Friday, January 23, 2015

Why We Need A New Deal Museum (part 8 of 10): The show must go on!

(The description for this photo reads, "Crotona Park in the Bronx where 25,000 nightly attend the WPA Federal Theatre..." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

(A WPA performance of "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus," Boston, 1937. The play is about a man who sells his soul to the devil for a rich life, and was written by the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

A New Deal museum would be an excellent place to reproduce WPA performances and/or facilitate such reproductions at neighboring colleges and playhouses. A New Deal museum could also produce plays about current events--such as mass child poverty in America--in the spirit of the WPA's "Living Newspaper" performances.

Of course, a New Deal museum would have to be careful about the subject matter of its performances. For example, it would have to be careful not to focus too much attention on the struggles of low-income Americans, lest it become the subject of a U.S. Senate Inquiry (alert: history-based humor ahead), that would look something like this:     

Senator Joni Ernst: {In a serious and somber tone} "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party of the United States?"

New Deal Museum: "No."

Senator Ted Cruz: {Leaning back, with one eyebrow raised} "What about this Christopher Marlowe fellow? Is he a member of the communist party? Where does he live?"

New Deal Museum: "No, he is not a member of the communist party. He lives on--rather, in--the grounds of St. Nicholas's Church in Deptford, England."

Senator Ted Cruz: "Hmmm...well, we may have to try to subpoena him anyway."

New Deal Museum: "If we may be allowed to speak for one min--"

Senator Mitch McConnell: {Growing impatient} "Let's just cut to the chase here, shall we? Are you a member of President Obama's Marxist Army? Are you aware that he wasn't born here? How do you feel about guns?

New Deal Museum: "???"

(To see part of the questioning of Hallie Flanagan (director of the WPA's Theatre Program) by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, in 1938, see "Suspicion of Subversion: Congressional Conservatives Attack the Federal Theater Project.")

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