The WPA Radio Scripts consist of final drafts of radio plays and other texts produced by the Federal Theatre of the Air. Most scripts are from either the New York or Los Angeles offices of the Federal Theatre Project. In some instances copies of scripts for the same program but from different jurisdictions are included in the same series. Notable programs represented in the collection include adaptations of the plays of Henrik Ibsen and Oscar Wilde, operettas by Gilbert & Sullivan, a series called A CAPELLA IN BRONZE featuring the WPA Negro Radio Chorus and focusing on stories of particular interest to African-Americans, adaptations of books such as Dickens' PICKWICK PAPERS and plays such as Tolstoy's REDEMPTION, Goldsmith's SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER and Molière's TARTUFFE. A 1939 series celebrating Jazz entitled THE STORY OF SWING devoted episodes to Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and the Dorsey Brothers. TURNING POINTS IN FAMOUS LIVES dramatized key moments in the lives of John Paul Jones, Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Billy the Kid, Joseph Stalin, and others. THE LIVING NEWSPAPER, adapted from a concurrent Federal Theatre Project stage series, dramatized contemporary problems facing listeners in daily life.
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center
The Federal Theatre Project was a special program of the Works Progress Administration, itself a government program designed to counter the deleterious impact of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Created in 1935 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Federal Theatre Project was headed by Hallie Flanagan, a former Professor of English from Vassar College. In its four years of existence the F.T.P. employed some 12,700 theater professionals in 31 states, and presented more than 1,000 performances each month, free of charge. In addition to its stage production units, the F.T.P. reached an estimated 10 million listeners with its FEDERAL THEATRE OF THE AIR radio programs, broadcast over all the major networks. In 1939 Congress abolished the Federal Theatre Program.