Fascinating new online exhibition explores American Theatre during the Great Depression

“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.

Visit and explore the online exhibition here

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