Saturday, August 14, 2010

Call and Response

NEW THEATRE - November, 1935
A letter from Hallie Flanagan

The Federal Government allocated, as you know, $4.8B for relief under the WPA. This appropriation included $27M for putting back to work musicians, writers, painters, sculptors, and theatre people. Each Federal director plans to work through regional directors for some twelve areas throughout the United States.

It will be seen that while our immediate aim in all these projects is to put to work thousands of theatre people, our more far reaching purpose is to organize and support theatrical enterprises so excellent in nature, so low in cost, and so vital to the communities involed that they will be able to continue after Federal support is withdrawn.

During the next few weeks of planning, and later, as the various projects start, we need the active interest and help of every person who cares about the theatre and about the problem of unemployment; we need the support of people who believe, as we do, there is skill, experience, enthusiasm and intelligence in the theatre people now on relief rolls and in the thousands of theatre people who will cooperate with them.

We need the support of people who share our belief thatthe theatre horizon is not contracting, but widening to include Santa Fe Desert, the Rocky Mountains, and the valley of the Missisippi; windening to include a consciousness of the social scene as well as the social register; widening, in short, to include the impossible - that same impossible which has led our conetmporaries to soar to the stars, whisper through space, and fling miles of steel and glass into the air.

We need the belief of all you who care about the theatre in terms of the art and economics of 1935.

The Plain Dealer - January 2, 1936
McDermott on the Arts Dole
“Why not fan dancers? Theater project a bust. Not all can be Hamlets.”
by William F. McDermott

It is apparent that the federal theater project in its present status, and despite some earnest efforts of some copetent people, is a bust. There are not enough really experienced theatrical folks on the relief rolls to organize any practical theatrical project except, perhaps, in New York and, there, organization is held up by red tape and bickering between the groups involved.

Even to a sympathetic eye, the arts projects generally are plainly in a mess. They come up against two almost insuperable obstacles: First, the number of unqualified and inexperienced people who want jobs in arts projects and who will often have to be accepted because of a lack of better materials, second the fewness of competent art workers on the relief rolls.

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