Segments in this Video

Depression and the Theater (02:21)


The Depression marks a decade of social and political experiences both in the arts and society. The government funds cultural and artistic outlets for all people such as the Federal Theatre Project.

Group Theater (02:58)

The Group Theater is formed and pioneers new plays and acting methods. Collective contribution makes it successful, allowing the actor to challenge the old school and leave an American legacy.

Federal Theatre Project (03:19)

Harold Clurman sustains Group Theater, inviting the audience to think and feel a truly American voice. The New Deal funds the Federal Theatre Project with Hallie Flanagan as the director.

Success of the Federal Theatre Project (03:46)

Flanigan produces a wide scope of theater activities. FTP publishes its own magazine and a research bureau teaches production techniques. The FTP’s goal is to train WPA workers in theater.

"Living Newspaper" Projects (03:21)

Productions of “Living Newspapers” meet Flanigan’s vision for bringing social problems to the stage by addressing topics such as labor and unions, power of utility companies, and land speculation.

Houseman and Welles (03:45)

John Houseman leaves the stock market and joins Orson Welles in the theater. They begin a Harlem unit of the Federal Theatre Project and successfully produce an all-black cast of “Macbeth.”

Project 891 (03:59)

Houseman and Welles establish Project 891. Welles’ “Dr. Faustus” uses a blackbox set. The satire of capitalism and praise of organized labor in “The Cradle Will Rock” forces the FTP to close.

Mercury Theater (02:57)

Houseman and Welles form the Mercury Theater, modeling many policies after the FTP. A production of “Julius Caesar” parallels the rise of Fascism. Welles appears on the cover of “Time.”

Influence of 1930s Theater (01:16)

1930s theater brings Americans a wide range of choices. Theater is like a lantern offering hope, entertainment, reflection, and restoration—all ingredients of art breaking from European voices.

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The Federal Theater, Project 891, and the Mercury Theater

Part of the Series : A Search for an American Voice in Theater
DVD Price: $99.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $149.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $99.95



In this program, Ellen Adler, owner of the Stella Adler Conservatory, and author William Simon appraise the impact of the drama groups that flourished during the Depression—both those that were privately operated and those that were federally funded—and their lasting contributions to theater. Among the topics discussed are the American Method style of acting, as pioneered by the Group Theatre; the Federal Theater, the Classical Theatre (Project 891), and the Mercury Theater, incubators for some of the most innovative and controversial works ever seen on the American stage; and the theatrical careers of Orson Welles and John Houseman. (30 minutes)

Length: 32 minutes

Item#: BVL9167

ISBN: 978-1-4213-3868-2

Copyright date: ©1999

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.