Escape and Diversion
The productions were meant to be vehicles for Northwest writers to show their work. The Unit sought to entertain its audiences and to provide them with temporary escape and diversion from Depression Era troubles. The Tacoma Unit produced 11 plays during its year-long existence. These included a production of Sinclair Lewis’ anti-Fascist drama It Can’t Happen Here, which opened simultaneously on October 27, 1936 in 21 theaters across 21 states to mark the FTP’S first anniversary.
The Tacoma Playwright’s Unit mounted a new production every two weeks under the direction of Clarence Talbot. All the productions with the exception of It Can’t Happen Here were staged readings rather than full productions. Defending his choice of subject matter in later years, Talbot contrasted the Washington state audience with that of New York and Los Angeles. Washington citizens “expected something they could understand in the area of conventional theatrical entertainment. They wanted mysteries, they wanted comedies, they wanted romantic stories” (Kazacoff, p. 289).
In late 1936, Clarence Talbot resigned from the Federal Theatre Project due to conflict with National Director Hallie Flanagan. Talbot felt that Flanagan dictated content to the regional units and that the social and political messages were inappropriate for Tacoma audiences and did not appeal to them.
The Tacoma Playwrights’ Unit was then folded into existing Seattle Federal Theatre Project units.