Alex Roe and Brad Fraizer for “One Third of a Nation” at the Metropolitan Playhouse
April 28, 2011, 12:00 am
Filed under: Theater | Tags:

I first heard of the Metropolitan Playhouse in one of my classes; it was presented as a great place to see productions of historical works of American theater. When I looked it up, I was immediately intrigued by the description of a play they were going to put on, One Third of a Nation, which was described as a revival of a living newspaper.

I’d heard that term once before; during a discussion about a project of creating an opera based on the news, built from reporting by actual journalists who would be members of the creative team, Chuck Furlong, host of The Doppler Effect, mentioned the New Deal’s Living Newspaper Unit as one of the previous incarnations of that concept. My curiosity was piqued then, and once I found out, through a little Internet research about the Metropolitan Playhouse, I could organize to talk about how these staged documentaries are put on, I jumped on the occasion.

Alex Roe and Brad Fraizer, respectively the director and the role of The Little Man in One Third of a Nation, came into the studio a couple of weeks ago and during our conversation, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad when I thought about how hard a project like the Living Newspaper Unit would need to fight in order to be funded by government today. Not that it was a walk in the park to fund these projects then, but uniting social action and art in this way appears to be a concern that is far from crucial in political discourse today.

I first learned about theater and storytelling as a kid in French public schools, where playwright Molière and poet La Fontaine are presented as gods (I am barely exaggerating). Every year, they come up in the curriculum and we are asked to evaluate the efficacy of instruction/push towards social awareness through entertainment. So a play like One Third of a Nation, which uses a vaudevillian style to discuss issues of the housing system in the 1930s, seems to fall directly into that philosophy of theater. How could I not want to have them on the show?

For the history buffs, here is a link to FDR’s Second Inaugural Address, the speech from which Arthur Arent, the author of One Third of A Nation, got the play’s title:

For more information about tickets to One Third of a Nation, which opens on Friday, April 29th and runs until May 22nd, you can visit the theater’s website,


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