The term “Living Newspaper” refers to the use of live performance as a means of presenting audiences with factual information surrounding current events. Historically Living Newspaper performances have been intended as a form of political theatre with the purpose of inciting social action. Living Newspaper performances typically reject traditional theatre conventions (i.e. the idea of a fourth wall) in favor of more direct, experimental techniques, and often employ multimedia devices in the telling of a story.
The Living Newspapers are most commonly associated with those produced by the Federal Theatre Project in the 1930s. Funded by the Works Progress Administration, the FTP produced several Living Newspapers that touched on social and political issues of the time. These controversial theatre pieces ultimately contributed to the fall of the FTP in 1939.
Living Newspapers continue to be created today around the country, and around the world and have become especially popular with high school theatre troupes. Drawing from information in newspaper articles, and more recently, social media, students create original works that tell a storry that both educates and serves as a call to action on important political issues.
“…the [Living Newspaper] seeks to dramatize a new struggle – the search of the average American today for knowledge about his country and his world; to dramatize his struggle to turn the great natural and economic forces of our time toward a better life for more people” – Hallie Flanagan, National Director of the Federal Theatre Project
Links of Interest
- From the Library of Congress, The New Deal Stage: Selections from the Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939 provides specific insight into the FTP’s Living Newspaper productions.
- Power, the original script from one of the FTP’s most popular Living Newspapers
- C&T Theatre Company’s The Living Newspaper, providing information on creating your own Living Newspaper and connecting with other involved or participating organizations.
- An example of a contemporary Living Newspaper piece from C&T Theatre