Saturday, August 22, 2009

Living Newspaper

Though these were among the more famous productions, they were hardly the only ones. There were many more in New York alone, including the Living Newspaper productions.

"...the [Living Newspaper] seeks to dramatize a new struggle – the search of the average American today for knowledge about his country and his world; to dramatize his struggle to turn the great natural and economic forces of our time toward a better life for more people," said Hallie Flanagan, head of the Federal Theatre Project and one of the great heroes of American theatre.

Most Living Newspaper productions were born in New York, but there were autonomous Living Newspapers in other cities such as Chicago and Seattle. In New York, the LN brought together actual journalists with theatre people to tell original stories, in experimental form (like Injunction Granted) and as more traditional plays ( One-Third of a Nation, a title which referred to FDR's famous speech about "one-third of a nation, ill-housed and ill-clad and ill-nourished.")

Topics included poverty and power, racism, and sexually transmitted diseases. Shows could be satiric, employing puppetry, dance and acrobatics. Many were very popular with the public. Conservative opponents were predictably outraged, and the LN was an early target of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Living Newspapers under the Federal Theatre Project were shut down in 1939.

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