MsC 314

  Manuscript Register



Collection Dates: 1936 -- 1939
2 linear ft.

This document describes a collection of materials held by the
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
Phone: 319-335-5921
Fax: 319-335-5900

Posted to Internet: March 2004

Acquisitions Note: These scripts were presented to The University of Iowa Libraries by Don Farran, who served as Director of the Regional Midwest Play Bureau, Chicago, 1938 --1939.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

Copyright:  Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on "Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials"

Use of Collections:  The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.


"It was, in its time, a formidable creative enterprise.

The Federal Theater, part of the Works Progress Administration's Art Project, began its life in October of 1935, after the realization came that playwrights and actors, stagehands and costume designers were no less hungry and out of work in the Great Depression than other Americans. Under the direction of a feisty, strong-willed woman named Hallie Flanagan, they were put to work in their own fields.

By mid-1936, 153 producing theaters were operating in 28 of the 48 states, playing to 359,000 people weekly, many of whom had never seen live theater before. There were productions in Spanish and Yiddish and Italian and French, there were special all-black units, and units for children's theater and for marionettes, and for blind theatergoers. At its peak, the Federal Theatre employed more than 12,700 persons.

Theater critics raved about its efforts, but reviews from some of its congressional producers, who provided the appropriations, were less favorable. The House Un-American Activities Committee, under Texas Rep. Martin Dies, accused it of operating under Communist influence. Rural legislators worried about the coming of urban theater to the backwoods. An Illinois Congressman, Everett McKinley Dirksen, railed that some of the original WPA plays, like "New Deal For Mary" and "The Mayor and the Manicurist," were "salacious tripe," without any 'real cultural values.'

By 1939, the appropriations for the Federal Theater had been cut regularly, and in June of that year, it passed out of existence entirely. "

(Taken from Weintraub, Boris. "Depression Born Drama." The Washington Star Portfolio, May 15, 1976.)

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of twenty-four scripts and a run of the newsletter, Federal One (which later changed its name to New Federal One), some newspaper clippings, and some brochures from George Mason University.

Related Materials

George Mason University holds a large collection of Federal Theater papers, including over 7000 scripts. See their web site at

Farran, Don. "Recollections of the Federal Theatre," Books at Iowa 18 (April 1973)

The papers of Don Farran held by Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries. Finding aid:

University Archive records of E.C. Mabie, who was Midwest regional director of the project for much of the time in the 1930s.

Theses and dissertations written using these playscripts

Adubato, Robert A. "A History of the WPA's Negro Theatre Project in New York City, 1925 -- 1939." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1978. DAI 39:1930-A

Bain, Reginald Frank. "The Federal Government and Theatre: A History of Federal Involvement in Theatre from the End of the Federal Theatre Project in 1939 to the Establishment of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities in 1965." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1972. DAI 33:439-A

Billings, Alan Gailey. "Design in the Works Progress Administration's Federal Theatre Project (1935 -- 1939)." PhD. dissertation, University of Illinois, 1967. DAI 28:1550-A

Falk, George. "Major Social and Cultural Contributions of the WPA: Federal Theater Project." MA Thesis, History, University of Maryland, 1951

Floyd, James R. "The Federal Theater and the Federal Government." MA Thesis, History, Kent State University, 1965. 131 pages

Frank, Felicia Nina Lisa. "The Magazines Workers Theatre, New Theatre, and New Theatre and Film as Documents of the American Left-Wing Theatre movement of the Nineteen-Thirties." PhD. dissertations, City University of New York, 1976. DAI 37:3273-A

Hammouda, Abdul-Aziz Adbul-Salam Soliman. "The Living Newspaper: A Study in Sources and Form." Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 1968. DAI 29:1978-A

High, Leslie Crammond, Jr. "The Documentary Idea in Depression America." PhD. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1973. DAI 35:454-A

Jones, May Wells. "A History of the Radial Theatre in the United States from 1930 to 1970." Ph.D. dissertation, Tulane University, 1971. DAI 32:6598-A

Koran, Audry M. "Hallie Flanagan: Director and Education." MA Thesis, Pennsylvania State University, 1976

Korn, Marjorie Susan. "It Can't Happen Here: Federal Theatre's Bold Adventure." PhD. dissertation, University of Missouri, 1978. DAI 39:5811-A.

Kreizenbeck, Alan Dennis. "The Theatre Nobody Knows: Forgotten Productions of the Federal Theatre Project, 1935 -- 1939." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1979. DAI 40:2360-A

Lally, Kathleen Ann. "A History of the Federal Dance Theatre of the Works Progress Administration, 1959 -- 1939." Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Woman's University, 1978. DAI 40:6-A

Mardis, Robert Francis. "Federal Theatre in Florida." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, 1972. DAI 34:446-A

McKim, Paul N. "A Survey of the Federal Theater Project in Los Angeles, 1936 -- 1938, As Observed in the Los Angeles Examiner and the Los Angeles Times." MA Thesis, Theater Arts, University of California, Los Angeles, 1953. 395 pages

Mendoza, Barbara Murphy. "Hallie Flanagan: Her Role in American Theatre, 1924 -- 1935." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1976

Miller, M. Lawrence. "Original Federal Theatre Protest Plays-1936 -- 1939: New Deal Contributions to the American Drama of Social Concern." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1968. DAI 29:3616-A

Preston, Ray L. "Still Projections and Motion Pictures in Federal Theatre Living Newspaper Productions." MA Thesis, University of Iowa, 1964

Ridge, Patricia Lin. "The Contributions of Hallie Flanagan to the American Theatre." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Colorado, 1971. DAI 32:4141-A

Box List


Produced Plays

Box 1

Arent, Arthur. Power. Produced at the Ritz Theatre, New York City, February, 1937. Complete working script

Chorpenning, Charlotte. The Emperor's New Clothes. Opened at the Adelphi Theatre, York City, June 2, 1936. Complete script

Conkle, E. P. Prologue to Glory. Opened at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, New York City, on March 17, 1938. Complete working script

Denby, Edwin, and Orson Welles. Horse Eats Hat. Opened at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, New York City, on September 26, 1936. Complete working script

DuBois, William. Haiti. Opened at the Lafayette Theatre, New York City, March 2, 1938. Complete working script

Box 2

Geddes, Virgil. Native Ground. Opened at the Venice Theatre, New York City, on March 20, 1937. Complete working script

Green, Paul. Hymn to the Rising Sun. Opened at the Ritz Theatre, New York City, on May 6, 1937. Working script

Green, Paul. Unto Such Glory. Opened at the Ritz Theatre, New York City, on May 6, 1937. Working script

Hailparn, Dorothy. Horse Play. Opened at the Children's Theatre, New York City, on August 17, 1936. Working script

Helburn, Theresa. A Hero is Born. Opened at the Adelphi Theatre, New York City, on February 26, 1937. Complete working script

[Homer & Euripides] Trojan Incident. Opened at the St. James Theatre, New York City, April 21, 1938. Complete working script

Lawson, John Howard. Processional. Opened at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, New York City, October 13, 1937. Complete working script

Marlowe, Christopher. The Tragic History of Dr. Faustus. Opened at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, January 8,1937. Complete working script

Box 3

O'Neill, Eugene. One-Act Plays of the Sea: Moon of the Caribbees, In the Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, the Long Voyage Home. Opened at the Lafayette Theatre, New York City, October 29, 1937. Complete scripts

Shakespeare, William. Coriolanus. Opened at Theatre of the Four Seasons, Long Island, October 9, 1937. Complete working script

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Opened at the Lafayette Theatre, New York City, April 14, 1936. Complete working script

Shaw, Bernard. On the Rocks. Opened at Daly's Theatre, New York City, June 15, 1938. Complete working script

Stavis, Barrie and Leona. The Sun and I. Opened at the Adelphi Theatre, New York City, February 26, 1937. Complete working script

Wolf, Friedrich. Professor Mamlock. Opened at Daly's Theatre, New York City, April 13, 1937. Complete working script

Unproduced plays

Box 4

Koessler, Peter. Dust of the Earth. Chicago, 1938 and 1939

Known and Unknown. Chicago, 1939

Murray, George. Townsend Goes to Town. Chicago, 1939

Murray, Jesse George. Tabloid. Chicago

Strawn, Arthur. No Angels Singing. Chicago, 1939



"Federal One" and "New Federal One" newsletters

Return to Alphabetical Listing

Return to Top


The University of Iowa Libraries
© 2003. The University of Iowa. All rights reserved