The Art of the WPA #6


From April to June of 1936, the New Lafayette Theater in New York played host to the most fabled production in the short history of the WPA's Federal Theater Project: an adaptation of Macbeth featuring a so-called 'All-Negro Cast', and directed by 20 year old actor, world theater gadabout and professional child prodigy, Orson Welles. It was the beginning of a directorial career few dare dream of, and that only a masochist would want. From this, he would shortly, very shortly, go on to fame, infamy, fortune and dissipation (pretty much in that order); become one of the supreme figures in all Cinema (this is not hyperbole) and an inspiration to invariably luckless prodigies of all ages.

This Movietone newsreel excerpt gives a brief yet stirring glimpse of the legendary production; one that, save for the unartful long shots from the back of the house that make the performance look like a fire drill, one might call (in the parlance of CriticSpeak) downright Wellesian.

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