Playbill: A Call for a New Federal Theatre Project The 2021 Theatre and Musical Theatre Capstone Cohort

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Prologue

Resurrecting the American Appreciation of TheatreNikki Scamuffo

What was The Federal Theatre Project (FTP)? The FTP was a government program created to provide job opportunities for unemployed actors, directors, theatre technicians, designers, and anyone else with a career in the theatre industry. The FTP supported plays, as well as marionette shows, circuses, musical comedies, light operas, and foreign language productions. Created as a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal project to boost the American economy, the FTP included many works such as Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock that were extremely critical of US government and society. What has happened to American theatre since this time when our governmet funded meaningful art of social critique? View Full Project.

The Return to Africa as Portrayed in Modern Media:
Big White Fog to Black Is KingEdmée Marie Faal

With movements such as the Black Lives Matter movementand the more recent iteration including the “We See You White American Theatre” campaignit is hard to ignore the call for diversification in our methods of storytelling. Often discussed in regards to the Black American narrative are tropes such as the “American dream” and the idea of a “return to Africa.” Both ideas raise important questions of security and success. The “return to Africa” trope is occasionally used as a racially biased derogatory attack; however, it is also used amongst the Black diaspora as a means of reclamation and connection. View Full Project.

Theatre and Music as Protest in the 20th CenturyJulia Mann

Researching the Federal Theatre Project reveals a connection between the use of protest theater in the 1930s and protest music of the 1960s and 1970s. Examining the art of these decades—through the lenses of The Cradle Will Rock, Big White Fog, and One-Third of a Nation, along with songs by Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron, and othersshows changing methods, but the issues people deal with and speak out about staying the same. The need to speak truth to power through art has always existed and always will. View Full Project.
 

A CAll for a New Federal Theater Project

 

Performances


all in the right time

  • Conceived and Produced by Rebecca Bailey
  • Based upon musical numbers from The Cradle Will Rock by Marc Blitzstein
  • Music and lyrics of all songs by Marc Blitzstein
  • The compositions of Marc Blitzstein are performed under license from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc.
  • Dramaturgy and Design Consultation by Nikki Scamuffo

“The Freedom of the Press”

  • Directed and Choreographed by Rebecca Bailey
  • Music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein
  • Videography by Rebecca Bailey
  • Video Editing by Alyssa Gomez/Co-Op Productions

Featuring—
Emily Brolin, Miya Hamashige, and Sarah Pollock

Director's Notes

Using Marc Blitzstein's 1937 musical The Cradle Will Rock as our artistic anchor, all in the right time extracts three songs that have significant relevance to our cohort's experience navigating 2020. "The Freedom of the Press" is a dance music video mixing 1930's and 2020 dance styles to show that the press' freedom is still under attack today. "Gus and Sadie Love Song" is a musical Zoom gathering where we are happy to see each other, but the reasons behind the need for the virtual media are palpable and inescapable. "Nickel under Your Foot" explores what anyone not posed with the perfect combination for maximum privilege shares.
—Rebecca Bailey


A Flair for Murder

  • Conceived and Produced by Val McFatter
  • Written and Directed by Valarie McFatter
  • Podcast Production by Valarie McFatter and Alyssa V. Gomez/Co-op Productions

Featuring—
Host Val McFatter and Guest Maggie Rocha

Director's Notes

I was washing the dishes and listening to a true crime podcast when I got my idea for A Flair for Murder. Podcasts seem to be popping up everywhere nowadays, especially with quarantine forcing us to move our communications online. I’ve dabbled in podcast work before, but I haven’t done a full podcast episode before Capstone. And I’ve always wanted to. I saw this as an opportunity to try my hand at something I have admired for years now. I hope you all enjoy the harrowing tale in A Flair for Murder!
—Val McFatter


The Dinner Party Murder

  • Conceived and Produced by Maggie Rocha
  • Written and Directed by Maggie Rocha
  • Videography and Editing by Maggie Rocha

Featuring—
Val McFatter as ‘Sarah Sterling’
Layla Nabavi as ‘Amelia James’
Caleigh Davis as ‘Jane Parker’
Edmée Marie Faal as ‘Helen Marlowe’
Deanna Reimertz as ‘Molly Bradbury’
Julia Mann as ‘Patricia Lynn’

Director's Notes

In this scene, a group of women in 1936 come together due to a local politician putting out a personal ad for a focus group of women to discuss women’s rights and other political ideas. I wrote, directed, and designed this murder mystery scene that incorporated the time period of the FTP and was relatable to a modern audience. Throughout the process, I was interested in the roles of women in society, how class status affects personal beliefs, and what it means to be a woman in theatre today.
—Maggie Rocha


Perpetual

  • Conceived and Produced by Deanna Reimertz, Molly Moore, and Nikki Scamuffo
  • Directed by Deanna Reimertz
  • Written by Deanna Reimertz and Molly Moore
  • Videography and Editing by Molly Moore
  • Costume Design by Nikki Scamuffo

Featuring—
Sultana Qureshi as ‘Julia’
Maggie Rocha as ‘Lucy’
Deanna Reimertz as ‘Lucy’s Mother’
Molly Moore as ‘Laura’
Rebecca Bailey as ‘Jenn’ and ‘Charlotte’

Director's Notes

“Perpetual” is a piece about change, or rather the lack of. It compares the life of the arts during the Great Flood of 1937, involving the Federal Theatre Project, and the life of the arts currently as we live through the COVID-19 pandemic. The characters in this scene contemplate similar ideas involving the arts, even though they are living different lives more than eighty years apart. The audience will learn that the arts are perpetually stuck in the same place. Working through zoom was concerning at first, but the actors and production team I worked with made it much more manageable and fun!
—Deanna Reimertz


all in the right time“Gus and Sadie Love Song”

  • Directed by Rebecca Bailey
  • Music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein
  • Music Direction by Daniella Ignacio
  • Music Production by Daniella Ignacio, Nathan Beary Blustein, and Dan Kazemi/Co-Op Productions
  • Video Editing by Alyssa Gomez/Co-Op Productions

Featuring—
Julia Mann, Val McFatter, Molly Moore, Layla Nabavi, Nikki Scamuffo, and Deanna Reimertz


Hallie Flanagan’s Can You Hear Their Voices

  • Conceived and Produced by Emily Brolin, Caleigh Davis, and Ayla Taffel
  • Directed by Eli O’Brien
  • Videography and Editing by Alan Cameron
  • Costumes and Design Elements by Ayla Taffel

Featuring—
Emily Brolin as ‘Harriet Bageheot’
Caleigh Davis as ‘Representative Bageheot’

Director's Notes

Can You Hear Their Voices? follows a morning conversation between a rich politician father and his daughter with a much different worldview. The piece doesn’t follow any real-world events for politicians, yet the tone of the argument feels familiar and I immediately identified a dynamic that many audiences would connect with. When the team discussed the piece, we compared it to a political argument at the thanksgiving table. We tried to infuse the same tensions, power imbalances, and frustrations that one might find in a discussion between stubborn members of different generations anywhere.
—Eli O’Brien


A Living Newspaper Project: "when a crisis hits home"

  • Conceived and Produced by Daniella Ignacio, Sultana Qureshi, Edmée Marie Faal, and Haleigh Diaz
  • Directed by Daniella Ignacio
  • Written by Daniella Ignacio and Sultana Qureshi
  • Based on Research by Daniella Ignacio, Sultana Qureshi, Edmée Marie Faal, and Haleigh Diaz

Featuring—
Julia Mann, Haleigh Diaz, Sultana Qureshi, Edmée Marie Faal, and Molly Moore

Director's Notes

Through this project, inspired by Living Newspapers like One Third of a Nation, we talked to AU students and alumni to uncover stories of young people affected by the housing and eviction crisis amidst COVID-19. Our nation has failed the people who are about to become the nation. As AU students ourselves, it feels like the crisis hits home and we can tell students’ stories. We also asked about how they found help, providing resources to housing support and COVID-19 relief assistance at the end of our virtual monologue book. Looking back on our work, I know that this is just the beginning, and there are many people in this country still facing evictions in the new year. It remains essential that their voices are heard. Thinking ahead to what’s possible in 2021, I have cautious hope of a better tomorrow for all those who need a home and comfort in these dark times. View more about The Living Newspaper
—Daniella Ignacio


The Magic Wonk Bus
S1, E1: “Stick It to the Man"

Conceived and Produced by Layla Nabavi and Julia Mann

“The Magic Wonk Bus Theme Song”

  • Based on original music and lyrics by Little Richard
  • Parody Lyrics by Julia Mann
  • Music Production by Ko Tanaka

Vocals by
Nikki Scamuffo, Daniella Ignacio, Haleigh Diaz, and Maggie Rocha

“S1, E1: Stick it to the Man”

  • Written by Layla Nabavi and Val McFatter
  • Directed by Layla Nabavi and Shino Frances
  • Video Editing by Alyssa Gomez/Co-op Productions
  • Costumes and Design by Layal Nabavi and Val McFatter

Featuring—
Nikki Scamuffo as ‘Ms. Frazzle’
Emily Brolin as ‘Hallie Flanagan’
Maggie Rocha as ‘Patty’ and ‘Mr. Starnes’
Haleigh Diaz as ‘Wendy’ and ‘Chairman Dies’
Daniella Ignacio as ‘Arnie’ and ‘Mr. Dempsey/Mr. Thomas’

Director's Notes

In S1 E1,“Stick It to the Man,” a high school history class goes back in time for a field trip to observe Hallie Flanagan's trial against The House of Un-American Activities under accusations of producing plays deemed Communist propaganda. Based on archived court transcripts, this education show parody highlights and mocks government efforts to censor artists of the radical theatre movement of the 1930s. Using absurd-realism, this piece explores the falling of the Federal Theatre Project as a jumping point to discuss how censorship is still relevant to theatre and the arts today.
—Layla Nabavi


all in the right time“Nickel under [Our] Foot”

  • Directed by Rebecca Bailey
  • Music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein
  • Music Direction by Daniella Ignacio
  • Music Production by Daniella Ignacio, Nathan Beary Blustein, and Dan Kazemi/Co-Op Productions
  • Video Editing by Alyssa Gomez/Co-Op Productions

Featuring—

Rebecca Bailey, Emily Brolin, Daniella Ignacio, Julia Mann, Val McFatter, Molly Moore, Layla Nabavi, Sultana Qureshi, Deanna Reimertz, Maggie Rocha, Nikki Scamuffo, and Ayla Taffel


Inside the Monolith

  • Conceived and Produced Trevor Roberts
  • Directed by Trevor Roberts
  • Videography and Editing by Trevor Roberts
  • With production assistance from Brad Austin

Featuring—
Trevor Roberts

Director's Notes

Inside the Monolith intends to capture the trapped feeling that 2020 has brought many of us, while also providing a connection between each scene.
—Trevor Roberts


A CAll for a New Federal Theater Project

 

Notes from the Artistic Directors

"In an age of terrific implications as to wealth and poverty, as to the functions 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."

What reads like a statement summing up American theatre and life in the past year originates with Hallie Flanagan, who spoke these words in Washington, DC, in 1935 to mark the inception of the Federal Theatre Project. A subsidized, socially-conscious theatre that could transcend class and geography was, for a brief moment in American history, real.

Since the spring of 2020, the students who make up AU’s 2021 Theatre Senior Capstone cohort have been using theatre to explore how the problems and promise of the seemingly distant past resonate uncannily with daily life. In “A Call For…” their creative research is wide-ranging:

  • adaptations of scenes from contemporaneous plays and musicals
  • original scenes and monologues, inspired by both the pioneering forms that flourished during the FTP and the high stakes of the Project’s nation-wide scope
  • online interactive pieces that vivify the enduring roles race, politics, and society play in theatre

Collaboration lives in each of these ambitious projects. Sixteen seniors, two stage managers, and dozens of contributors beyond the class cohort: they have come together to offer visions of not only what an improbable and nearly ninety-year-old experiment means to them, but how we can meet and surpass its potential today.

Nathan Beary Blustein, AU Capstone Professor
 

In dark times, humans have always turned to the Arts. During the Black Plague, during the Great Depression, and now during the Covid-19 Pandemic, we rely on the Arts to lift our spirits and see us through to better days.

“A Call For A New Federal Theatre Project” is a rallying cry for the Arts in America to be given the respect and national support they deserve. Despite being short-lived, the FTP was a shining model of how our American government could subsidize a nationwide theatre program and served as the basis upon which the National Endowment for the Arts was built. Sadly, our NEA is ailing and our country’s public funding for theatre has become almost non-existent. 

Working with the AU Theatre and Musical Theatre Capstone class of 2021 to bring their thoughtful and passionate pieces to life has been an immensely heartening creative and educational experience. Making theatre during this pandemic has been a unique challenge that has stymied our professional theatrical world and some of the solutions our students came up with to create work in our remote times were nothing short of ingenious. 

From their message, to their process, to their final products, I could not be more proud of our Capstone Cohort, their collaborators, and the incredibly inspiring work they’ve created together.

Jessica Wu, AU Capstone Professor

A CAll for a New Federal Theater Project

 

Production Credits
 

Capstone Cohort

Rebecca Bailey, Emily Brolin, Caleigh Davis, Haleigh Diaz, Edmée Marie Faal, Daniella Ignacio, Julia Mann, Val McFatter, Molly Moore, Layla Nabavi, Sultana Qureshi, Deanna Reimertz, Trevor Roberts, Maggie Rocha, Nikki Scamuffo, and Ayla Taffel. See more about the 2021 Cohort.

Stage Manager

Arielle Moore

Assistant Stage Manager

Patrick Donoughe

Program Directors

Professors Nathan Beary Blustein and Jessica Wu

Production Staff

  • Mike Burgtorf, Production and Events Coordinator
  • Lisa Barr, Operations Manager
  • Greg Anderson, Operations Manager
  • Wyatt BalaEddy, Technical Coordinator
  • Erin Sullivan, Technical Support
  • John Stahrr, Technical Support
  • Samuel Megill, Patron Services & Events Coordinator
  • Barbara Tucker-Parker, Costume Consultant
  • Sydney Moore, Costume Consultant
  • Thomas Meal, CAS Webmaster
  • Dylan Singleton, CAS Website Coordinator

Many Thanks to

Dan Abraham, Karl Kippola, Carl Menninger, Colleen Sullivan, Tara Giordano, Sybil R. Williams, Faedra Chatard Carpenter, Aaron Posner, Jason Arnold, Helen Dodson, Nikolai Roster, Liz Ashe, Pete Chamberlain, Miya Hamashige, Sarah Pollock, Eli O’Brien, Alan Cameron, Shino Frances, Alyssa V. Gomez, Dan Kazemi, Co-Op Productions, Ko Tanaka, and Brad Austin.