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Blanche Morgan drawings and watercolors, 1937-1939

Overview of the Collection

Artist
Morgan, Blanche, 1912-1981
Title
Blanche Morgan drawings and watercolors
Dates
1937-1939 (inclusive)
Quantity
40 pieces of art work, 1 sketchbook (2 boxes) : Sketches and watercolor on paper
1 placard
Collection Number
PH0525
Summary
Watercolor and sketch set and costume designs for WPA Seattle Negro Repertory Company
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Open to the public.

Languages
English
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Blanche Morgan (1912-1981) was a set and costume designer for the Seattle Negro Repertory Company, a subsidiary of the WPA's Federal Theater Project which put on plays with African-American actors. She was also a watercolor artist and interior designer for Frederick & Nelson. She studied at the University of Washington and was a member of Women Painters of Washington, Northwest Watercolor Society, and the National Association of Women Artists. Her art departed from the traditional attitudes of loose, whimsical images done with watercolor, concentrating more on crisp, precise form and design. She exhibited in New York as well as the Oakland Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum and other regional venues. During her tenure with Seattle's Negro Repertory Company from 1937 to 1939, the company produced "Androcles and the Lion," "Is Zat So," "Black Empire," "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby" (a Children’s Unit production), "An Evening with Dunbar," "Mississippi Rainbow," "The Dragon Wishbone" (Children’s Unit), and "Taming of the Shrew."

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

The Federal Theater Project (FTP) was established by the WPA to provide employment for theater professionals during the Great Depression. The FTP opened in Seattle in 1935 with the sponsorship of the Seattle Repertory Company and the support of the University of Washington Drama School and drama professor Glenn Hughes. The Negro Repertory Company (NRC) opened as a subsidiary of the FTP in January of 1936 with 73 actors and singers. The NRC was initially intended as a temporary effort, but strong reception led to the continuation of the company.

Florence and Burton James of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse headed the production of the NRC until their departure in the autumn of 1937. Hallie Flanagan, the national director of the FTP, then sent Esther Porter to lead the Seattle NRC. Blanche Morgan had been the principal designer for the FTP until Porter hired her for NRC productions.

The Negro Repertory Company’s effort totaled 15 productions, second only to New York City, with both cities enjoying continuously active Negro units until the abolition of the Federal Theater Project by a Congressional act in June of 1939.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection includes watercolors and sketches of set and costume designs for the Seattle Negro Repertory Company's Third Season (1937-1938) productions; these included "Androcles and the Lion," "Black Empire," and "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby." The collection also includes a spiral sketchbook of designs and cast roster from Federal Theater Project’s 1939 production of "Spirochete," as well as a placard advertising a Federal Theater Colored Unit show.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Federal Theater Project Productions, 1937-1939Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Androcles and the Lion
Box/Folder item
1/1-1/3 1-3
Coliseum design
1939
1/4 4
Costume design for Lavinia  
1939
1/5 5
Dungeon design
1939
1/6 6
Cave design  
1939
1/7 7
Jungle design  
1939
box-folder:oversize
2/1 8
Jungle design
1939
2/1 9
Jungle design on tissue
1939
Black Empire
Box/Folder item
1/8 10
Set design titled "VooDoo" with people and drums  
1937
box-folder:oversize
2/2 11
Costume design of long white robe
1937
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby
Box/Folder item
1/9 12
Woods and fox den  
1938
1/10 13
Forest scene
1938
1/11 14
Forest scene
1938
box-folder:oversize
2/3 15
Path leading over hills to horizon
2/4 16
Fox costume designs
1938
Grandma's Goin' To Town
Box/Folder item
1/12 17
Futuristic set design  
1938
Is Zat So?
Box/Folder item
1/13 18-20
Costume design  
1937
Mother Goose
Box/Folder item
1/14 21
Cow jumping over the moon motif with rainbow background
Pursuit of Happiness
Box/Folder item
1/15 22
Parlor design
1937
Spirochette
Box/Folder item
1/16 23
Costume design
1939
1/17 24
Sketchbook
1939
Tomorrow's A Holiday
Box/Folder item
1/18 25
Parlor design
1938

Unknown productionsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Costume Studies
Box/Folder item
1/19 26
Woman's formal dress  
undated
1/20 27
Women's hats  
undated
Landscape
Box/Folder item
1/21 28
Figure on pier  
undated
1/22 29
Rocky coastline
undated
1/23 30
Small town in mountain setting  
undated
1/24 31
Spanish colonial village
undated
Sets
Box/Folder item
1/25 32
Egyptian Palace
undated
1/26 33
Empty room with fancy paneling
undated
1/27 34
Empty room with Europe posters  
undated
1/28 35
Granary study
undated
1/29 36
Meeting room
undated
1/30 37
Elegant office  
undated
1/31 38
Office in a sky scraper
undated
1/32 39
Palace exterior
undated
box-folder:oversize
2/5 40
Surreal city
undated

EphemeraReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
box-folder:oversize item
2/6 41
Half a poster for a Federal Theater WPA Colored Unit show
undated