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Federal Theatre Project Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 9 Apr 2007

Biographical History

The Federal Theatre Project (FTP) was sponsored by the Work Projects Administration (WPA) to fund theater and other live artistic performances in the United States during the Great Depression. The FTP's primary goal was employment of out-of-work artists, writers, and directors; its secondary goal was to provide affordable entertainment for poor families and encourage the dramatic arts. It was established August 27, 1935 and Vassar theatre professor Hallie Flanagan was appointed its head. Although initially Flanagan touted the FTP as being "free, adult, and uncensored," the federal government soon became uneasy at the progressive and left-wing themes evinced by many FTP productions such as their Living Newspaper.

Many notable theatre figures of the time participated in the FTP and it launched the careers of many others, including Arthur Miller (who turned down a $250-a-week job offer from Hollywood to write for the FTP at $23 a week). Orson Welles, John Houseman, Martin Ritt, Elia Kazan, Marc Blitzstein, Arthur Arent and Abe Feder all became established, in part, through their work in the FTP.

The FTP's funding was terminated in 1939, due in no small part to strong feeling in the Congress about the FTP's political stance.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Federal Theatre Project Collection contains a variety of publications of the Federal Theatre Project's Play Bureau and National Play Bureau, among them play scripts, bibliographies of foreign-language plays, and lists of suggested plays in particular categories. There are also photographs from performances.

Arrangement of the Collection

The publications are in alphabetical order by title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has considerable material relating to American radical and left-wing literature. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete list of related collections and material.

Our Rare Books collection also has rich resources in this area; please refer to the Classic Catalog, where a search with the subject "radicalism in literature" will bring up a lengthy list. Of particular interest may be the following titles:

Subject Headings


Carlyn, Rose -- Plays for a marionette theatre.
Chadbourne, Philip, Suggested repertory of modern continental plays.
Clugston, Katharine, b. 1892 -- Barnum returns, or, The new American museum.
Hudson, Arthur Palmer -- Folk songs of Mississippi.
Liss, Joseph, 1911- -- Early Spanish one-act plays in English translation.
Liss, Joseph, 1911- -- Spanish miracles and moralities available in English translation.
Reuben, Isidore -- Suggested repertory of continental plays.

Corporate Bodies

Federal Theatre Project (U.S.)
United States. -- Work Projects Administration.
United States. -- Works Progress Administration.


American drama -- 20th century.
Drama -- Bibliographies.
Folk songs -- Mississippi.
Political plays, American.
Radicalism in literature.
Socialism and theater.
Theater -- Political aspects.
Theater and state.

Genres and Forms

Scripts (documents)
Theater programs.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Federal Theatre Project Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, various times

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