Will we see a Federal Theatre Project Part II?

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a reporter say that we’re in the greatest economic crisis since The Great Depression, I could buy ourselves out of this crisis myself.

One of the most interesting New Deal programs that came out of Depression v1 was The Federal Theater Project, which sought to employ many of the out-of-work artists, stagehands, etc. post stock market crash.

As both Presidential candidates speak of public-works programs as part of their economic stimulus packages, do you think a theatre project will be proposed if unemployment surged in our industry?

Not likely.

Should it be?

I’m not so sure.  As much as I’d like to see the government step in and provide relief if the situation got out of hand, I’m not sure a bailout would help us in the long term.

And honestly, I don’t think we’ve earned a Federal Theater Project v2.

We’ve heard both candidates talk about how government spending has gotten out of control, with talk of pork and earmarks, etc.  They repeat and repeat that useless expenses need to be cut in order to insure that we’re more fiscally responsible.

Sound familiar?  Broadway spending and government spending have trended in the same direction in the last 20-30 years, with the investor and the tax payer footin’ the bill.

While no one likes a crisis, the only upside is that it forces all of us, Producers, Unions, Directors, General Managers, Designers, etc., to examine what we’re doing and how we can do it more efficiently.

I also think those Producers, Unions Directors, General Managers, Designers, etc. are smart enough to get us pointed in a new direction on our own.

  • Scott says:

    If you get the government involved (again) you risk the brouhaha that surrounds the NEA: politicians who rant on what art is, or whether taxpayers should fund questionable projects. The political climate and public mindset has changed way too much since the 30s to think that we could have anything that resembles the Federal Project again. I also don’t see unions and producers agreeing to drop costs, cut profits or give time just to get the Project up again when they feel the commercial world will suit them just fine. You’ll always get actors who want to perform. Will you get anyone else to back them up? And isn’t this what Tony Randall wanted to do with his National Theatre Company (albeit on a commercial level)?

  • Joseph Millett says:

    Actually we already have a Federal Theatre Project; we just call it the NEA. If either candidate were really serious about the arts, they would revise the tax laws to make investing on Broadway (and commercial off-Broadway) a tax write-off (we can thank Al D’Amato for that one). Because producers want to squeeze every last dollar out of a show rather than closing it at a loss and taking the tax break, we now have fewer new shows every year…

  • Cedric Yau says:

    The Federal Theater Project of 1935 was 6 years after the Crash of 1929. There’s a good chance we haven’t even seen the Crash of 2008…not to mention the economic hangover that’s been long overdue.
    If we close enough shows, and 25,000 theater people are displaced as in the 1930s (http://www.talkinbroadway.com/bway101/5b.html), then we can start talking about the need for government support.

  • Shawn says:

    How about the government look at dissolving the unions. Let’s face it: unions are a relic of the past. These would allow costs to go down, while many of the members would still receive fair and equitable pay. They might not receive a hefty pension -but neither does 90% of the american working force; like unions that is a thing of the past.
    Get rid of the unions and theater will suddenly function smoothly.

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