Satire in Song and Dance
National Director of the Federal Theatre Project Hallie Flanagan called for theater to respond to current events. Social satire developed as the most important genre of the musical theater during the 1930s as anxieties stemming from the Great Depression found their voice. George and Ira Gershwin wrote music and lyrics for the satiric political musicals Of Thee I Sing (1931), winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and its darker sequel, Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933). Satire was found in revues, including the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, in which Bob Hope appeared in a sketch satirizing government spending and Fanny Brice lampooned the “radical” dance movement. Hope starred that year in the political farce Red, Hot & Blue! that satirized Supreme Court rulings against the New Deal. The period’s most controversial satire, The Cradle Will Rock, a product of the pro-union and anti-fascist Popular Front coalition, challenged the middle class to join labor in confronting the capitalist class.
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