In Radio Girl, being a sound effects expert gets Cecelia’s father a job traveling for the FTP, the Federal Theater Project, in 1937-38. What’s that all about?
One way President Roosevelt tried to put people back to work during the Depression was to start up government funded programs. This was called the WPA, the Works Progress Administration and was known as Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Cool slide show of New Deal projects. Under this heading came the Federal Theatre Project, designed to put actors and theater people to work around the country and “to dramatize and expose social issues.” source
Show business tech theater people like Jack Maloney went all over the country, reviving local playhouses by updating their sound and lighting systems.
Did it work? Was the FTP a success? That’s still a matter of debate. But it did produce some amazing works of drama. Take, for example, this portion of the 1936 FTP production of MacBeth, directed by none other than Orson Welles. The entire cast is made up of African Americans from Harlem, a cast of both professional actors and everyday people. Nothing like it had ever been staged before:
Carol Brendler is the author of the young adult novel RADIO GIRL (Holiday House) September 5, 2013.
Coming 2014: A picture book, NOT VERY SCARY, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, from FSG.
Also by Carol Brendler: WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER (FSG, 2009) a picture book illustrated by Ard Hoyt.