Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
From a Franklin D. Roosevelt speech came both title and theme of one of the '30s stirring, remembered plays, ". . . one third of a nation . . ."
Possibly the most noted of the WPA Federal Theater's "Living Newspaper" series, a portion was ably presented Tuesday night in the Library of Congress to begin four Tuesday evenings devoted to Federal Theater production material, a most worthwhile project.
In a program devoted to scripts by Arthur Arent, also including "1935," "Power" and "Injunction Granted," the absorbing fact of the evening was that so little has changed. We still have our ill-housed, ill-clothed and ill-fed. True, chain gangs are out (aren't they?) and, strictly speaking, the government doesn't still run the post office. But power black-outs still happen, union membership remains a current question and a political Heinz is visible in the U.S. Senate.
Arent used statistics for the spine of his multi-scened drama about housing, pointing up that antiquated housing laws and rising costs of land insured perpetuation of slums and their results, fire, roaches, disease, deaths, crime, delinquency and conditions so crowded that any way out seemed an improvement.
With a company of eight, director Mark Mason presented the New Federal Theater in a performance that improved in tempo and assurance as the evening wore on. The style of presentation, on various levels before flat panels for images and headlines, approximated the original Federal Theater style.
This group worked together last summer at Ford's Theater and, starting next Wednesday, will perform as accompaniment for "American Heritage" at the National Heritage Theater, 13th and F streets NW, playing Wednesday through Sunday evenings through the end of the month.
A younger generation should find it revealing that, however briefly it lasted, the WPA theater program was so bitterly critical of the government that created and paid for it. And it is moving, to a particular degree, that this reminder of our past and present should be presented by the Library of Congress.