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Federal Theatre Project collection

Identifier: 018.FTP

Scope and Contents

The Federal Theatre Project collection contains information on the project history, radio scripts and publications including production lists and theatrical techniques. The collection is divided into four series and arranged alphabetically within each. Records date from 1935 to 1939.

The four series that are included in the collection are: Administration and History, Individual Role Scripts, Publications and Radio Scripts.

Materials in the Administration and History series were created by the Federal Theatre Project and consist of documents pertaining to the history of the Project as well as surveys, synopsis, and other administrative documents. Materials date between 1935 and 1939.

The Individual Role Scripts series contains scripts from productions put on by the Federal Theatre Project. The scripts are organized alphabetically by production title.

The Publications series includes eight sub-series of cultural plays, folk songs, holiday plays, musicals, non-royalty plays, operettas, patriotic plays religious plays. The Radio Scripts series includes forty-one sub-series most commonly titled by the production title. These sub-series are: Backstage Interviews, Choral Contrasts, Detective O'Malley, Drums, Elizabethan Dramas, Epic of America, Experiments in Symphonic Drama, Exploring the Arts and Sciences, Exploring the Seven Arts, Federal Theatre of Air, Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera Program, History in Action, Home Town, Isben Cycle, Jewish Theatre of Air, Jules Verne, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Makers of Dreams, Men Against Death, New York Panorama, Once Upon A Time, Operettas, Oscar Wilde Cycle, Out of the Hall of Records, Pals of the P.A.L., Pickwick Papers, Pioneers of Science, Portraits in Oil, Repertory Theatre of Air, Short Stories, Social Security Board, Special Events, Story of Swing, Symphonic Dramas, Their Greatest Stories, There's A Law Against It!, This Was News, Tish, United States Housing Authority, What Good Is Art?, and Women in the Making of America.

The provenance of the collection is undocumented and it is unclear from the collection record what if any connection there was between the Michigan State Normal College and the Federal Theatre Project.


  • Creation: 1935 - 1939

Conditions Governing Access

Researchers are asked to request materials 24 hours prior to visiting the the University Archives.

Administrative History

The Federal Theatre Project was established on August 29, 1935 by the Works Progress Administration. The Great Depression had left millions unemployed with theatre professionals being hit especially hard at this time not only by the economic depression, but also by the development of films and radio.

The aim of the Federal Theatre Project was to employee theatre professionals in socially useful projects that would utilize their skills and at the same time bring theatre to thousands of American citizens who could no longer afford going to the theatre. This was done by means of radio performances, editing of scripts, and playwriting. At its peak the Federal Theatre Project employed almost 13,000 people.

Following a series of controversial investigations by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Subcommittee on Appropriations regarding the Federal Theatre’s outspoken leftist commentary on social and economic issues, the Federal Theatre Project was terminated in 1939 by congressional action.


8.4 Linear Feet (8 record center cartons, 1 archive box)

Language of Materials



In 1935, as part of the WPA the Federal Theatre Project was created to employ theatre professionals during the Great Depression. The Federal Theatre Project collection documents the project through the scripts, publications and written histories of the project. The collection is divded into four series of records: Administrative and History, Individual Role SCripts, Publications, and Radio Scripts and arranged alphabetically within the series. The records date from 1935 to 1939 when the program was disbanded.

Federal Theatre Project collection
Elizabeth Searls
2012 November 26
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Code for undetermined script
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Repository Details

Part of the Eastern Michigan University Archives Repository

Bruce T. Halle Library, Room 310
955 West Circle Drive
Ypsilanti Michigan 48197