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TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER

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07.23.04, Friday night

Again for the first time in years, I saw the film Cradle Will Rock, which Mel mistook for The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. It is actually centered around the WPA's Federal Theatre Project & Marc Blitzstein's play of the same name, whose first production was directed by Orson Welles & banned by the US government.

However State opposition did not deter the crew. Despite having been forbidden to perform by the musicians' & actors' unions, they performed illicitly for a full house on June 16, 1937, a feat that the morning papers later called "runaway opera".

About the play, Hallie Flanagan, Director of the Federal Theatre, wrote, "Don't be afraid when people tell you this is a play of protest.  Of course it's a protest against dirt, disease, human misery.  If, in giving great plays of the past as greatly as we can give them, and if, in making people laugh, which we certainly want to do, we can't also protest--as Harry Hopkins is protesting and as President Roosevelt is protesting--against some of the evils of this country of ours, then we do not deserve the chance put into our hands. . . . Here is one necessity for our theatre--that it help reshape our American life."

. . .

On the future of theatre Flanagan wrote: "Our whole emphasis in the theatre enterprises which we are about to undertake should be on re-thinking rather than on remembering. The good old days may have been very good days indeed, but they are gone. New days are upon us and the plays that we do and the ways that we do them should be informed by our consciousness of the art and economics of 1935. . . . In an age of terrific implications as to wealth and poverty, as to the function of government, as to peace and war, as to the relation of the artist to all these forces, the theatre must grow up. The theatre must become conscious of the implications of the changing social order, or the changing social order will ignore, and rightly, the implications of the theatre."

. . .

The FBI on Mark Blitzstein:

"The above captioned individual has been reported to the Bureau as being a Communist Party member who is also a playwright and entertainer. He has sponsored and participated in dramatic productions and balls for the benefit of such Communist Front Groups as the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy and the non-Sectarian Committee for Political Refugees. He attended the Tenth National Convention of the Communist Party and has recently been associated with the various peace moves, having been elected to the National Council of the American Peace Mobilization at the Chicago rally in September, 1940.

"Please furnish the Bureau with the present address of Blitzstein together with any other readily available information reflecting on the advisability of considering him for custodial detention in event of a national emergency."




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