Reprocessing the Federal Theatre Project – Programs

This blog is the second in a series on reprocessing the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) collection. As our finding aid for playscripts and radio scripts is now arranged it also includes programs. We have decided to divide playscripts, radio scripts, and programs each into their own series. The programs series includes programs, flyers, and playbills associated with FTP productions from around the country. They are further organized into two subseries – the first is arranged by location and the second by title of play. This arrangement is consistent with previous arrangement. Box numbers and titles of folders have been recorded to provide an accurate description of the materials contained within. When processing of all the series is completed a finding aid detailing the collection will be available online. One of the more visually interesting folders in the programs series is that of programs from Illinois.

Flyers from Illinois productions, circa 1936-1939, from the Federal Theatre Project Collection C0002. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

The above photograph provides a glimpse into the contents of the Illinois folder. Plays represented include “Street Scene”, “It Can’t Happen Here”, “Spirochete”, “Hamlet”, “Triple A Plowed Under”, and “Hell’s Holler Revue”. All productions date from circa 1936 to 1939. This folder contains seven items total and the six pictured here are all promotional flyers. These flyers provide colorful and engaging typography and overall design.

A Look Back at the Other Romney Presidential Campaign

In 1967 Michigan Governor George Romney campaigned to be the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States and visited Washington, D.C., to meet about riots and other urban problems. In addition to meeting with government officials, Romney also met with local Urban League officials and toured distressed neighborhoods north of the U.S. Capitol Building. Romney was specifically interested in the causes of urban riots which had recently occurred in Detroit, Michigan, and other cities. The photographs below from the Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection show that Romney was met by citizens protesting the construction plans for a freeway. Neighborhood groups in D.C. and elsewhere protested freeway construction in the 1960s because they believed that the freeways benefited suburban commuters with convenient travel and resulted in the destruction of urban homes and businesses.

George Romney speaks with a television reporter in front of freeway protesters on September 12, 1967. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, Box 66, Folder 8. Photo © SEPS

George Romney speaks with Anita Shelton and William Thompson on September 12, 1967. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, Box 66, Folder 8. Photo © SEPS

Romney went on to serve as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Richard M. Nixon, the eventual Republican nominee and President. There are additional photographs of Romney in the Atkins collection, including some from the early 1960s that include George’s son Mitt, a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Reprocessing the Federal Theatre Project – Playscripts

This is the first in a new series of blog posts focusing on the reprocessing of The Federal Theatre Project collection. The Federal Theatre Project was a government sponsored large scale arts endeavor that created jobs for thousands of unemployed theatre professionals during the years 1935 to 1939. George Mason University Special Collections and Archives houses a large collection of materials related to the Federal Theatre Project that includes photographs, posters, playscripts, radioscripts, oral histories, and play reader reports. We are currently reprocessing our collections with the hopes of making the materials easier to search, locate, and be available digitally. As each series undergoes reprocessing a blog post will update our progress. One of the first series we are working on is the playscripts series.

There are over 880 productions represented by original and photocopied playscripts. Many of these playscripts have a plain white or green cover but there were a few that stood out to me with their hand drawn design and deep blue cover.

Playscripts circa 1936-1939 for Swing Low, Socko, Jocko, Kicko, and The Vagabond Puppeteers. By the Federal Theatre of Oklahoma, from The Federal Theatre Project collection, C0002. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University

These are the plays produced by the Vagabond Puppeteers marionette division of the Federal Theatre of Oklahoma. This group performed plays of local interest such as Chisbaohoyo, K. P. the Tenderfoot, Swing Low, and Socko, Jocko, Kicko. They toured the C.C.C. camps and were also very popular with the Parent-Teacher Association and “was booked in over fifty schools and was taking in through $.10 and $.25 admissions an average of over $100 a week when the project closed” (Hallie Flanagan Arena). Besides producing a number of fictional plays they also created an instructional play focusing on how to make and manipulate marionettes.

Detail from The Vagabond Puppeteers playscript, circa 1936-1939, by the Federal Theatre of Oklahoma from the Federal Theatre Project Collection C0002. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Rehousing and adding a description for the playscripts is only the first step in gaining better intellectual control over this large collection of multiple series. Through reprocessing we will be insuring the longevity of the materials so many students in the future will have original sources to use for researching and understanding this interesting and unique part of America’s past.