1937 June 13

“Cradle Will Rock” Defies Government Censorship, Opens in Different Theater


The Federal Theater Project was one of several arts projects sponsored by the New Deal to provide work for writers and artists in different fields. Many people who became famous in theater and film were associated with the project: Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, John Houseman, and others. The Cradle Will Rock was a musical by Marc Blitzstein set in “Steeltown, USA” with a strong pro-labor union theme. Because of pressure from conservatives in Congress about the left-wing activists associated with the project, New Deal officials shut down the opening of the musical at the last minute. An alternative theater was quickly secured, and it opened on Broadway on this day.

The Federal Theater Project had opened in 1935 and was closed down in 1939, in part because of conservative political pressures.

Several of the people involved with The Cradle Will Rock were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the Cold War. They include Arthur Miller (June 21, 1956) and Elia Kazan (April 10, 1952), who had a falling out because Kazan chose to name names before HUAC while Miller refused to do so.

Learn more about the Federal Theater Project: Barry Witham, The Federal Theater Project: A Case Study (2003)

Read: John H. Houchin, Censorship of the American Theater in the Twentieth Century (2003)

Learn more at the Library of Congress: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/fedtp/

See the movie about the censorship: The Cradle Will Rock (1999)

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