The 2nd topic in “History in Historical Novels” that I discussed in my 1st zoom event was the innovative Federal Theatre Project, funded by Congress through the WPA.
Like many people during the Great Depression, unemployment was rampant in the arts. Theater professionals were out of work as no one had money to attend commercial theater. One of the exemplary programs of FDRs New Deal was a trio of programs: Federal Arts, Writing, and Theater Projects. Each one of these supported out of work people in the arts, paying a weekly salary of $23 and change. Theater professionals were thrilled to have a regular wage and to be able to keep up their professional skills. The FTP hired 12,000+ unemployed people in its heyday.
The ebullient Hallie Flanagan was hired to direct this nation-wide project, even though she had been an academic and theater professionals were skeptical about her. To everyone’s surprise in the theater world, she succeeded beyond expectations, attracting 1000s of audience viewers all over the country, charging less than a dollar. Audiences loved the immediacy of the performances and the local character of the productions of the Living Newspaper, which the protagonist Miriam worked for in 1938.
Her first job took her cross-country to the San Fernando Valley in CA to interview drought and dust bowl migrants in the growing fields, spearheading her new career, an offshoot of her earlier attraction to theater and acting.
Miriam and the fictionalized Hallie Flanagan became close friends for life, a relationship that led to Miriam’s becoming a “woman of substance.”
Here is a poster of Injunction Granted created by the Federal Arts Project for the Theatre Project’s performances.