre Project materials such as scripts, programs, reports, and meeting agendas dating between 1935 and 1939. The collection offers a variety of information reflecting the administrative, legal, operational, and live performance activities of the Federal Theatre Project.

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Arrangement

The Federal Theatre Project Collection is arranged by the following series:

Series I. National Service Bureau publications, 1936-1939

Series II. Reports, 1938

Series III. Programs

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, October 2013

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
Website: library.pitt.edu/archives-special-collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us: www.library.pitt.edu/ask-archivist

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright

The University of Pittsburgh holds the property rights to the material in this collection, but the copyright may still be held by the original creator/author. Researchers are therefore advised to follow the regulations set forth in the U.S. Copyright Code when publishing, quoting, or reproducing material from this collection without the consent of the creator/author or that go beyond what is allowed by fair use.

Custodial History

The Federal Theatre Project Collection was under the stewardship of the New York Public Library until it was gifted to the Special Collections Department at the University of Pittsburgh in 1979.

Acquisition Information

Gift of the New York Public Library in 1979.

Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed by Margaret Huang in March 2013.

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Related Materials

Related Material

The following two journal titles are a part of the journal holdings of the Curtis Theatre Collection:

Federal Theatre Bulletin: v. 1, no. 2, 5, 6; v.2, no. 1-4 [currently in process of being catalogued].

The Living Newspaper: v. 1. no. 1-3; v.2, no. 1; v. 3, no. 1; v. 5, no. 5, 9, 18 [currently in process of being catalogued].

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Federal Theatre Project (U.S.).
  • Federal Theatre Project (U.S.). -- History
  • National Service Bureau (U.S.).

Genre(s)

  • Bibliographies
  • Newsletters
  • Newspapers
  • Scripts (Documents)
  • Theater programs

Subject(s)

  • Experimental theater -- United States
  • Living newspaper
  • Performing arts -- United States
  • Theater -- United States
  • Theater and society -- United States -- 20th century
  • Theater and state -- United States -- 20th century

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Previous Citation

Federal Theatre Project Collection, 1936-1939, CTC.1979.02, Curtis Theatre Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh

Federal Theatre Project Collection, 1935-1939, CTC.03, The Ford E. and Harriet R. Curtis Theatre Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh

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Collection Inventory

Series  I. National Service Bureau publications, 1936-1939 

Scope and Content Notes

This series of National Service Bureau publications includes bibliographies, synopses with production notes, and play scripts covering political, ethnic, holiday, historical, religious, children’s and marionette plays. The National Service Bureau was officially established in 1937 by combining the Federal Theatre Project's Play Bureau and Play Policy Board. The National Service Bureau was headquartered in New York City where it supported regional Federal Theatre Project units by providing research material, consultation services, and publications such as those found within this series.

  BoxFolder
Anglo-Jewish Full Length Plays in English and Yiddish, January 1938 11
  Folder
Anti-war Plays, Anglo-Jewish Part 2 in Yiddish, July 1938 2
  Folder
Anti-war Plays, Foreign and Anglo-Jewish Lists, October 1937 3
  Folder
Anti-war Plays for Community Theatres, October 1937 4
  Folder
Anti-war Plays, Royalty List, November 1937 5
  Folder
Barnum Returns or  The New American Museum, May 1938 6
  Folder
A Bibliography of Marionette Plays, 1936 7
  Folder
Brother Mose, A Comedy of Negro Life with Music and Spirituals, September 1937 8
  Folder
The Better Sort or  A Girl of Spirit: An Operatical, Comical Farce, 1938 9
  Folder
Catholic Plays, Part 1: For Advanced Groups, November 1938 10
  Folder
Catholic Plays, Part 2 and 3: For Intermediate and Junior Groups, February 1938 11
  BoxFolder
Children’s Operettas, June 1937 21
  Folder
Children’s Plays 2
  Folder
The Children of Salem, January 1938 3
  Folder
Christmas Plays, November 1936 4
  Folder
Copy of Card File of Commercial Phonograph Recordings on Deposit at the Archive of American Folk Song, February 1937 5
  Folder
The Disappointment or  The Force of Credulity, May 1938 6
  Folder
Death Takes the Wheel, Adapted for Buffalo Historical Marionette Theatre 7
  Folder
Donogoo, September 1937 8-9
  Folder
Don Quixote, Adapted for the Marionette Theatre, July 1937 10
  Folder
The Dragon Znee Zee, A Play for Chinese Marionettes, 1937 11
  BoxFolder
Early Spanish One-act Plays in English Translation 31
  Folder
Easter Plays: Biblical Dramas, Modern Dramas, Service Dramas for Churches and Schools, March 1937 2
  Folder
50 Non-royalty Plays, Part 1: One-act Plays, October 1936 3
  Folder
50 Non-royalty Plays, Part 2: Full-length Plays, April 1937 3
  Folder
59 Monologues, December 1938 4
  BoxFolder
56 Minstrels, February 1938 41
  Folder
The First Comic Opera in America, November 1935 2
  Folder
Full Length Plays, October 1936 3
  Folder
Haven or  The Merited Gallows, 1937 4
  Folder
Highlights of the First Production Conference of the New York City Unit of the Federal Theatre, July 1936 5
  Folder
His Majesty the Microbe or  The Microbe Universe, a Marionette Play in No Acts with Ten Scenes 6
  Folder
Holy Night, October 1938 7
  Folder
Injunction Granted, 1936 8
  Folder
Injunction Granted, July 1937 9
  Folder
Irish Plays, August 1938 10
  BoxFolder
It Can’t Happen Here, September 1936 51
  Folder
Jellico an’ de Critters 2
  Folder
Jewish Non-royalty Plays and Pageants: Holiday, Historical, General, January 1937 3
  Folder
John Henry, Steel-driving Man, January 1938 4
  Folder
Juvenile Operettas, Part 2 May 1938 5
  Folder
Katcha and the Devil, July 1938 6
  Folder
Late Primitive, July 1937 7
  Folder
Lists of Little Known One-act Plays, 1930 8
  Folder
List of Negro Plays, March 1938 9
  Folder
The Little Crab, November 1937 10
  Folder
The Lost Generation, A Play about Youth, July 1937 11
  Folder
Lucy Moore, the Prune Hater’s Daughter 12
  BoxFolder
The Man of the Times or  A Scarcity of Cash 61
  Folder
A Modern Miscellany 2
  Folder
Morning Paper, A Play about Newsboys, July 1937 3
  Folder
The Most Wicked Pirate, September 1937 4
  Folder
Mr. Cold, You Can’t Catch Me, September 1937 5
  Folder
Musical Plays, December 1936 6
  Folder
Nathan Hale, A Marionette Play in 5 Scenes, June 1937 7
  Folder
National Play Bureau Publications: A Catalog, 1937 8
  Folder
Nativity, November 1937 9
  Folder
Negro Plays 10
  Folder
Nelagony, November 1937 11
  Folders
1935, 1936-1938 12-13
  Folder
90 New Plays, December 1936 14
  Folder
No More Peace 15
  BoxFolder
Non-royalty Plays for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Plymouth Days, 1937 71
  Folder
Oliver Twist, Adapted for Marionettes, July 1937 2
  Folder
One-act Negro Plays, October 1936 3
  Folder
One-act Plays of Moliere 4
  Folder
One Third of a Nation, Volume 1, 1938 5-6
  Folder
One Third of a Nation, Volume 2, April 1938 7
  Folder
Operettas, November 1938 8
  Folder
The Pagent of the Sherman and the Tailors, October 1937 9
  Folder
Patriotic Plays Non-royalty, Part 1: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, January 1937 10
  Folder
Patriotic Plays Non-royalty, Part 2: Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, April 1937 11
  Folder
Plays Available for Amateur Production 12
  BoxFolder
Plays Suggested for Consideration by the Federal Theatre Project 81
  Folder
Power, September 1937 2
  Folder
Precious Laura, February 1937 3
  Folder
Prologue to Glory, May 1938 4
  Folder
Puppet Teaching, Weekly News Bulletin: v.1, no. 1; v.2, no.1. Additional copies of v. 1, no. 12, 14, 15, 17 June 1937-January 1938 5
  Folder
R.U.R., Adapted for the Marionette Theatre 6
  Folder
Rural Plays, Part 1: Dramas, Comedies, Tragedies, 1937 7
  Folder
Rural Plays, Part 2: Dramas, Comedies, Farces, 1937 7
  Folder
Rural Plays, Part 3: Drama, Comedy, Farce and Burlesque, Pageant, Collections, 1937 7
  Folder
Russian Plays: A Preliminary Catalogue 8
  Folder
Sancho Panza 9
  Folder
Series of Children’s Non-royalty Plays, Part 1: Health, Safety, Humane, December 1936 10
  Folder
72 Vaudeville Sketches Non-royalty, Part 1, July 1937 11
  Folder
72 Vaudeville Sketches Non-royalty, Part 2, March 1938 12
  BoxFolder
Sherlock Holmes, Adapted for Marionettes in Four Scenes, July 1937 91
  Folder
Some Irish Plays, April 1937 2
  Folder
Some New Unpublished One-act Plays Royalty Plays, Part 1, July 1937 3
  Folder
Spanish Miracles and Moralities Available in English Translation 4
  Folder
Spirochete, January 1939 5
  Folder
Suggested Production List of 15 One-act Negro Plays 6
  Folder
Suggested Production List of Non-royalty Christmas Plays, Part 1: Children’s Plays Secular, November 1936 7
  Folder
Suggested Production List of Non-royalty Plays, Part 1: One-act Plays October 1936 8
  Folder
Suggested Production List of Non-royalty Plays, Part 2: Full-length Plays October 1936 8
  Folder
Suggested Production List of Plays for a Marionette Theatre 9
  Folder
Suggested Repertory of American, English, and Irish Plays 10
  Folder
Suggested Repertory of Classic English Plays 11
  Folder
Suggested Repertory of Modern Continental Plays 12
  BoxFolder
Theatre Technique No. 3: Puppets and Masks, December 1937 101
  Folder
34 Old and New Spanish Plays, January 1937 2
  Folder
Threnody-American, A Radio Drama about Youth, June 1937 3
  Folder
Toby Tyler with the Circus, July 1938 4
  Folder
The Totem 5
  Folders
Triple-A Plowed Under, 1936-1938 6-7
  Folder
Treasure Island, November 1938 8
  Folder
22 English Mysteries, Miracles, Moralities, April 1937 9
  Folder
The Valiant Little Tailor, July 1938 10
  Folder
We Are the Future, A Play of Rural Youth, July 1937 11
  Folder
We Produce a Puppet Show 12
  Folder
The Wildcats, A Play about Youth, July 1937 13
  Folder
WPA Circus, The Route Book for the 1937 Season of the WPA Circus 14

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Series  II. Reports, 1938 

Scope and Content Notes

This series reflects the administrative and operational activities of the Federal Theatre Project through reports and meeting agendas.

  BoxFolder
First Federal Summer Theatre...A Report, 1938 111
  Folder
Summary of Federal Theatre Activities, September 1938 2
  Folder
National Policy Board: Agenda, April 12-14, 1938 3
  Folder
National Policy Board: Agenda, August 11-13, 1938 4

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Series  III. Programs 

Scope and Content Notes

This series consists of the programs of Federal Theatre Project productions. They mostly reflect performances in the New York City region and are undated.

  BoxFolder
Programs A-D 121
 1.  Adelante 
 2.  American Holiday 
 3.  Androcles and the Lion 
 4.  Die Apostel (  The Apostles
 5.  Arms and the Man 
 6.  Around the Corner 
 7.  Around the World in 80 Days 
 8.  Backwash 
 9.  The Ballad of Davy Crockett 
 10.  The Barker 
 11.  Bassa Moona 
 12.  The Bat 
 13.  Battle Hymn 
 14.  Big Blow 
 15.  Chalk Dust 
 16.  Chamber Opera in English 
 17.  The Chocolate Soldier 
 18.  The Christmas Carol 
 19.  Class of '29 
 20.  Community Sing 
 21.  Coriolanus 
 22.  The Cradle Will Rock 
 23.  Craig's Wife 
 24.  The Dance of Death 
 25.  The Dark Tower 
 26.  The Devil Passes 
 27.  The Devil's Disciple 
 28.  Doctor Faustus 
 29.  Double Door 
  Folder
Programs E-H 2
 1.  The Emperor's New Clothes 
 2.  An Enemy of the People 
 3.  The Eternal Prodigal 
 4.  Eugene O'Neill's One-Act Plays of the Sea 
 5.  Excursion 
 6.  The Farmer's Wife 
 7.  The First Legion 
 8.  Flight 
 9.  Four American One-Act Plays 
 10.  Haiti 
 11.  Help Yourself! 
 12.  A Hero is Born 
 13.  Holy Night 
 14.  Horse Eats Hat 
 15.  Horse Play 
 16.  How Long Brethren? 
  Folder
Programs I-M 3
 1.  In Heaven and Earth 
 2.  In Praise of Husbands 
 3.  Iolanthe 
 4.  It Can't Happen Here 
 5.  Jefferson Davis 
 6.  Life and Death of an American 
 7.  The Lights o' London 
 8.  Love in Humble Life 
 9.  Macbeth 
 10.  The Mikado 
 11.  Mr. Jiggins of Jigginstown 
 12.  Murder in the Cathedral 
  Folder
Programs N-P 4
 1.  Native Ground 
 2.  New York Civic Orchestra 
 3.  Noah 
 4.  On the Rocks 
 5.  The Path of Flowers 
 6.  Pinocchio 
 7.  Pins & Needles 
 8.  The Playboy of the Western World 
 9.  Processional 
 10.  Professor Mamlock 
 11.  Prologue to Glory 
  Folder
Programs Q-S 5
 1.  Repertory of Important Plays 
 2.  The Shanghai Sal 
 3.  The Shining Hour 
 4.  Showing Off 
 5.  Sing for Your Supper 
 6.  The Solitaire Man 
 7.  Spirochete 
 8.  Spread Eagle 
 9.  Street Scene 
 10.  The Sun and I 
 11.  Sweet Land 
 12.  Swing It 
 13.  The Swing Mikado 
 14.  Swing Parade 
  Folder
Programs T-Z 6
 1.  The Tailor Becomes a Store Keeper 
 2.  Take It or Leave It 
 3.  Tamed and How 
 4.  The Tavern 
 5.  Ten Minute Alibi 
 6.  Three One Act Plays 
 7.  Treasure Island 
 8.  The Trial of Doctor Beck 
 9.  Trojan Incident 
 10.  Turpentine 
 11.  Twelfth Night 
 12.  Two-A-Day 
 13.  Unto Such Glory and  Hymn to the Rising Sun 
 14.  A Woman of Destiny 

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