The Federal Theater Project (FTP) was a division of President
Roosevelt's Works Project Administration (WPA). The WPA was organized in order to dream up jobs for the many unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. They employed manual laborers with the Civilian Conservation Corps, musicians with the Federal Music Project and historians with the Federal Records Survey - to name only a few of the agencies within the WPA. The Federal Theater Project was intended to hire the nation's actors,
costumers, directors, puppeteers and stagehands:
"In the big cities, Federal Theater gives plays in the regular theaters, usually charging 55 cents for the best seats. In New York City, last year, half a million people saw these performances. For the entire country the figure may be doubled. In small towns the farmer comes to Federal Theater performances in his Ford, and applauds mightily at the comedy or vaudeville in the grange hall. In Valley, Nebraska, a village of a thousand inhabitants, 800 people tried to get into a hall that would hold 200. The Manchester, New Hampshire, company wows them, but has to launder its dialogue and warn the ladies of the troupe not to smoke in view of the townfolk. And the Children! They may be counted by the hundreds of thousands. In New York City, Federal Theater gave from July, 1936 to June, 1937, nearly 2,500 free indoor performances - plays, vaudeville and marionette shows - chiefly in settlements, clubrooms and school auditoriums and the audiences (overwhelmingly children) totaled 1,097,458."
At its peak in 1936, FTP employed 12,500 souls...it had puppet shows, vaudeville units, circuses and stock companies traveling through every state."
More about the WPA can be read here