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Federal Theatre Project

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Orson Welles came of age as the nation descended into The Great Depression . Roosevelt was in office, and as Welles was garnering press as an upstart of the stage, the New Deal was in full swing. The WPA, Works Progress Administration, undertook the re-employment of hundreds of thousands of able workers. One of the WPA’s initiatives was the Federal Theatre Project, whose aim was to provide work for theatre folk, with a nice side effect being quality theatre productions to Americans at affordable prices. The program was allotted six million dollars and it produced a large number of performances in an array of genres. Orson Welles was involved in several of play productions, inlcuding “MacBeth,” “Horse Eats Hat,” “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus”, “The Second Hurricane,” and “The Cradle Will Rock.” Sources Coast To coast: The Federal Theatre Project. Library of Congress.

The Second Hurricane

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A brief aside during Welles’s stint working on Federal Theatre Project productions, The Second Hurricane was an operetta by Aaron Copland. The production ran for just three performances, the first on April 21, 1937. It ran at New York’s Henry Street Settlement, with some proceeds going to public schools, and included mainly child performers. One adult included was Welles’s longtime friend and colleague, Joseph Cotten.