Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Jennifer Daryl Slack

Committee Member 1

Patricia Sotirin

Committee Member 2

Stefka Hristova

Committee Member 3

Lisa Johnson de Gordillo


The United States is conspicuously lacking in a large-scale government subsidy program for the arts and has never established a National Theatre. This makes us unique among most developed nations in the world as well as among many developing countries that established national theatres early in their burgeoning histories, and it begs the question: why has government support of the cultural life of the nation never been a priority in the U.S.? One notable exception to this can be found in considering the work accomplished by the Federal Arts Projects created under the auspices of the Work Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s. The policies enacted by the Roosevelt administration to address the crippling social and economic issues of the day signaled a profound shift in the ways in which the government responded to the needs of the people and resulted in the development of a new and sweeping form of federally funded welfare relief that extended to white collar workers and artists. Contested on political and economic grounds, the social welfare programs of the New Deal were the source of much debate, but none more so than the Federal Theatre Project (FTP).

Using a cultural studies approach and the theory of articulation I consider the complexity of the FTP from a perspective that appreciates its transitory nature while also considering the multi-dimensionality of the project, thus providing a much richer way to analyze what articulations between social practices can teach us about larger questions of power and resistance. My intention is to challenge the perception of the FTP as either a failed attempt at a government supported theatre project or a model to be replicated but rather to consider how engagement in the process of struggle led to FTP innovations that can inform the future development of a National Theatre in the United States