SC&A’s Federal Theatre Project Collection is home to a lot of unsual and fascinating pieces. At the request of a patron, I recently went through the Molka Reich Collection and found several interesting photographs.Â Molka Reich led a most unusual life. After studying puppetry under Remo Bufano in New York, she and her husband found themselves in Miami in 1930. While there, she joined the Federal Writers Project, and then the Federal Theatre Project. She soon formed a marionette unit with several others. They made the marionettes themselves, and traveled around the state performing for children and adults in school.
We went to places where no one had ever seen anything like this, had absolutely never seen anything…but they were so enthralled and it was marvelous for the children. And the adults loved it just as much…We’d go into these schools, particularly the underprivileged schools. At first everything was free but after a while a charge was made. We would divide the money on a 60/40 basis…The underpriviledged schools paid nothing. The money was used by the P.T.A. for the children’s luncheon program.
The above quote, taken from the oral history interview conducted with Molka by George Mason University’s Oral History Program in 1977, really demonstrates the community-oriented spirit of the Federal Theatre Project and those involved. Aside from being a master puppeteer, Molka also acted in several plays, such as Engaged, to positive reviews from the critics. But her prime love was clearly puppetry, and she remained active in it for much of her life.
The puppets below have the remarkable names of “Gas House Gertie and Barnacle Bill.”
This last photograph is from a production that mixed live actors with puppets, but is unfortunately unlabeled. Can anyone help identify this production?