Mixed Relief – A Downloadable Play Honoring Women of the WPA (Intro)

About the Play

The members of New Shoe, a group of playwrights and theatre directors in New York, has generously agreed to share Mixed Relief, their one act play about women writers of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

We encourage you to produce this play as a way of stimulating discussions about the ways that public investment in the arts can enrich our communities and about the ways that women artists have made contributions throughout history.

Download the Play

To download your free copy of the script and sound cues for Mixed Relief, please click here>>

Featured Women of the WPA In “Mixed Relief”

“Mixed Relief” presents historical fiction based on extensive research about the lives of three women artists who were employed by the Federal Writers Project of the WPA – Anzia Yezierska, Eudora Welty, and Dorothy West.

Anzia Yezierska

“I was in the kitchen, when the radio broadcast a special news item about WPA: a headquarters had just been set up for the new Writers’ Project.  I hurried to the address, eager to work…  All I needed… was the security of a WPA wage to get my typewriter out of the pawnshop.”

This is a quote from Yezierska, in her novelistic autobiography Red Ribbon on a White Horse.  Anzia emigrated from Russia around 1890, fleeing the Pale of Settlement with her family because of ongoing pogroms.  The youngest of ten children, she had a classic Jewish tenement upbringing but was the most Americanized and struggled constantly with her family’s traditional values.  She managed to break out of the Lower East Side, won scholarships, wrote short stories, won prizes, published novels, earned the nickname “Cinderella of the Sweatshops” and was tapped to write screenplays in Hollywood.  But that’s just the first act of her story…

She came from nothing.  She rose to stardom.  And then she fell again into poverty when the depression hit.  The Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA was a lifeline for her.  She catalogued the trees and statues in Central Park for the New York City guide and then went on to write Red Ribbon, which includes a chronicle of her time with FWP.

Eudora Welty

“Traveling over the whole of Mississippi writing news stories for country papers taking pictures, I saw my home state at close hand really for the first time. And more interestingly to me, the camera was a hand-held auxiliary of wanting to know. I learned in the doing how ready I had to be. Life doesn’ t hold still. Every feeling waits upon its gesture. “

Eudora Welty was born in Jackson Mississippi in 1909. She went to Columbia business school so she’d have a viable career option after attending Mississippi State College for Women and University of Wisconsin.

After her schooling, she went home and worked for a local paper for a couple of years,  but in 1933 became a junior publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration. She went around the state taking photographs, which very directly influenced her work as she started writing short stories, the first in 1936.

Her first collection of stories was published in 1941. She became successful quickly, was awarded two Guggenheims, and eventually won all major awards for writers including the Pulitzer. There are two books of photographs she took while working for the WPA.

Dorothy West

Dorothy West, a novelist and short story writer, was born into a prosperous Boston family, attended elite schools and excelled early. She won a Boston Post fiction context at 14, and in 1926 at age 19, she tied with Zora Neale Hurston for second place in a writing contest sponsored by Opportunity, the National Urban League’s journal.

She was identified with the Harlem Renaissance; in 1934, she founded the journal Challenge, which published work by Margaret Walker, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and other stellar figures of that movement.

After the economic failures of Challenge and its successor, New Challenge (co-created with Langston Hughes), West worked with the Federal Writers Project until its end. Half a century later, West’s work gained renewed attention when her novel The Wedding was published in 1995, and adapted by Oprah Winfrey’s production company into a made-for-TV movie in 1998, the same year she passed away.

Featured Contemporary Artists in “Mixed Relief”

“Mixed Relief” also includes verbatim material from interviews with three contemporary theatre artists.

Kara Lee Corthron

Kara Lee Corthron’s plays have been produced and developed by the Vineyard Theatre, Center Stage (Baltimore), ACT Seattle (Hansberry Project), New Dramatists, New Georges, Raw Impressions (HERE Arts Center), E.S.T., Page 73 Productions, Manhattan TheatreSource, Electric Pear Productions, The Shalimar, Penumbra Theatre, Horizon Theatre (Atlanta), African Continuum Theatre (D.C.), and Voice & Vision, among others. Her plays have been published by Smith & Kraus, Playsource, and Northwestern University Press (upcoming release).

This fall, Kara spent a month at the Skriduklaustur Arts Center in Egilsstaðir, Iceland developing a new play about racial politics in Iceland.  This past year, she was a staff writer for the critically-acclaimed NBC drama, KINGS.  Kara’s honors include the Princess Grace Award, a 20/20 New Play Commission from InterAct Theatre, the Helen Merrill Award, Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nouy Foundation Award (three-time recipient), an E.S.T./Sloan Commission, the Theodore Ward Prize, the New Professional Theatre Writers Award, residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony for the Arts and Ledig House, and she was a finalist for the second consecutive year for New Dramatists membership.

Kara is an alumna of the Juilliard School and Interstate 73 (Page 73’s inaugural writers group), member of the BMI/Lehman Engel Librettist Workshop, the Dramatists Guild, ’Wright On! Play Group (co-founder), Blue Roses, the Writers Guild of America, and is a New Georges Affiliated Artist.

Ruth Maleczech

A founding co-artistic director of Mabou Mines, Ruth Maleczech was born to an immigrant steal worker and seamstress and raised in the house they built in Arizona. She studied at UCLA, worked at The Actor’s Workshop and company that became SF Mime Troupe in San Francisco where she met Lee Breuer. After a time in Europe, they founded Mabou Mines. Maleczech has collaborated on nearly every piece MM has produced since 1970, from Dead End Kids to the title role in King Lear.

She’s a mentor of the company’s Resident Artist Program, has won 3 OBIEs, awarded a NEA Distinguished Artist, Fellow of NY Foundation of the Arts, and in 2009 received a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Cassandra Medley

A recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Grant and New York State Council on the Arts Grant, Cassandra Medley was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award in Playwriting, and won the 1990 National Endowment for the Arts Grant in Playwriting, the New Professional Theatre Award, the Marilyn Simpson Award, the Theatrefest Regional Playwriting Award for Best Play in 2001, 2002 Ensemble Studio Theatre 25th Anniversary Award for Theatre Excellence, the 2004 “Going to the River Writers” Life Achievement Award and AUDELCO’S August Wilson Playwriting Award in 2006.

Her most recently produced plays include: Noon Day Sun, Relativity. Ms. Mae is one of several individual sketches, which comprise the Off Broadway musical, A… My Name Is Alice. Alice was first produced at the “Women’s Project and Productions,” received the 1984 Outer Critics Drama Award, the show continues to play in regional theatres across the U.S. Other works include Dearborn Heights, Waking Women, Maiden Lane, and Ma Rose. Her works has been published in Broadway Play Publishing, Samuel French “Best Plays of 1995-96 by Dramatists Play Service and Faber and Faber. She teaches playwriting at Sarah Lawrence College and New York University, and also served as guest artist at Columbia University, the University of Iowa.

NewShoe Company Members

Suzanne Bennett (Curator & Dramaturg): A compiled script, Words of Choice, with Cindy Cooper, was published in the anthology, Front Lines: Political Plays by American Women, The New Press, 2009. Co-authored Hitting the Glass Ceiling: Study on the Representation of Women in American Theatre, a NYSCA funded project. With Jane Peterson, wrote Women Playwrights of Diversity, Greenwood Press.

While Artistic Director of the Eureka Theatre, Suzanne commissioned and directed Anna Deavere Smith in a performance piece about San Francisco and produced the premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. She has directed and developed new plays for theatres in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. As Director of Special Programs for the Women’s Project and Productions, she headed up their Directors Forum and the Ford Foundation sponsored program “Fostering Artistic Leadership.” Her Ph.D is from University of Missouri.

Michèle Aldin Kushner (Playwright): ADVANCED WOMEN, is the 2009 winner to the Todd McNereny Playwriting Award, College of Charleston; it will read at the 2010 Piccolo Spoleto Festival, SC.   Her other plays have been read/produced in New York City. Alfred P. Sloan Award for her screenplay, 11 MONTHS. MFA, NYU.

Jill Campbell (Playwright): Plays performed in Alaska, Chicago, Dublin, London, New Jersey and New York. Resident Artist with Mabou Mines, 92nd Street Y/Makor Center and Caird Company (UK).  An associate with Juggernaut Theatre Co. Presently the Supervising/Associate Producer of Dancing Across Borders), a documentary about a Cambodian ballet dancer, out in 2010.

Marya Cohn (Playwright): Writer, director, and writing teacher. She is developing a feature film The Girl in the Book, has written and directed several short films, among them Developing, which aired on the Sundance Channel and Reel New York, and has had articles published in various magazines, most recently in GOOD.

Dana Leslie Goldstein (Playwright/Lyricist): Work seen at Cherry Lane, Culture Project, Julia Miles Theatre, York, New Dramatists, BMI, Lark, Neighborhood Playhouse, Ellis Island, Vineyard Playhouse, Pulse, TBG, on TYA tours.  NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM (Winner, New England New Play Competition) WorkShop Theater Company’s 2009-2010 season. LIBERTY (book/lyrics) opens off-Broadway in August, 2010. 

Andrea Lepcio (Playwright): LOOKING FOR THE PONY (NEA Outstanding New American Play finalist) Vital Theatre Company in New York City and Synchronicity Performance Group in Atlanta in 2009.  Plays produced and developed at Chashama, HERE, The Lady Cavaliers, Lark Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Source, NewShoe, Raw Impressions, Shalimar Productions, Three Chicks, Titans Theatre, Williamsburg Art Nexus, and Women’s Project in NY, and at Bloody Unicorn, Hangar Theatre, Provincetown Theatre Company, and Trustus Theatre, regionally.  Her screenplay, A September Spring, won the Sloan Foundation Dramatic Writing Award.  M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing, Carnegie Mellon University.  M.B.A. UC, Berkeley.