Furious Improvisation How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times


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Walker & Company


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0802717586

9780802717580

336 Pages

$16.00

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In Furious Improvisation, Susan Quinn brings to life the challenges of the Depression era, when the WPA furiously improvised programs to get millions of hungry, unemployed people back to work. One such program, the Federal Theatre Project, became a platform for some of the most cutting-edge theatre of its time, created by some of the greatest figures in twentieth-century American arts—including Orson Welles, John Houseman, and Sinclair Lewis. Plays like "voodoo" Macbeth and The Cradle Will Rock stirred up politicians by defying segregation and putting the spotlight on the inequities that led to the Great Depression.

Quinn's compelling story of politics and creativity reaches a dramatic climax with the entrance of Martin Dies and his newly formed House Un-American Activities Committee, which turned the Federal Theatre Project into the first victim of the Red Scare. This is a vivid and engrossing portrait of a time of national peril that produced controversial and electrifying art.

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Susan Quinn is the author of two award-winning biographies, of Marie Curie and Karen H orney, as well as Human Trials, which recounts the emotion-laden process of developing a drug for a difficult disease. S he lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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  • Susan Quinn is the author of two award-winning biographies, of Marie Curie and Karen Horney, as well as Human Trials, which recounts the emotion-laden process of developing a drug for a difficult disease. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.
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