Federal Theatre Project (WPA)
|Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of a |
“Festival of American Dance” featuring “An American Exodus”
at the Alcazar, showing a man and a woman dancing. (LOC Collections)
Theater projects were set up in towns where a number of theater professionals were unemployed. At its largest, the Federal Theatre Project employed around 12,700 people. Over 90% of these employees came from the relief rolls.
Ninety percent of the FTP appropriation had to be spent on wages. About fifty per cent of FTP personnel were actors. Others were writers, designers, theater musicians, dancers, stage hands, box office staff, ushers, maintenance workers, and the business personnel necessary to operate the program in a way that would meet government standards. There were theater companies in some forty cities in twenty two states. In order to reach the more rural areas some of the companies toured. Classic plays shared the stage with those newly written for the project, puppet shows, dance reviews, children’s theater, ethnic theater, foreign plays and more.
|Photographic Print from San Francisco production of Power. |
Finding Aid Box 1182.
Among the largest theater companies was the one in Los Angeles. San Francisco and San Diego also had companies.
Collections at the National Archives include among other things: correspondence, staging blueprints, specifics on certain productions, over 25,000 photographs, drawings and paintings of costumes and set designs, and posters.
The Federal Theatre Project Collection , housed in the Library of Congress’ , 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. ().