They're sufferin' the same things we're sufferin': Ideology and Racism in the Federal Theatre Project's the Sun Rises in the West

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Myth hides nothing: its function is to distort.-Roland Barthes In Los Angeles, California, the home of the nation's second largest Federal Theatre Project (FTP), a group of FTP artists spent over a year developing The Sun Rises in the West, a popular and critically well-received but forgotten play about the Dust Bowl migration and its effects on California's agricultural valleys. The play was mounted by the Southwest Theatre Unit (SWTU), an experimental branch of the Los Angeles Federal Theatre Project that worked as a collective to produce plays independently of the FTP's more mainstream endeavors. The SWTU attracted ample publicity during the latter half of the 1930s for its experimental, politically charged material, but because the group's artistic record has been buried for decades in government and university archives, much critical work remains to be done on its contributions to theatre history. This essay seeks to remedy this gap with a brief sketch of the SWTU as an avant-garde force in Los Angeles and an analysis of the SWTU's original play, The Sun Rises in the West.

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Theatre Survey

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