For the ears of babes : 
the futures of the Federal Theatre Project’s children’s theatre




Gilbert, Rachel Marie

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This thesis examines the various futures presented by the original children's theatre of the Federal Theatre Project. Combining original archival research and play analysis, I investigate four plays from the Federal Theatre's canon: The Emperor's New Clothes (1935) and A Letter to Santa Claus (1938) by Charlotte Chorpenning, Revolt of the Beavers (1937) by Oscar Saul and Lou Lantz, and Pinocchio (1938-9) by Yasha Frank. I posit that the futures presented by the four plays allowed the spectators to envision a new American future beyond the Great Depression: of prosperity, of class equality, of individual agency. These futures were in conversation with the larger unspoken political goal of the Project - to produce theatre relevant to its time and place, and thus to its audiences' time and place. By analyzing the plays and their reception by young, adult, and critical audiences, my thesis reveals a a critical genealogy, one that can be traced through conservative arts criticism in the 1930s through present-day attacks on national arts such as PBS and the NEA



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