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The Federal Theatre Project

             During the 1930’s, at the height of the depression-era, many Americans found themselves out of work and desperate for a paycheck. With the nation’s economy still in the recovery stages from the 1929 Stock Market crash, the government was forced to create a number of public works projects. Those projects were outlined in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, in which the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established on May 6, 1935 through Executive Order NO. 7034. The WPA gave citizens the chance to re-enter the workforce, but more specifically catered to the demand of unemployed professional artists. One of the five arts projects implemented by the Federal government was the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), which organized and produced theater events. The history of the FTP was filled with employment opportunities, artistic creativity, and controversy which eventually led to the projects incineration. .
             The FTP was clear in its intentions to produce American Theater during a time of crisis for the American people. Not only would the theater professionals benefit from work, but the country would be strengthen by national art, showing that the American spirit was not defeated by the depression. FTP established in August 27, 1935, was one of five art projects that had evolved out of the WPA, allowing the government to take part in American entertainment. Through the WPA, the federal government attempted to provide employment for artists, academics and performers, who were suffering not only from the depression, but also from the popularity of the radio and cinema. Harry Hopkins, head of WPA, chose Hallie Flanagan, the founder and head of the Vassar College Experimental Theatre, to direct the FTP. Flanagan had many goals for the FTP, including using drama to create public awareness of social problems, creating a national audience for theatre, and developing theatre for children.