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.

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