A vivid portrait of the turbulent 1930s and the Roosevelt administration as seen through the WPA’s Federal Theater Project.
Under the direction of Hallie Flanagan, a daring 5-foot dynamo, the Federal Theater Project managed to turn a WPA relief program into a platform for some of the most cutting-edge theater of its time. This unique experiment by the U.S. government in support of the arts electrified audiences with exciting, controversial productions, created by some of the greatest figures in 20th 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.
In Furious Improvisation, Susan Quinn brings to life the challenges of this desperate era when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and the tough-talking idealist Harry Hopkins furiously improvised programs to get millions of hungry, unemployed people back to work. 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 a Red scare that would roil the nation for decades to come.
Furious Improvisation is a vivid and engrossing portrait of the turbulent 1930s, rich in humor and anecdotes which combine to tell not only the story of the theatre project but also of the Great Depression and government intervention in a time of national peril, a time when the still-pressing issues of discrimination, injustice and the meaning of liberty commanded center stage.
Praise for Human Trials:
“Ms. Quinn writes sparely, directly, without sentiment, and yet conveys the warmth and the genius of her remarkable subject.”
—New York Times
“There are plenty of make-or-break moments in this book, made all the more poignant by Quinn’s considerable talents as a biographer.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
Praise for Marie Curie:
“Quinn’s portrait of Curie is rich and captivating ... engagingly fleshes out the saga ... a worthy successor to her previous work, the award-winning biography of psychiatrist Karen Horney.”
Published by Walker & Company • New York