Monday, October 3, 2016
WPA Portable Theatre
Above: "Caravan Theatre," a lithograph by Raymond White Skolfield (1909-1996), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Above: A WPA portable theatre in New York City, ca. 1938-1939. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
Above: Children enjoying a WPA portable theatre show in New York City, 1935. Conservatives in Congress fought against the WPA theatre. They disapproved of the racial integration they saw, both on stage and in the audience. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library & Museum and the New Deal Network.
Above: Disabled and injured children enjoying a WPA portable theatre show in New York City, ca. 1935-1936. Conservatives in Congress thought the WPA Theatre program was a waste of money. Like today, they thought it would be better to give tax breaks to the rich. Photo courtesy of FDR Presidential Library & Museum and the New Deal Network.
Above: A WPA portable theatre production showing the nativity. Conservatives in Congress eliminated the WPA Theatre program in 1939. They thought it would turn Americans into communists. Photo courtesy of FDR Presidential Library & Museum and the New Deal Network.
In 1982, the Washington Post reported that, "During its brief life, the [Federal Theatre Project] produced 'Caravan Theatre,' a portable theater that went from town to town offering dramatic works to the people. 'They were one of the innovators of theater-in-the-park,' [Lorraine Brown, professor at George Mason University] said. "Joe Papp has always claimed originating it, but they were doing it in 1935."
The WPA Theatre program also produced circuses, puppet shows, variety shows, and more.