“The Show Must Go On! American Theater in the Great Depression” is the title of an engrossing new online exhibition curated by the Digital Public Library of America which is now available.
The Great Depression of the 1930s had an enormous impact on theatre across the United States. Productions decreased dramatically, audiences shrank, and talented writers, performers, and directors fled the industry to find work in Hollywood. But despite adversity, the show went on. The public construction projects of the Works Progress Administration (WPA- a key part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal recovery programme) built new theatres in cities across America. The Federal Theatre Project was established to fund theatre and performances across the country providing work to unemployed artists. This influx of new artists had transformed the industry, opening theatre to new voices, themes, and audiences. This exhibition explores these Depression-era changes and their impact on American theatre.
The exhibition is helpfully structured in sections entitled Theater before the crash, The Federal Theatre, Project, The Plays, Impact on African American Theatre, and Legacy.
This excellent exhibition was created as part of the DPLA’s Digital Curation Program by the following students as part of Professor Anthony Cocciolo’s course “Projects in Digital Archives” in the School of Information and Library Science at Pratt Institute: Kathleen Dowling, Laura Marte Piccini, and Matthew Schofield.
This year’s OFFIES Awards were held in an online event on February 20th.
Three Special Awards were given – to Tom Littler of Jermyn Street Theatre for their prolific production work over the year; to Richard Lambert of LAMBCO for creating and programming a new pop-up venue in Pimlico; and Theatre Peckham for leading the way in aligning its staffing and work to accurately reflect its audiences makeup.
The awards are loosely categorised in the areas of Design, Idea, Musicals, Opera, Plays/Musicals and Plays.
It was good to see Brockley Jack’s production of two-hander TRESTLE nominated for best production as well as both its actors, Timothy Harker and Jilly Bond for best lead performance in a play. Having seen its first PapaTango prize-winning production at Southwark Playhouse, I am happy to see its quiet subtlety being valued and nurtured again in this new production, which was also nominated as Best Production in the London Pub Theatres Awards 2021. Also nominated was the Orange Tree’s excellent production of Rattigan’s WHILE THE SUN SHINES, well-deserved in my opinion.
Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!
For the full list of nominees and winners, please click here
At the Tristan Hoare Gallery in London, you’ll find a fascinating exhibition about US movie theatres, featuring forgotten palaces of entertainment whose time ran out.
Undoubtedly melancholy in spirit, the exhibition is a needed wake-up call that these once- popular treasures can be saved if a will and a way (and several million dollars in cash) can be found.
The book which the exhibition is based upon, Movie Theaters, is a recently-published work by two French photographers, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, the result of a 15-year collaboration which captures the former “cathedrals of cinema” of America. Shooting with a large format 4×5 camera using long exposures in dimly-lit auditoriums, the images are conceived as historical documents of what was once the Golden Era of the American movie-going experience.
From the venue’s website: “Many of the theatres captured by Marchand and Meffre date from the Golden Age of American film (1910s to 30s) when the big film studios competed to build extravagant venues to entice and thrill their audiences. A night at the movies was a glamorous occasion where the buildings themselves became as much of a draw as the movie being screened. Following the stock market crash in 1929 and in the post-war era thereafter, multiplexes and shopping malls made these theatres redundant, inevitably causing them to fall into disrepair. Many were converted into a multitude of purposes ranging from churches, retail space, flea markets, bingo halls, discos, supermarkets, gymnasiums, or warehouses, and often with comical results! While some remain relatively unchanged, others clash with their newfound purpose, creating unexpected spaces which act as a fascinating documents of American History.
The exhibition presents the never-before exhibited Proctor’s Theater, Troy, NY (2012), taking the central place in the gallery’s first room. The works exhibited present examples of abandoned theatres with their curtains torn and seats shrouded in decades of dust, reused cinemas in disrepair, acting as bus depots or car workshops, and finally those that have been reused and refurbished, often hiding the grand vaulted ceilings and ornamental mouldings that once attracted visitors. The exhibition will also present a series of typologies of the exteriors of the grand movie palaces Marchand and Meffre ventured into.
Marchand and Meffre’s images represent some of the survivors of a century of industrial, aesthetic and social change, their continued existence prompting a sense of nostalgia for the golden age of American cinema which carried American values, ideas and entertainment across the world.”
The free exhibition runs until March 11th and the gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm. Tristan Hoare, 6 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 5DX (close to Warren Street and Great Portland Street Underground stations)