0 Replies Latest reply on Jan 11, 2022 9:16 AM by Lauren Algee

    New campaign: Great Depression playbills from the Federal Theatre Project

    Lauren Algee Tracker

      New today: "Theater for the People: Federal Theatre Project playbills," 7,752 pages from the Library of Congress Music Division. This is our first collaboration with the Music Division, and you can look forward to more soon! Next month we'll launch our first campaign to transcribe the text of sheet music.


      The Federal Theatre Project (FTP) began in 1935 within the newly formed Works Progress Administration (WPA), founded to provide jobs and boost the economy and morale during the Great Depression. Within a year, FTP had employed 11,000 performers, directors, playwrights, designers and stage technicians. By the time it was canceled in 1939, FTP productions had been seen by 16 million people in 30 states. For many, it was their first opportunity to see live theatrical performance.


      The Federal Theatre Project collection at the Library of Congress holds thousands of playbills, fliers, and broadsides covering a wide range of productions from vaudeville sketches to full-length dramas, circus, puppetry, dance works, and musicals. The collection documents emerging forms--like the living newspaper which performed stories taken directly from current headlines. It also includes ephemera from different units of FTP that featured all-African American casts, performances in German, Italian, Spanish, and Yiddish, or plays geared toward children.

      Capturing the playbills' information provides a window into the stories we told during the Great Depression, what we valued, and who we were.


      Explore the playbills here