Dangerous Theatre: The Federal Theatre Project as a Forum for New Plays

Dangerous Theatre: The Federal Theatre Project as a Forum for New Plays

Dangerous Theatre: The Federal Theatre Project as a Forum for New Plays

Dangerous Theatre: The Federal Theatre Project as a Forum for New Plays

Excerpt

"Theatre, when it's good, is always dangerous," claimed Hallie Flanagan while defending the Federal Theatre Project during the investigation of its alleged subversive activity by the House Committee toInvestigate Un-American Activities in 1938. What that statement meant to Senator Dirksen and other congressmen eager to demolish the Fl? Was--dangerous to the ruling class. After all, did not Hallie Flanagan say that one of the purposes of theatre is "giving apoplexy to people who consider it radical for a government-sponsored theatre to produce plays on subjects vitally concerning the governed. . . ."?

The reasons why the Federal Theatre was dangerous are far more complex than just being a threat to the ruling class. When Harry Hopkins, Works Progress Administration Director, gave Flanagan the job as FTP Director, he told her, "Remember, whatever you do you'll be wrong." In her zeal, idealism, and passion for creating a "federation of theatres," Flanagan was wrong in dreaming that the FTP was a permanent part of American life. It was not, and that should have been clear from the beginning. With her great, abundant energy and talent, Flanagan followed her perilous course to the bitter end--right into the chambers where politicians investigated her and her theatre as "un-American." Somehow, she did not, or could not, accept the idea that the Project was a temporary measure devised to help unemployed workers in showbusiness. She took every risk, determined that somehow the show would never end.

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