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.
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A major theme in Welles’s life and career was strong male presences, men with whom he was deeply enamored. These included Dr. Maurice Bernstein (Dadda), Roger “Skipper” Hill, and John Houseman. In 1937, Welles would meet another object of near-worship, Marc Blitzstein. “When he came into the room, the lights got brighter,” Welles would later say of the Left-wing intellectual and leader of the radical Actors’ Repertory Company. Blitzstein had a labor opera named The Cradle Will Rock but not the funds to produce it. That is, until he got Welles involved. Blitzstein’s script depicted the unionization of the steel industry, a topic that was very timely. Set in Steeltown, USA, it pits the workers against the greedy Mr. Mister. The dicey political themes caused the government to order Welles not to go ahead with production. To ensure compliance, guards locked the gates of Maxine Elliot’s Theatre. The next move seemed to be to just go elsewhere. While some of the play’s pe