Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The scholarly consensus of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) is that it was a massive undertaking set to employ theatre professionals during the Great Depression. That undertaking resulted in vibrant, relevant theatre that helped to build a theatre audience across the nation. Outside of the overview-style scholarship, specialized studies have delved into the FTP as a community-building enterprise, a site of racial/ethnic study, and an essential new play creator.

My scholarship fills a hole that previous FTP scholarship has left open. The FTP was a political machine engaged in producing pro-American propaganda. That aspect of production has been largely left unexamined, as has the FTP’s realpolitik strategies in advancing their political messages. I want to highlight the propaganda and the demurring, specifically in reference to It Can’t Happen Here, bringing these elements to the front of the conversation to argue for the FTP’s position as a mass demonstration against political and economic instability. In this dissertation, I argue the FTP was more than a relief agency, more than an artistic producer: it was a frontline defense against precarity. The discourse of the FTP would benefit by using precarity as a lens to view its productions and its administration. The previous conversation about the FTP has influenced my investigation by giving me a consensus narrative to compare instances that don’t fit. Throughout this study, I bring the politics of the FTP front and center to uncover how the FTP intervened against precarity in 1930s America.



Committee Chair

Fletcher, John