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INJUNCTION GRANTED Third Edition of the LIVING NEWSPAPER Written by the Editorial Staff of the LIVING NEWSPAPER Arthur Arent, Managing Editor As presented by the LIVING NEWSPAPER at the BiUmore Theatre New York City, 1936 Staged by Joe Losey Settings by Hjalmar Hermanson Music by Virgil Thomson nere published for the first time with an introduction by Arnold Goldman text edited by Roger Mitchell and Sally Mitchell 1973 INTRODUCTION When Congress established a national Federal Theatre Project in late 1935, the arrangements for New York City included a number of production companies. Discussions between Hallie Flanagan, whom Harry Hopkins had chosen as National Director, Elmer Rice, her New York Director, and others determined that one of these New York companies be devoted to a kind of documuntary dramatisation of topics of general and "newsworthy" social interest. When an arrangement was reached with the New York Newspaper Guild to staff the company with "researchers" and writers from the ranks of unemployed journalists, as well as with unemployed actors, electricians, stage carpenters, et al, the Living Newspaper Unit of the Federal Theatre Project came into being. Unlike all other companies in the FTP, the Living Newspaper Unit was to conceive, write and stage all original productions. The Unit got off to a shaky start when in January 1936 State Department and other government pressures forced the pre-production withdrawal of its first effort, Ethiopia. Ethiopia was a collage of newspaper and other documentary materials concerning the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, with rather minimal "dramatisation" of statements by the actual protagonists. The formal State Department objection was lodged against the personation of foreign heads of state. Elmer Rice resigned over the suppression, calling a press conference to stress the need for the Federal Theatre Project to be seen to be independent of its federal paymaster. The Living Newspaper Unit was allowed to continue in existence and prepare its next - - and now first - - production. Thus at the outset political considerations were very high. The documentary theatre form was a direct development from radical experiments in workers' and agit-prop theatre in the U.S., Russia and Germany in the preceding years. Many of the actors, writers and directors assembled to form the Unit came directly from that left-wing theatre activity. While it did not require too ideological a commitment to have participated in one or another of the ephemeral theatre groups of the earlier '3Os, a general bias towards popular and even "revolutionary" art was generally apparent. In acting against the relatively innocuous Ethiopia, the authorities touched the quick of what was to become the major point-at-issue in the Living Newspaper Unit's life: how "committed" could federally-funded theatre become, and to what position? It is difficult to say whether the ban on Ethiopia inhibited more radical developments, or whether Rice's resolute resignation created a margin for politically-oriented theatre. Perhaps a little of both. It was clearly inconvenient to the Project as a whole to close the Unit down, as that would only have fed the flames 47 always licking around FDR's alphabet agency "boon-doggies". Pressure on the Unit from above decreased in the following weeks, but for its part the Unit quietly set aside a documentary play on conditions in the South. It now brought to readiness Triple-A Plowed Under, a dramatisation of the predicament of the farmer and of the urban consumer of farm products. There was sufficient of politics in Triple-A to raise the issue of commitment and ideology again: somewhat superannuated journalists and actors in the Unit picketed and otherwise obstructed the production for its "radical" viewpoint that farmers and urban workers should join forces against the middlemen who took the profits. The play indeed ended with a call for a "worker-farmer alliance", just then being mooted by radical groups, and what was more, the communist Earl Browder (or rather an actor playing him) had a speaking part - - albeit speaking about the Supreme Court! Still the political issue would not lie down, and after the next production, a satirical grab-bag titled 1935, a kind of year's news in review, it surfaced conclusively. The history ol Hie I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
p. 46
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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